Meet Tony Gemignani one of the most decorated pizza chefs in the world and he happens to reside in our backyard. He has won the world pizza champion title nine times so this dude knows his pie.
A native of Castro Valley, his brother ran a pizza restaurant “Pyzanos” where as a teenager Tony learned the art of making pizza. He didn’t just learn it, he mastered it and went on to become a world champion and a pizza making teacher himself.
“Good Pizza is about balance. Your dough, cheese and
ingredients all well balanced.”
– Tony Gemignani
In 2000, Tony was asked to compete at the World Pizza Championships in Italy. A team was created and the three best pizza makers were sent. Tony won two consecutive years in 2000 and 2001. Tony was the first American to ever win in Italy’s World Championships. Tony, a Five Time World champion became a judge of the world competition and the coach/co-founder of the US Pizza Team. Tony led the US team for three years and departed to form the World Pizza Champions, Americas #1 Pizza Team.
The World Pizza Champions, America’s # 1 Pizza Team, are a group of the best pizza acrobats and bakers from around the US. They travel the world performing, competing, and the founding members organize the World Pizza Games in Las Vegas, New York, and Atlantic City. No other team in history has won more titles than the World Pizza Champions who dominate the Championships in Italy each year.
The World Pizza Champions team took the gold at the World Games in 2005 and again at the World Pizza Championships in 2006 & 2007 making Tony an 8–time world champion.
In 2005 Tony collaborated with acclaimed cookbook writer Diane Morgan and wrote PIZZA. Their book skyrocketed in sales and was showcased on The Today Show, The Rachael Ray Show & Emeril Live. In April of 2006 Tony and his teammates were showcased in the movie documentary Pizza the Movie that was accepted in eight major film festivals. Tony is also a 2 Time Food Network Gold Medalist. In the summer of 2006, Tony was invited on the Food Networks/Guinness “Pizza Champions Challenge.” He won first place for Best Pizza in the US and was also inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records twice for “Biggest Pizza” and “Most Consecutive Rolls Across the Shoulders.
In 2007 in Naples, Italy at the World Pizza Cup Tony became the first American to ever win a baking championship bringing home the gold cup for then best Neapolitan pizza in the world. This made Tony a 9 Time World Champion.
Tony is certified in Classic Italian Pizza and Pizza In Pala from the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli in Caorle, Italy. Today at his North Beach based International School of Pizza he teaches the next generation of chefs how to make the perfect pie.
His North Beach restaurant Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, named best pizza in America by USA today is one of the toughest reservations on the block. One little slice of his pie and you’ll understand why it’s sooooo terribly good.
Tony’s new speakeasy, Capos, is set to open in North Beach soon and I barely mentioned his restaurants in Las Vegas, with plans for more to come!
I first met Tony more than a decade ago at his Castro Valley restaurant as he tossed dough way above his head and straight away I knew this guy was serious about pie. To watch him cook is to watch a master craftsman toil over his workshop bench, focused, disciplined, his eyes fixed firmly on the prize – perfection.
Enjoy our Foodie Chap chat and check out his “winning” pizza recipe. I had just had one slice of his 3 quail egg pizza but I am going back for more….always the way…just one more slice!
Five Tasty Questions with Tony Gemignani
1. A good pizza is about…
Balance. Understanding ingredients and the pizza has to be a balance, not about being over complex. It’s about your dough, your sauce, your cheese, your ingredients all balanced in one.
2. What is the best pizza meal that you’ve ever had?
Probably when I was on my honeymoon in Naples. It was at Trianon, Which Trianon gets a lot of respect, but at the same time doesn’t always get a lot of respect. It’s one of the oldest pizzerias in Naples. My wife and I had a pizza and that was about 12 years ago and really when we had that pizza that’s when I really got into the Neapolitan arena and said “Hmm that’s what it’s really supposed to be about.” Everything I was doing before was great, but right now I get it. I understand it and now I want to master it and improve on it.3. If I go to your fridge at midnight what will I find?
I’ve been drinking a lot of seltzer waters. My whole fridge is full of seltzer waters which sounds really weird. Like I said, I was sick a little bit earlier so I’ve been trying to eat healthy. You’re going to see Greek yogurt, salsa and of course you’re going to see chips, because I love chips and salsa. You’re going to see tortillas and a lot of cheese. I love to make tortillas and cheese, that’s kinda what my mom always made when I was a kid. So, it’s really simple and you’re probably going to find some leftover pizza.
4. In the soundtrack to your life pick one song, one artist.
Frank Sinatra “My Way.” I did it my way.
5. At your last supper you can have a couple of guests, who would they be and what would you eat?
Definitely my grandpa. There are a lot of questions I wish I could have asked him, but I didn’t have a chance because I was too young, so definitely my grandpa, my wife, I’m thinking when we met that one moment. I always remember my wife as that, I mean it’s been 12 years, so the discovery of my life. We’d have a Roman pizza. Our Roman pizza is like two and a half feet wide. It comes in your first, then your main, and your sweeter course. It’s a communal pie I call it. It’s something you can sit down, have wine, sit for two hours, three hours, you can eat it, hang out and talk. It’s going to be a long conversation so it has to be a communal pie like that.
Potato, Quail Egg & Guanciale Pizza
1 9oz. dough ball
White baby potato sliced thinly(~8-9oz)
shredded mozzarella (~4oz)
sliced dried chorizo sliced thinly (~8oz)
3 quail eggs
fromage blanc (~1-2oz)
pinch lavender salt
Pinch chopped rosemary
1-2oz. chopped calabrese peppers
guanciale sliced thinly (~7 slices)
– Push out dough to roughly 12 in.
– spread mozzarella out evenly
– distribute potato slices evenly and drizzle olive oil over top
– cook pizza with potatoes about 80% of the way
– pull out pizza and distribute sliced chorizo evenly, guanciale, and the 3 quail eggs
– return pizza to oven and finsh cooking taking care to evenly cook the pizza and eggs together
– when finished cooking take pizza out and cut it into 6 slices taking care not to break the egg yolks
– sprinkle lavender salt and rosemary over top
– pinch off the fromage blanc and spread around the pizza making sure each slice receives a good amount
– finish the pizza with a sprinkling of the calabrese peppers but not too much so as not to overwhelm the other delicate flavors
– make sure each slice has a little of everything and some in the center, plate, and serve.
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)