Judges Agree Windsor Has Some World-Class Pizza

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Windsor Star/Joel Boyce

Local pizza makers said they put Windsor on the map after finishing third last week in Las Vegas  for the best pizza in the world.

Well-known Windsor franchise Armando’s Pizza attended the 30th annual International Pizza Expo for the first time and came out with impressive results. The Windsor crew beat out 60 others for the honour of the world’s third best pizza.

“Windsor is now part of the pizza map,” said corporate pizza chef Dean Litster. “They’ll remember us.”

In fact, Windsor placed in the top five in all of the four categories entered.

Armando’s co-owner John Pizzo was the regional winner in the traditional division, and finished first in the International region.

“I would like to thank all our customers over the years,” Pizzo said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Armando’s regular everyday pizza, with shredded pepperoni and canned mushrooms, shocked the judges at the competition, Litster said. Made with all natural cheese,  from Galati Cheese Co. Ltd., 100 per cent milk and without additives or artificial flavours, the recipe hasn’t changed since Pizzo’s father-in-law, Armando Gerardi, created it in 1967.

Litster, the 27-year-old pizza guru who has worked for owners Pizzo and Andre Gerardi since he was 15 years old, finished fifth overall in the American pan division. The deep-dish pizza isn’t on the menu and was created just for fun.

Executive chef Marco Malizia placed fourth in the Italian division.

Senol Eskici, co-owner of sister-company Johnny Piez on Dougall Avenue, finished second in the gluten-free division. Eskici hasn’t even started selling it yet, Litster said.

“I guess you can say we’re one of the top five pizzerias in the world,” said Malizia, 33.

In four competitions, four die-hard pizza lovers set out to learn, network and have fun. Malizia said they each walked away with far more than they hoped for after their first year.

“We went into the competition as a bunch on unknowns,” Litster said. “Nobody there knew about Windsor. They didn’t know about Windsor pizza. Now there is all this interest.”

Up against competitors from Italy, Australia, U.S. and other Canadian cities in provinces such as British Columbia and Alberta, the four local pizza makers said they had a fantastic learning experience. Besides testing their skills, they had the opportunity to connect and share ideas with fellow-worldwide pizza fanatics.

“We love pizza – we live for pizza,” Litster said.

Malizia said the Windsor community knows this city has the best pizza in the world – and he agrees.
“You can’t beat the pizza here,” he said.

Before leaving for Las Vegas  early in the morning of March 24, Litster and Malizia were still in the kitchen at the Cabana Road location until after midnight the night before.

When the plane landed in Windsor on Friday, after a week’s worth of competition, the crew was back at work that night. It was business as usual, they said.

“We spend many countless nights here,” Litster said. “It’s all for the love of pizza. This isn’t a job for me, this is a career. I don’t know how many people can say that.”

He said it feels good to come back to his hometown and be recognized for doing something he does every day.

“We’ll go back next year,” Litster said. “We want to win first place in all four divisions.”

jboyce@windsorstar.com or on Twitter @BoyceWillBBoyce

To view photos of the competition, visit the Windsor Star Website