Canadian Pizza Magazine

Pizza Expo 2023 experts deliver

By Canadian Pizza   

Features Business and Operations Trends

Attendees got tips on New York style pizza and competing with the big guys on quality

John Arena, Lee Hunzinger, Chris Decker and Tony Gemignani prepare to describe and demonstrate the finer points of making New York style pizza at Pizza Expo in Las Vegas to a packed grandstand. Photo: Canadian Pizza

The International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas delivered a high standard of exciting education sessions, com-petitions, demonstrations and products to pizzeria operators.

Among highlights were a well-attended demo on New York style pizza and competing by keeping quality at a high level.

In “Escape to New York” industry legends Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, John Arena, owner of Metro Pizza, and special guest Lee Hunzinger, consultant with PizzaLee33, shared with a packed audience some of their tips for making top-notch New York style pizza.

Arena is known for his Sicilian style pie. “You have to change with the industry and the customers,” he told operators. After a five-day fermentation, Arena uses a trick. He freezes the crust overnight to reduce moisture. “I’m always trying for an element of surprise to the customer,” he said, displaying his crust which he says “looks like a brick” but tastes great and delivers a pleasing texture and taste that appeals to all five senses.


Flash-freezing works fine and lasts about one month. –John Arena, Metro Pizza

Metro’s sauce is made up of three different tomatoes. They use sharp Fontina cheese, pepperoni and rosemary for fragrance – appealing to the senses.

“We expect dough to change – dough is alive,” he said. Parbaking is a good way to stop the dough at the point when it’s at its best and you want it to stop. Flash-freezing works fine and lasts about one month, he added.

Gemignani demonstrated stretching techniques to make a 16-inch pizza. For one technique, you press out the air, then press the edges, banging down that edge,” he said. Gemignani said he likes to use vodka in the sauce, cooked off, and extra virgin olive oil.

He favours an electric oven with a 5/2 ratio: the top deck at 50 per cent heat and the bottom deck at 20 per cent. “You need to have a good recognition of your recovery time,” he advised. The element on top will help keep recovery time.

In “Competing with Quality,” Scott Anthony, owner-operator of Punxsutawney Pizza in Pennsylvania, shared some of his key ways of keeping his business ahead of the curve. Anthony invited comments from the attending operators.

Tony Troiano, president of J.B.Alberto’s Pizza in Chicago, said he sends his regular customers a postcard twice a year: once in July and again on Black Friday to beat the Christmas deluge of mail and messages. “The goal is to be top of mind,” Troiano said. “Your delivery area is your neighbourhood,” he said, adding that if operators are mailing out personalized postcards they are already ahead of the game because these are not addressed simply to “resident.” Personalization is something the chains can’t easily do, he noted.

Tony works with moving companies to reach out to new neighbours and said he’s starting to mark customers’ birthdays by offering a celebratory pizza.

Anthony said he always wants to set himself apart from a dozen other pizzerias in his region. He agreed, “The birthday pizza is a pleasant surprise for your customer” and mentioned the La Trattoria newsletter from Stanislaus Food Products is a must-read that celebrates and gives insight into independent pizzerias.

Anthony ended by playing a video circulating on social media that he admires. It’s one independent pizzeria’s clever campaign to promote what independent pizzerias have to offer above frozen pizza products. In the video the customer brings his frozen pizza to the independent asking if they’ll help him cook it. The pizzeria employee does not bat an eye, delivers top-notch customer service, upselling some toppings and leaving the customer over the moon. Quoting Maya Angelou, Anthony said, “People will never forget how you made them feel.”

Watch for reports on the engaging “Women in Pizza” panel and Nick Bogacz of Caliente Pizza in Pittsburgh, Penn., on expanding in a recession.

Check out our Facebook photo gallery showing highlights of Pizza Expo!

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