Chris Decker From Truly Pizza in Dana Point, CA

Chris Decker worked for 26 years under John Arena at Metro in Las Vegas, but now he’s the guy in charge at Truly Pizzain Dana Point, CA. They offer two very distinct styles of pizza and both are incredible. Chris and his crew are going to be featured at Pizza City Fest LA this weekend, where they’ll be showing off a very unique pie. He previews it for us on this week’s show.

 

Jeff Barris from Hail Mary in L.A.

Jeff Barris has always been into pizza, but when he had a chance to buy an established pizzeria in Atwater Village, he jumped at it. Hail Mary already had a cult following, but now that Barris and his team have taken over, they’ve changed very little (just the sauce), keeping the same all-natural starter intact and employing four different flours.

International Pizza Expo 2024

Coming back after a few years of so-so attendance, still recovering from the pandemic, the 40th International Pizza Expo was a smash in almost every way. I spoke with a few attendees about why they made the trip.

 

Connie Zotta from Salerno’s in Chicago

Connie Zotta is the 2nd generation to run Salerno’s in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. The pizzeria has been around since 1966, when it opened in a near suburb of Chicago (Berwyn). Zotta’s dad, Joe Salerno, founded the business with his brothers, but since he passed away recently, she has been tasked with keeping the tradition alive.

 

Alex Koons from Hot Tongue in L.A.

Alex Koons has had an interesting career – audio engineer, pizza delivery guy – but his biggest challenge was attempting to open a vegan pizzeria in L.A. It didn’t take long to realize he had to pivot. Today his pizza at Hot Tongue in Silver Lake (both vegan and meat-friendly) is among the best in the city, due mainly to his remarkable dough recipe (with four flours!).

 

Katsuya Fukushima & Mary Mendoza from Tonari in Washington D.C.

Katsuya Fukushima spent 15 years working for José Andrés in Washington D.C., and it allowed him to travel the world. But his upbringing in Hawaii also influenced his palate, and his Japanese heritage also plays a role on his menus. He now cooks Wafu – Japanese inspired Italian – at Tonari in D.C.’s Chinatown, where he and pastry chef Mary Mendoza have collaborated on a mentaiko corn Detroit style pizza that is just stunning.

Brian Strutz from A Dopo in Knoxville

Like several of Knoxville’s best chefs and restaurants, owner Brian Strutz is an alum of Blackberry Farm’s kitchens. A Dopo is an homage to a life-changing trip he took to Italy years ago, where all they had was an oven. Strutz still uses an all-natural starter and his staff pulls mozzarella curds each day. Serious Old School in Tennessee! NOTE: on this episode, we also mention Potchke, an Eastern European-inspired deli Strutz is involved in. His business partner Laurence Faber and wife Emily Williams are the creators of that concept.

Jenny Olbrich from The Esters in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Jenny Olbrich has had a multi-faceted career – from private chef to designer…eventually landing in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, at The Esters – a bar and restaurant with a tidy pizza program. She talked about her path, and how she managed to crank out hundreds of pies at a time in a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet.

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