Pizza lovers the world over can find a little slice of heaven each year in Las Vegas, home of the International Pizza Expo. The four-day event is technically a trade show, held in a convention center with hundreds of booths and seminars on pizzeria management. But it’s also an extravaganza, a place for pizza-obsessives, and the site of the International Pizza Challenge and the World Pizza Games, where the most valiant and creative pizzaiolos prove their mettle in front of a live audience.
Since 2007, the Challenge has pitted ambitious pizza-peddlers against each other according to a strikingly specific rubric. Competition starts within five divisions—traditional, non-traditional, pan, Napoletana, and gluten-free—before the winners (minus the gluten-free reps) face off for title of Pizza Maker of the Year, as judged by a panel of luminaries. The Challenge concludes with the Best of the Best competition, in which past winners must use all of the ingredients supplied to them in a “blind box.”
But the fun only begins at the tastebuds. The Games’ event list includes Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pizza Box Folding, and Pizza Triathlon. Perhaps nothing is so memorable, however, as the fierce exhibition of bodily coordination and grace known as Freestyle Acrobatic Dough Tossing.