It’s one of America’s favorite comfort foods – a staple at parties and gatherings, and easily called in for a quick midweek meal. Cracker thin or deep dish, America’s love of pizza is undeniable. And, with so many different ways to make and top the flatbread treat, it’s understandable why a pizza aficionado would devote not just one, but two cookbooks to the art of pizza making. This is exactly what Tony Gemignani, an 11-time World Pizza Champion, restaurateur and owner of Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza in San Francisco, did, making the Fremont native the perfect addition to the Santa Clara Library’s February Food Fest.
Gemignani, who released his latest cookbook, “The Pizza Bible,” in October of last year, tossed dough, talked pizza, explained the intricacies of the perfect pizza dough, gave out samples and signed copies of his book at the Feb. 22 event, which saw nearly 100 people in attendance.
“If you look at where ‘The Pizza Bible’ came from, it really came from three places – Tony’s, Capos, which is another place I have in San Francisco, and Slice House,” said Gemignani. “There are three restaurants there that if you look at what’s in ‘The Pizza Bible,’ we pretty much do that in day-to-day operations. Pretty much everything that’s in that, I would say 98 percent is done in those three stores every day … We make a lot of our pastas in house. A lot of people may not know this but we case all of our own sausages. We pull all of our mozzarella in house. Almost everything in all of our restaurants is from scratch”
As the owner of a rapidly growing chain of 13 restaurants throughout Northern California and Las Vegas, Nevada, Gemignani is a master at knowing what elements make a great pizza. The secret to good pizza dough, he said, is time and temperature. He also recommended using a high-gluten, high-protein flour and two pizza stones for cooking, starting the pizza on a stone placed on the top rack and ending on a stone on the bottom rack.
“I fell in love [with pizza] 23 years ago,” said Gemignani. “My brother had the idea of opening up a pizzeria coming out of high school. I really had no clue what I was going to do. I come from an Italian-Portuguese-Spanish family. Pizza was in our house but I never really made it for real. I was 17, going on 18, and my brother dropped some dough in front of me. I pushed it out, stretched it, tossed it and I thought it was the greatest thing. There was this living organism in front of you and I saw how to work the oven. I just loved it. I always say in the industry that there’s nobody who loves pizza more than me and I always think it can be made better. I’m always trying to refine it.”
February Food Fest was sponsored by donations to the Santa Clara Library Foundation and Friends. For more information on Gemignani, his restaurants or “The Pizza Bible,” visit www.tonygemignani.com.