BY JEFF GILLAN, KSNV
LAS VEGAS (CIRCA via KSNV) — I’ll give it this: It has to be the best-smelling convention at the Convention Center. The minute you walk into the cavernous hall, you’re hit with the wonderful aroma of cheese, the hint of parmesan and the fragrance of baking.
Welcome to the International Pizza Expo, which ran from March 4 to 7.
More than 8,000 pizza professionals, according to the trade show, came to learn the latest trends, see the latest ingredients, ogle the latest ovens, catch up on the latest techniques, and, finally, eat a lot of pizza. More than 500 vendors exhibited their pizza.
Pizza's a huge industry. Latest sales numbers: more than $43 billion.
“It's a good business. There are people wanting to get into it all the time, and that's why you come here to the Pizza Expo," said said show director Bill Oakley. "We have over 80 seminars and demonstrations and networking events."
Bleachers were set up to allow the pizza pros to watch and learn from the best in the business, like learning how to make the best crust. Here, you get to eat the results. And, of course, there was a pizza-making competition with a prize at the end.
The pizza business is evolving. Like the bigger food industry, healthier options were available, too. At the Kellogg’s/Morningstar Farms booth, you wouldn't have even known your pizza included sustainable plant-based protein as a topping.
“So, you just had the vegan Chorizo comb?” asked Brian LaVaque, who works for the company.
I said I did and told him it tasted pretty good.
“So, it helps when the food taste good, right?” he said.
At this show, everything tasted good. Working a pizza oven, putting in freshly constructed pies with artisanal ingredients, I met Damian Toryak. He’s the executive chef with Atalanta, the largest privately owned food importer in the country.
I asked him what was new in the pizza business.
“Authentic, delicious, old ways of doing things, just done well, done right," Toryak said. "Farm to fork is now what is authentic, what is original."
You gotta have something to put the pizza in, right? Showing off their wares, or boxes, I found a pizza box company that traveled to Vegas from China.
What’s the secret to a good pizza box?
“I think the good quality and then the very good printing and can keep the pizza (tasting) very nice,” said Benny Lo, with the Chinese company Shengda Group.
The pizza expo had it all, including a crust I was swooning over. It’s a new formulation which originated in Rome — vegan, healthy and crispy. It was quite good.
“Finally, you can eat pizza without any guilt, because it's low in calories, low in fat,” said Alberto Di Marco, with Pinsa Romano America. His father invented it.
The company is bringing the crust to America, where it will find a home at Jimi Lasqueste’s Hawaiian fusion restaurant in Summerlin, Nevada.
“With all my sauces and all my ingredients that we’re going to be doing in Hawaiian fusion, I couldn’t resist but to put this on the menu,” Di Marco said.
Take a look at the best slice of New York pizza on Pizza Pie Day
You bet your cheddar it's time for the US Championship Cheese Contest!
Love cold pizza for breakfast? It's actually kind of a healthy option.