Canadian Pizza Magazine

Fresh ideas from the Canadian Pizza Show

By Karly O’Brien   

Features Trends

The second-annual Canadian Pizza Show brought the industry together by
welcoming more than 100 attendees and 38 exhibitors on Oct. 29.

The second-annual Canadian Pizza Show brought the industry together by welcoming more than 100 attendees and 38 exhibitors on Oct. 29.

pizza show floor 
The show floor is bustling with delegates going from booth to booth and taking in the educational speakers.


The one-day event, which was held at the International Centre and brought to the industry by Canadian Pizza magazine, started at 9:30 a.m. featured a mix of exhibitors and educational seminars with a focus on gluten-free, a hot topic this year.


The Canadian Pizza Show’s lineup of speakers included Diana Coutu of Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria, gluten-free consultant Dr. JoAnne Bennett Mirsky and Pizzeria Libretto’s Rocco Agostino. This year’s event was sponsored by PizzaMaster distributed by Alfa Cappuccino  (platinum); Stanislaus (gold), Saputo Foodservice (gold); and Santa Lucia of Canada (bronze). XLT Ovens sponsored the lunch buffet.
This year’s draw prize winner was Mandy Donn, who won a copy of Diana Coutu’s book, Passionate about Pizza.

The show welcomed members and two certified chefs of Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association), who flew in from Italy.

“I’m very happy to be here and to demonstrate how to create true Neapolitan pizza,” said Paolo Spadaro of Le 5 Stagioni.

Top takeaway tips

Here are some takeaway tips from the speakers at this year’s Canadian Pizza Show. Speakers shared how to maintain a high-quality product, get more mileage out of your marketing dollar and introduce gluten-free items to your operation.

Full of flavour: Rocco Agostino, Pizzeria Libretto

Simple flavours: Agostino advised the audience to be calculated with seasoning to avoid overwhelming the dish with too much of one spice because you end up tasting only one flavour instead of a variety. He said one of his favourite ways to season pizza is simply with sea salt.

Roberto and Paolo 
From left to right, Roberto Di Massa and Paolo Spadaro of Italy’s Le 5 Stagioni spare a moment for the camera
while preparing for a demonstration of authentic Napoletana pizza making.


Quality control: He said he taste tests his pizza on a daily basis to see how it is reacting in the oven. If temperature, ingredients or thickness of the dough changes, your pizza can be either negatively or positively affected. When it comes down to it, if you don’t find out what’s wrong with your pizza, your customers will always let you know.

Partner up : Agostino is a big fan of the pork sandwich at Porchetta & Co. He decided to partner up with the company and offer a pizza that uses the restaurant’s porchetta. The pizza ended up winning this year’s Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year contest. In the end, he said he believes the partnership of the two restaurants sharing a neighbourhood, both of which have strong presence, helped drive sales of the pizza.

Mastering Marketing: Diana Coutu, Diana’s Gourmet Pizzeria

Everybody is not your customer: Who is your prime target audience? Don’t say “everyone.” If you haven’t already, you need to define who your target audience is, said Coutu. As Coutu puts it in her presentation: Is it the guy who calls at 2 a.m. and is probably more concerned with price, or is it the executive who is ordering for his family and cares more about quality? Once you have that figured out, create the menu to cater to their taste and price point.

Romance your menu: Make your ingredients sound unique, tasty and descriptive. Is your cheese just cheese or is it 100 per cent mozzarella cheese? Is your pepperoni just pepperoni or is it thick-slice seasoned pepperoni? Show customers the value of your product and explain why patrons should choose you for quality versus a lower cost elsewhere, said Coutu. Educate visitors on why you choose specific products, how the product is grown and where it comes from. Romance your menu to get a customer’s mouth watering.

Money-back guarantee: Do you refund money to patrons who are disappointed in the quality and taste of the pizza you serve? Coutu said she has found success in offering a money-back guarantee to her customers. “Announcing it to the public is like getting brownie points for breathing.”

Claim your place online: If you’re still using the YellowPages, it is probably a good idea to stop, she said. Not only is it pricey for operators to advertise in, but also many people don’t pick it up anymore, she added. If a potential customer is looking for your business, he or she is most likely searching online for your business name or service. If you search your own business name, there will be a Google Places listing that will show up. “Claim the business as your own and link your website, Twitter and Facebook to it.”

Making a gluten-free crust from scratch: Coutu’s tips

Keep it thin: When creating in-house gluten-free dough, make sure to focus on thin-crust pizza because dough without gluten is heavier and filling. While Coutu was researching and developing a recipe, she had various friends and family test the trial batches. “People were telling me that the dough was just too much for them to eat – they just couldn’t finish off the pizza. That was one mistake I made in the beginning.”

