Pizza Expo 2019 Recap

Our First Pizza Expo

Normally by the time March rolls around NCAA Men’s Basketball conference play is in full swing and it’s exciting. Evenings and weekends are spent deciding where to watch the Arizona Wildcats play, get a tasty slice, and enjoy a beer or two. This year, the teams’ performance leaves something to be desired and March has been much less eventful than years past. Good thing Adam and I had the Pizza Expo to look forward to.

The Pizza Expo, presented by Pizza Today, takes place every year in March at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It is an international gathering of pizzaiolos and pizzaiolas, suppliers, and those passionate about everything pizza. Programming includes seminars and educational classes for restaurant owners, demos for various aspects of pizza making, and networking. Two more signature events are the International Pizza Challenge and the World Pizza Games. This year the Pizza Expo ran parallel to the International Artisan Bakery Expo, adding additional event that celebrates the craft of baking.
Here’s what we experienced and what we learned at our first Pizza Expo.

Day 1

We arrived later in the day, after pizza Legend Chris Bianco’s Keynote, and the conference floor was still packed. Several demos were still happening. We surveyed the landscape. The amount of pizza we were surrounded by was overwhelming. This was the best smelling conference I have ever attended. We did a lap around the exhibitors’ floor and caught The Science of Yeast demo with Michele Croccia and Leo Spizzirri. They shared their two different methods for making yeast. After getting our bearings and truly realizing the wide variety of activities we knew that we needed a solid gameplan for day 2.

Day 2

The first keynote featuring Sammy Mandell was inspirational. Sammy recapped his young and successful career starting Greenville Avenue Pizza Company. Coming from a marketing background, his takeaways on brand development and reinvesting in the business resonated deeply. After the keynote, we made our way over to Peter Reinhart’s moderated panel, TInkering with Dough. The panel captivated the crowd with the endless possibilities of combining 4 simple ingredients together over time.

After the panel, we stopped at the Detroit-style pizza demo with Jeff Smokevitch. Prior to attending the expo, we had the privilege of eating at Jeff’s restaurant Blue Pan, in Denver Colorado. It was that dining experience that set us on a quest for Detroit-style pizza everywhere we go. We simply love this underrated style of pizza and truly wish there was more of it out in the wild. Seeing how packed this demo was, could be an indicator that soon, there will be.

By this time, we had worked up a hearty appetite and knew the closest place we could get a hot fresh, cooked to order pizza was 800 Degrees back at SLS.

Stomachs full, we headed back to the convention center, to catch some of he International Pizza Challenge. This area was packed. Spectators were seated, and many were up right next to the action. A commentator worked the floor bringing everyone up to speed on the pizza construction that was unfolding. Until this point in the expo, most of the pizza that we had sampled had been small slices that had spent some time under a warming lamp. (But pizza is pizza right?) Getting a chance to sample these fresh out of the oven pies with unique assemblies of ingredients was a welcome change. I would not have been able to judge this competition because I thought they were all amazing.

Our day wrapped with attending the World Pizza Games Finals and Block Party. There was even a marriage proposal! Pizza is love. There is no doubt about it.

The party also featured the freestyle acrobatic dough tossing competition. It warmed my pizza loving heart to see Tucson’s own Scott Volpe compete in the Masters Division. While he didn’t take home first, it was a great reminder about what a great pizza scene Tucson has. It’s home to several pizza champions.

We left the block party feeling pretty good. The entire pizza community is so welcoming and fun loving. The put everything they have into their craft and into making their own hometown communities better. They are an ambitious group that will continue to innovate. We were lucky to experience it, and can’t wait for the 2020 expo .

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