Canadian Pizza Magazine

Pizzeries, bakeries unite!

By Canadian Pizza Staff   

Features In the Kitchen Tools of the Trade dean litster giuseppe cortinovis international pizza expo pizza expo pizza trade show

This year Pizza Expo folded artisan baking education and products into the mix

Chef Chris Bianco finishes classic meatballs with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil during a popular demonstration of menu favourites.

Considering opening a bakery café or adding house-made desserts to your menu? Looking to learn new baking skills to enhance your pizza dough? The new Artisan Baking Expo, held in conjunction with the International Pizza Expo, was the place to pursue those aspirations.

Canadian Pizza and sister magazine Bakers Journal were at Expo and its complementary baking show March 5-7 in Las Vegas, Nev., to collect tips and trends, meet Canadian operators attending and cheer on our Canadian chefs in the exciting competitions.

Pizza Expo organizers have folded baking education sessions, supplier booths and product demonstrations into their already dense mixture of education and inspiration for pizzeria operators. More than 8,000 attendees streamed into the dual shows to take in 500 exhibitors, dozens of demos, seminars and pizza competitions.

All pizza makers are bakers, so the congregation of 40 baking suppliers and services was a natural fit for operators who wanted to learn more about baking and pastry, such as Angie Risi of Maria’s Pizza West and Solely Cannoli in Brantford, Ont. “Knowing there was a baking show as well helped us make the decision to come to Expo this year,” said Risi, who attended with sister and fellow operator Rose Risi.


Master Bakers Marcus Mariathus of Ace Bakery in Toronto, and Deborah Ott of Boulangerie Wesner in France, were at the Lesaffre booth to demonstrate their considerable bread-making skills. Ott showed onlookers how to make her striped milk bread flavoured with paprika and featuring words and decals transferred onto the bread using rice paper (see for more on Ott).

Educational talks included The Future of Bread, by Peter Reinhart; The Right Product Mix in a Bakery Café, by Solveig Tofte and Rachel Wyman; and Working with Ancient Grains, by Ciril Hitz.

The competition floor changed a little as well, with the addition of a Roman-style pizza-making competition.

Our Chefs of the Year Dean Litster and Giuseppe Cortinovis did Canada proud amid tough competition. Litster finished fourth in the Pan division with his pizza, The Dean Martin (see page 11 for more on the Deans). Cortinovis finished second in the international section of the Traditional division.

Third in that same category was fellow British Columbian Aaron Gehrman, owner of Emilio Finatti Pizzeria in White Rock, B.C. Mirko D’Agata of Groupe No. 900 Pizzeria Napoletana in Montreal finished second in the Napoletana division.

Renowned chef Chris Bianco, owner of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Ariz., inspired a standing-room only crowd during his keynote address and followed up with a lively meatball-making demonstration interspersed with insights about food and the industry.

Bianco, who wrote a book about his experiences entitled Pizza, Pasta, and Other Food I Like, cooked in an informal, freewheeling style. For his “menu favourites” demonstration, he made classic meatballs using a “screaming hot pan.” Choose the best provenance of ingredient you can, the soft-spoken chef said, adding that he likes to use a young varietal of Parmesana Reggiano. He uses free-range eggs, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Bianco also loves Italian parsley and suggests using the stems to bring texture and moisture to the dish. He doesn’t like to chop parsley too fine, preferring instead to have them peek up through the sauce, which features 20 ounces of tomatoes, browned garlic cloves, basil and ciabatta crumbs.

He cooks the meatballs at 600 degrees for 11 minutes and recommends tenting them with foil to keep them hot.

Bianco invited questions from the audience and there were some good ones. When asked “Is vegan a trend the pizza industry must satisfy?” Bianco said, “It’s a slippery slope when you start making changes without doing all the thoroughness required.” He recommended moderation and thoughtful experimentation: “If you change one thing, you have to change something else to adjust.”

How do you find a good candidate to take over the business from you? “You aren’t going to be able to hold on to the day-to-day work,” Bianco advised. He encouraged business owners to learn how to delegate. If you want to have longevity, he said, “you need to find a way to affect your business without being on the premises.”

A panel talk featuring two married couples gave attendees tips on how to combine love and work successfully. Power couples Melissa and Eric Rickman of Wholly Stomboli near Denver, Colo., and Pasquale and Giovanna Di Diana of Bacci Pizzerias in Chicago, testified to the amount of work required to run a profitable restaurant, the need to separate responsibilities and the satisfaction found in working as a team. “No one else in the world knows how much I want to succeed,” Melissa Rickman said, summing up the challenges and rewards.

“It’s important to have different responsibilities within the business. That lesson was huge,” said husband and partner Eric. His strength is administration and hers is creativity.

Here is a small sampling of new products found on the show floor:

  • Arrezzio/Sysco: A pizza box that splits in two to hold leftovers
  • Wild Flour Bakery: Gluten-free doughs, including its new cookie doughs, ready to ship
  • Wellbake: Dough-sheeting line, developed in Barrie, Ont., and ideally suited to pizzeria operations with multiple locations
  • The Countertop Oven by XLT Grill
  • Bob’s Red Mill’s: Cassava flour
  • J.R. Simplot: Roastworks line of IQF vegetables and fruits
  • IPourIt: Self-serve beer and wine walls the company is working on bringing to Canada
  • VIZpin Inc.: Key access for your staff
  • Barilla America: Legume pasta
  • Peerless Ovens: Ventless ovens
  • Liberated Specialty Foods: Keto and paleo ingredients
  • Experiment Books: No Gluten, No Problem Pizza, due out in October

After spending three days at this buzzing event, it was easy to see how learning and networking can refresh and profit a pizzeria.

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