By Frank Lewis
Gatti’s Pizza on 11th Street in Portsmouth came away as the Gourmet Champion of the Midwest Division at the North American Pizza and Ice Cream Show, in Columbus, over the weekend.
“We won,” Tim Knauff, owner of Gatti’s Pizza, said. “We won. We have been going up there for the last five years, and they always have pizza competition. When you go over there, you have all of these mom and pops places - folks who have been making pizzas for years. And we decided, shoot, we’re gonna get it this year and see what happens. It was the biggest turnout of competitors they’ve ever had. And here we are getting into our first one, and we won $6,000. Pizza magazine is going to get a hold of us. And every year the they want the midwest winner to go out to Las Vegas and compete in that. We’re debating that.”
Knauff credited one of his store managers, Jordan Henson, who created the winning pizza in the competition. He said some of the past winners said there is even an opportunity to compete in Italy. He said there were competitors from Washington DC to North Carolina to Illinois.
“You had to see it,” Knauff said. “There were people using torches on their pizza. One guy was making a pizza and it looked like he was building a cake. The next thing I knew he took a chisel and he hit it and it fell into a pizza pie. I was unbelievable, and here Gatti’s Pizza in the little town of Portsmouth winning. We’re pretty excited about it.”
Knuaff said people wanted to know about his restaurant after they won the competition.
“When it was over with people came up to us and wanted to know, ‘where is Gatti’s Pizza?’,” he said.
According to the North American Pizza and Ice Cream Show website, on each of two days, 75 contestants bake first-round pizzas and six finalists are chosen. Those six pies are prepared again and judged, and the top-three finishers are announced. Gatti’s Pizza of Portsmouth came out on top in the Gourmet Division, winning the $6,000 first prize. Second and third place winners received $1,000 and $500 respectively.
According to the NAPICS website, “Since 2003, the North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show has provided operators a place to see, touch and taste all of the latest food service products. Designed by operators for operators, its objective has always been increasing attendee knowledge. The NAPICS website says that is still their goal - “Only we’ve sharpened our focus to include new issues that matter to all food service operators.”
Not only were the folks at Gatti’s in Portsmouth celebrating, but half the country away they were celebrating as well.
“We had to call corporate and they’re excited,” Knauff said. “They’re celebrating down in Austin, Texas. They got that dropped on them today - here one of their Gatti’s Pizzas, one in Ohio, won the pizza competition in the midwest.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.