She uses xanthan gum: Xanthan gum is a great binding agent that is easily digestible, even for customers who have sensitive stomachs, she shared. “When I was talking to people who have celiac disease, I found that some secondary issues were eggs and soy,” said Coutu. “Xanthan gum is better than guar gum because it is more digestible for people with any sensitivities.”

Adding gluten-free to your menu: Dr. JoAnne Bennett Mirsky

Do it right: Mirsky emphasized that operators should avoid adding gluten-free products to the menu without doing plenty of research on safety and cross-contamination prevention. “The gluten-free crowd is a chatty bunch. If they don’t think you’re doing it right, if you can’t guarantee that the gluten-free made product is still gluten-free when served, or if it tastes bad then you’ve lost them.”

laura and rocco 
Editor Laura Aiken sits next to Rocco Agostino of Pizzeria Libretto in a Q&A presentation on how to make fresh a success.


Use separate equipment: By using separate equipment, plates and utensils you are ensuring that it will never be used on products containing gluten. “Make it a different colour to have it stand out from the other equipment.” Mirsky added that some restaurants will use different sized plates to identify what is used for gluten-free items.

Freeze it: Both Coutu and Mirsky said frozen gluten-free dough tastes significantly better. “We always freeze our dough before we serve it to our customers because the taste is enhanced when it comes out of the freezer,” says Coutu. She added that it needs to be placed in the freezer quickly otherwise the yeast will die and it will not rise when it is defrosted.

Be in the know: Mirsky said that if a pizzaiolo decides to offer gluten-free options, he or she should educate all staff members about how the food is prepared, what the ingredients are and what is done to prevent cross contamination. “People with celiac are going to ask a lot of questions about the food before they eat it, which makes sense because they don’t want to get sick.”

Product buzz

From top sellers to new products, exhibitors brought plenty of items to learn about. Here’s some of what attendees found on the show floor.

SP sales staff 
Owner and operator of S.P. Sales, Stephen Phippen, and sales representative for Somerset, Chaz Phippen, share their product knowledge with an attendee. 


Toronto-based Flax Energy was showcasing its omega-3 flax flour. The flax seeds are grown in Canada and then turned into three different non-genetically modified products: flax flour, animal feed and biodiesel. The company was founded in 2008 by 29-year-old Jon Dwyer. He is the brainchild of flax fuel, which is used to power Toronto’s transit buses.

Dough company Mimi Foods released three new products: Focaccia Napoletana (tomato and herbs) as well as specialty items Panouzzo Mini and Panouzzo Long Foldover.

The foldover is 18 by 5 inches with a case count of 14. The mini is 4 by 6 inches with a case count of 64 and the napoletana is 12 by 9 inches with a case count of 16. These products are made using purified water and natural ingredients with HACCP- and BRC-certifications.

Horizon Milling showcased its Robin Hood Italian Style Flour as an alternative to 00 flour. This product features a high mixing tolerance
and water absorption. It is also designed to perform well in either thick or thin crust pizzas with no treatments and additives.

The dough can be used for a variety of pizza crusts, Italian flat breads and European-style hearth and pan breads.

Whole and strip pickles are two new products that were showcased by Dacon International. These two products come in pouches instead of jars.

Ubbelea tabled its sautéed mushrooms in a pouch. Produced in a certified SQF plant, this product can be used for for pizza, poutine, stir fry, omelettes and burgers. The mushrooms have a shelf life of up to one year and are locally grown and kosher. 

The Thornloe Cheese Factory offered samples of its Devil’s Rock Creamy Blue Cheese. Made from 100 per cent Canadian milk, this product has a shelf life of six months. Thornloe’s is a more mellow blue cheese that can work well in soups, salads, sauce and pastas.

Family-owned Fontanini Italian Meats introduced its “Mamma Ranne” Gourmet Italian Meatballs, which are made with beef, pork and Romano and Ricotta cheese. The product is oven roasted.

Expresco Foods introduced its new fully cooked Halal Chicken Breast Strips. These fire-grilled strips carry the ISNA Halal certification. The Montreal-based company also unveiled its new Chicken Wings. These rotisserie-style wings are fully cooked and fire grilled. Individual packages contain 10-14 wings.

Canadian Pizza magazine would like to thank all of the attendees, sponsors and exhibitors for supporting the second annual Canadian Pizza Show. The third edition of the Canadian Pizza Show will be held in October of 2014.

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