Held in October, the show was touted as a one-stop shop for food-service buyers. Aisle after gleaming aisle made the connection between labour-saving technologies and how they can make life easier for the hard-working restaurant industry.
HostMilano welcomed 2,000 companies from 52 countries. More than a dozen halls dedicated to pastry, gelato, bread, pizza, pasta, coffee, tea, vending and tableware provided inspiration and ideas businesses can use to save time, money and labour, and help them stand out from the crowd.
Many of the booth events were carried out in Italian, but most booths had an English-speaking representative. Fortunately, the language of food is international and language was not too difficult a barrier to learning. Most of the pizzas encountered were roman style and light on the toppings. The School of Italian Pizza Makers pumped out creative pizzas by the hour, including one that featured a butternut squash base and fior di latte cheese topped with deep-fried squash and fennel. At the Zanolli booth, we found International Pizza Challenge winner Carmelo Oliveri, an instructor at the Zanolli Academy in Verona, making sausage and spinach pizza.
Mainstays of the trade-show floor included high-tech ovens designed to make shift changes smoother by giving staff various baking programs to activate. Unox’s BakerLux and BakerTop models are examples of this strong trend. Their innovative features include metal alloy plates that help the ovens retain the moisture needed in so many pastry applications.
Another manufacturer, Alto-Shaam, had on display its CT PROformance 7-20 Combitherm oven, which is suited to high-production kitchens. Users can place it on a stand or stack two together to save space. The company, headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wis., has a Canadian division.
GELATO appeals to the eye
Canadians know pizza and ice cream go together; Italians believe it too. Gelato is a force to be reckoned with in Italy, and at least a dozen exhibitors have mixes available for sampling in colourful, crowd-drawing cases that prove we do indeed “eat with our eyes.” Among these were Rubicone, whose Spiral Blue gelato, naturally flavoured with spirulina, a type of microalgae, prompted lineups at the tasting counter; and Cuor di Gelato, whose powdered gelato bases in natural, traditional and vegetable fibre are designed for quick preparation. PreGel highlighted Halloween and other themed gelato formulations and shared details of its customizable “New Cookie Idea” mix for a sort of cookie-tart that can hold fillings of various textures.
Several exhibitors featured gelato display cases that treated food as theatre. These futuristic glass-domed cases house machines that allow customers to watch as gelato is mixed.
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ItalMill of the nearby town of Cologne was showcasing its sourdough and special “Black Venus” or “Riso Venere” flour through delicious roman pizza crust sliced horizontally to create a crisp mortadella sandwich. The company, which started out in the pastry sector, now serves bakeries and pizzerias as well. Its natural sourdough flour is higher in lactobacilli and thus sweeter, said company representatives. The Black Venus flour is rich in antioxidants, minerals and fibre, and solves the problem of lengthy fermentation time, they said. Roman pizza dough, they told us, typically takes four days to ferment as it is made up of 80 per cent water. That fermentation time is reduced to 24 hours when using their formulation. They have created time-saving mixes as well.
The folks from Cambro, a California-based company, were there with some cool wheeled storage options for restaurants that are especially suited to caterers. The newest cabinet on display was the Cam GoBox, which holds several polypropylene bins of hot or cold food safely for many hours and is unaffected by oil, grease and most chemicals. Another model, the ProCart Ultra, holds five large bins and eight pizza boxes.
CaterTeam Food Service Equipment had its CookTek pizza and food storage bags on display. The insulated cloth bags contain a disc. When the bag containing the disc is placed on an induction charger base, it automatically heats up. The three-part system (bags, disc and charger) is designed to keep pizzas of up to 40 centimetres (15 inches) warm for up to 30 minutes.
Show organizers handed out about a dozen Smart Label awards for innovative products. The Skymsen pizza dough opener received one such designation for its “high performance, agility, design and technology.” The machine is eye-catching in action. A dough ball is placed on a tray inside that then rises to come in contact with two large cones. The cones slowly roll out the dough to a circle of up to 50 centimetres (20 inches). Rafael Fantini, a sales executive with the manufacturer, said the machine could open three pizzas per minute, which translates to 180 per hour. It is well suited to a delivery-only operation, Fantini said.