|Tony Gemignani's Mantra: Respect the Craft|
After spending 3 days at the International Pizza Expo, it was easy to meet pizza celebrities since everyone was pretty much an open book and approachable. Of course, knowing who they were was another story! Tony Gemignani happened to be one of the pizza luminaries whom I knew about from YouTube. Google "pizza", "Neopolitan", "mixing dough" or some variations of it, and Tony's informative (and entertaining) clips come up. After listening to his 4 hour lecture, conversations with other attendees, and many interviews and articles found in Google, and learning how much of his success comes not only from his natural talents and business sense, but his utmost passion in the craft of pizza making that it warranted a blog post of its own!
At the Pizza Expo, Tony Gemignani was one of the four participants in a panel called the "Million-in-One Club", who shared work experiences, trials and tribulations, advised the first time business owner and offered secrets to what made them successful operators. He has a strong business sense which is obvious in his growing empire in San Francisco, Sacramento, and soon, Las Vegas. Yet, he remains down to earth. I believe a career that started from the trenches as a pizza thrower in his brother's pizzeria, Pyzano in 1991 is what keeps him grounded today. Working his way up the ladder to be a master pizzaiolo, operator, and multi-unit owner, he remains close to his employees because he understands them. For example, while many of his employees work there because it's a job, there are those that are as passionate about pizza as he is. By offering trips to Las Vegas (the Pizza Expo) and other incentives, he keeps their energy high and passion alive. Sometimes it isn't just about the money. Chatting briefly with one of his assistants at the demo, I found out that she is is the office manager and pizza school coordinator, Laura Meyer. Working with Tony since she was 16 years old, she easily relates to him like an older sibling and it was obvious that she had a lot of respect for the guy.
|Proud of Smokevitch's Win!|
|Tony's Indispensable Staff|
|Learning to Portion|
|Passionate & Perfectionist|
|Unleashing the Passion|
After each class, a swarm of fans from the audience came to meet THE man. Clearly, he has earned the respect from many who are fans. Covered with tattoos around his forearms, and patches plastered all over his white chef outfit, resembling that of a celebrated NASCAR driver, many flock to his presence like a celebrity. He is kind of the rock star of the pizza industry. I find it charming to see grown men be googly-eyed with their celebrity. After all, his claim to fame began after winning countless awards in acrobatic pizza throwing competitions and holding two Guiness Book of World Records: spinning the largest pizza and spinning the most pizzas on the back of his shoulders!
While attend the MacWorld 2013 conference in February, we rented an apartment in North Beach for the week, not knowing the place was several blocks from Tony's Pizza Napoletana! We met several locals who raved about Tony's amicable personality and amazing pizza but warned us about the long wait. After two attempts, we were able to experience several meals at Tony's and a take-out at his next-door pizzeria concept, Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Slice House. You will find the Ciriglio oven that Tony used to create his award-winning pizza in Naples.
|Union & Stockton|
|Neopolitan doughs fermenting in wooden boxes|
|Neopolitan crusts offered on Deruta ceramic "pie servers"|
|Tony's Award Winning Recipe of the Neopolitan|
|Always Striving for Excellence|
As I mentioned earlier, Tony does offer a Home Chef class geared towards the serious home cook who wants to stretch their imagination beyond boboli. Offered once every quarter, he teaches several styles of dough recipes as well as cooking in different ovens including wood fire, gas, and even a home oven. Here is another pizza enthusiast who raved about his experience taking the Home Chef class with Tony!
|Sicilian Style at the Workshop|
I must admit that when I first heard about Tony G., I thought, hmmm, pizza acrobatic champion. That's why he's so popular! Kind of like some star athletes who are revered because they play sports. I'm thinking, not a whole lot of talent there. Well, I was wrong. After attending his workshop, researching his work background and qualifications, chatting with locals and employees, I have a new-found respect and understanding for him. By no coincidence, respect is a quality that Tony himself is trying to build back into the craft of pizza making.
|Me & Tony!|
- 1991, enters the pizza industry. He partners with brother, co-owning Pyzano's Pizzeriaa in Castro Valley. He started as a pizza thrower. Tony enters his first pizza throwing competition in Las Vegas and wins. He was 18 years old. He wins both years, 1996, 1997, as the top pizza thrower in the world.
- 2000 World Pizza Championship, Italy
- 2001 World Pizza Championship, Italy (1st American to win)
- Coach/Co-founder of US Team Pizza Team for 3 years. Formed World Pizza Champions, America's #1 Pizza Team.
- 2005 Pizza, co-written with Diane Morgan. Cookbook geared towards the home baker.
- 2006 Pizza the Movie (documentary), about the Pizza Throwing Team
- 2-Time Food Network Pizza-Tossing Gold Medalist
- Food Networks/Guinness Pizza Champions Challenge: Best Pizza in the US
- Guinness Book of World Records: "Biggest Pizza" and "Most Consecutive Rolls Across the Shoulders"
- 2007 World Champion Neapolitan Chef
- 2009 Tony's Pizza Napoletana, North Beach opens
- 2009 Tony and the Pizza Champions, children's book, publishes
- 2010 Tony's CoalFired Pizza and Slice House opens
- 2011 Pizza Rock, Sacramento opens ( gourmet pizzas and cocktails)
- 2012 Capo, North Beach opens (Chicago Style)
- 2013 Respect the Craft, monthly columnist, Pizza Today