By Andy J. Gordon
On July 28, 2018, the inaugural California Pizza Festival took place on a steamy, sunbaked afternoon at Los Angeles Center Studios. The outdoor event included unlimited pizza sampling with high quality fresh doughs, sauces and toppings from about 20 pizzerias from California, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia. The mouth-watering event also featured world-renowned pizza chefs from Naples, Italy, where pizza began. Pizza lovers tasted some of the world’s most famous pizza, right in the heart of Los Angeles.
Pizza lovers had an abundance of styles to choose from, including Neapolitan, Sicilian and New York, as well as several gluten-free and vegan options. Local experts presented their delicious samples including Da Pasquale from Beverly Hills, Prova Pizzeria from West Hollywood, Ray’s and Stark Bar and Settebello, both from Los Angeles, CA. Two of the most famous Neapolitan pizzerias, Da Michele and Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, from Naples, Italy showed how pizza has been made for hundreds of years.
Entertainment during the event included live pizza-making demos, a meet-and-greet with Chef Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and acrobat shows. World Champion Pizza Acrobat Danilo Pagano and the Jersey Pizza Boys, 12 and 10 year old brothers Michael and Nicholas Testa, put on impressive displays of dough tossing. There was also live music and giveaways from the event sponsors.
As if anyone had room for sweets, two chefs, Leo Spizzirri, from Chicago’s Pizza & Culinary Academy and Vito Iacopelli from Prova Pizza in West Hollywood, did dessert pizza demos using Nutella. Spizzirri made a pizza with fresh strawberries, Nutella and powdered sugar as well as a calzone with the same ingredients. Iacopelli made a star shaped, Nutella stuffed pizza topped with powdered sugar. The dessert treats were decadent and incredible.
The only things that detracted from the fun were the jacked-up prices for beverages and the fenced off booze zones. Most pay one price/all you can eat food events include beverages, but this one charged obnoxiously high fees for soft drinks, water and booze. The beer, wine and spirits had to be consumed in fenced off, designated areas that did not contain any of the pizza and food vendors.
It would have been nice to walk around with a cold beer and a few pizza slices while enjoying the live entertainment. Perhaps the organizers can select a better location next year. It would also make sense to include the beverages in the price of admission. Despite this annoyance, the consistent quality and interesting variety of choices made the 2018 California Pizza Festival a unique opportunity to sample some of the best pizza served in the area and around the world.