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December 18, 2018

Lucky For Me: Tony Wins His Thirteenth World Pizza Championship

by Joe Bonadio

It’s a fact: people love to compete. The instinct is a strong one, and not least in the food world, where competitive cooking has become an industry unto itself. It’s a path to recognition for what was once a low-key career choice, and many a chef has made the transition from local upstart to full-blown celebrity by winning big on the TV chef circuit. And one of the most hotly contended categories, not surprisingly, is pizzamaking.

Competing for the USA,Tony took best pizza in the Port category; here he poses with Radostin Kiryazov of Bulgaria, winner in the Douro category.

Competing for the USA,Tony took best pizza in the Port category; here he poses with Radostin Kiryazov of Bulgaria, winner in the Douro category.

While there is typically a constellation of serious pizzaioli competing on the international circuit, the names are always changing, with new hotshots constantly coming into the fray. One of the exceptions to this rule is our very own Tony Gemignani, who just won an unprecedented thirteenth world pizza title. And to win the first-ever Antonio Mezzero All-Star Pizza Championship, Tony traveled all the way to Porto, Portugal–and went up against an imposing roster of today’s hottest pizza specialists.

To me, the win is more impressive than it is surprising; one thing I’ve learned about Tony is that he doesn’t go into something like this unless he is prepared to win it. And one thing most people don’t know about Tony is in addition to his Italian roots, he also has Spanish, and yes, Portuguese in his background.

In this esteemed group though, that would count for little. Ten countries were chosen to compete in the contest, with one chef representing the best from each of them; Tony was chosen to vie for the U.S. In order to outshine this handpicked squad of pizzaioli, Tony would need a diabolically good pie–and a little bit of luck. Digging into his California local-boy connections, Tony raided an obscure Portuguese provisions shop, Silva Bakery in Hayward, and got to work. His mission: to create mind-blowing pizza with the best local ingredients of Porto, Portugal.

Tony Gemignani poses with his newest creation, which recently won the pizza chef his thirteenth world pizza championship in Porto, Portugal.

Tony Gemignani poses with his newest creation, which recently won the pizza chef his thirteenth world pizza championship in Porto, Portugal.

The ten contestants were tasked with creating pizzas to enjoy with the two dominant wines of the region: one to be paired with Douro, the other with Port. It was Tony’s entry for the Port category that ended up snaring him the top spot: a white pie topped with Portuguese chorizo, Topo São Jorge Cheese, ‘Nduja salame, smoked fleur de sel, Grande mozzarella and microgreens–and a “crema de port” incorporating 20-year-old Croft Tawny Port.

It’s a heady combination, to be sure. And the recipe proved to be enough to seduce the judges once again, and earn Tony another world pizza title. (Congratulations to Radostin Kiryazov of Bulgaria, who took home top honors in the Douro category.)

Of course, there’s a lot more to this story, but we’re going to save some for later, so be sure and come back soon. Meanwhile, you can expect to see Tony’s winning ‘Porto’ pizza on the menu at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana early next year. Just check in here for more details…