Eat your way around the country’s top pizzerias on one Bronx street this fall.
More than 20 pizza makers from across the United States, and a small contingent from Naples, Italy, will sell tastes of their signature pies and slices during the first-ever New York Pizza Festival taking place on Crescent Street in Belmont’s Little Italy district over Columbus Day weekend.
The outdoor festival, will be free to attend, but if you want to eat (and who doesn’t?) you’ll need to shell out cash in advance. Tickets — priced at $20 for three slices, $30 for six slices and $100 for a VIP fast-pass plus 10 slices — are now on sale at nycpizzafestival.com. Drink vouchers are also available, and are sold separately.
The event is modeled on one of the world’s largest celebrations of cheese-y, saucy flatbread, the annual Napoli Pizza Village in Naples.
“Our idea,” says Fred Mortati, 52, an Italian foods importer whose Financial District-based group Pizza Academy Foundation is organizing the event with the Belmont Business Improvement District, “was to have a similar concept to what’s overseas: a two-day celebration to bring some of the most renowned pizza makers from around the U.S.. . . to have these stands lining the street in New York, where people can come and enjoy and try these expressions of pizza.”
A fixture at the Naples event, famed pizzaiolo Gino Sorbillo says he’s happy to see the New York Pizza Festival come to life in the Bronx, and to participate: “The pizza world is strong all over the world, especially in New York, and after Napoli Pizza Village, New York will be another great spectacle and pizza community gathering,” Sorbillo says in a statement.
Pizzerias thus far committed to visiting what Mortati calls “arguably the No. 1 city for pizza, after Naples” include: San Francisco’s Tony’s Pizza Napoletana from 12-time world pizza champion Tony Gemignani; Seattle’s Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria; Atlanta’s The Local Pizzaiolo from Giulio Adriani, the four-time world pizza champion behind Forcella in New York; and Chicago’s Spacca Napoli. New York favorites like Kesté Pizza & Vino, Denino’s and Speedy Romeo are also on the lineup curated by local pizza historian and tour guide Scott Wiener and “Pizza Today” magazine editor-in-chief Peter LaChapelle.
While there appears to be an initial emphasis on Neapolitan-style pies — the most traditional of which are prepared with cheese, tomatoes and flour imported from Italy and baked quickly in wood-fired ovens for a spotty crust with a wet center — Mortati promises pizza aficionados variety: “Each restaurant has their own beliefs and styles and makes the product they want to make. There are participants who follow a very authentic Neapolitan tradition. Then there are going to be participants that have a New York-style product that use different ingredients and different techniques, so I think you’re going to see a lot of everything.”
Pizzerias will be cooking up their pies right on the street, in wood-burning brick and electric deck ovens supplied by two sponsors, Mortati says.
Mortati knows full well that the general concept of a New York Pizza Festival comes with baggage: In September, what was supposed to be a “day long celebration of dough, cheese, tasty sauces and delicious toppings” became the “Fyre Festival for pizza” when organizer Ishmael Osekre drew thousands of hungry and subsequently enraged ticket holders to a Bushwick lot with three tables and a few cold slivers of the headlining dish.
“People will get a lot to eat,” says the co-owner of Orlando Foods and a co-founder of Pizza Academy Foundation, an aspiring nonprofit dedicated to promoting Italian culture, food and artisan pizza. “They will not be disappointed.”
Plus, he adds, pizza lovers can expect some free perks: live music and sponsor-provided espresso, soda and water.