LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Surely someone thought it, said, didn’t they? “If heaven doesn’t have pizza and beer, I’m not interested.”
Fortunately, there will be plenty of both on Saturday when the Las Vegas Pizza Festival returns to The Industrial Event Space after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Josh Abelson, who produces the festival, says the idea is to showcase Las Vegas Valley pizza makers. “The real reason we’re doing this is to focus on the Las Vegas food scene,” says Abelson. “We’re really trying to highlight the city as a powerhouse in the pizza world.”
“A lot of people think of Chicago, New York and LA when they think of pizza, but we have three world champion pizza makers here in Las Vegas.”
Those who turn dough for a living would tend to agree. Pizza makers like famed Vince Rotolo of the famed Good Pie in the Arts District and pizza relative newcomer Madisen Saglibene say there is a harmony, a level of cooperation in the southern pizza community of Nevada which is hard to find elsewhere.
“When I grew up in New York, there were pizza rivalries, pizza wars,” says Rotolo, whose ability to produce delicious pies dates back to 1986 and Bleecker Street in New York, famous as a neighborhood of Greenwich Village nightclubs. He is also certified pizza maker. “He was protecting the receipts and trying to put the other guy out of business.”
Saglibene, who came to Las Vegas in 2015 from the Rochester, New York area to work as a marijuana lobbyist, found nothing like a war when she turned to pulp, tomato sauce and cheese for a living.
“The first two years in the company, I knew nothing about pizza making. If not for the pizza community here…,” Saglibene says, his voice drawling and inferring gratitude for a helping hand.
In a short time, thanks to the willingness of some competitors in the Las Vegas area to share secrets – as well as the support of the Women in Pizza social network – she learned about water quality, the right mixture of cheeses and how to deal with a desert climate that isn’t always pie-friendly.
Today, business is so good that his Pizza Stone’d food truck is in a 36-day streak of special dining events. Business today is more about catering, including weddings, than just a mobile operation, she says.
No surprise for Rotolo, who attributes such local success to pizza makers like John Arena, co-founder of Metro Pizza (Las Vegas and Henderson) and Tony Gemignani of Pizza Rock, whose “The Pizza Bible” helped educate him. him and Saglibene.
“The Vegas pizza community has a really strong sense of unity,” says Rotolo. “You can go back to the 1980s with Carmine Vento (Carmine’s Pizza Kitchen, Henderson) and John Arena… They went out of their way to welcome newcomers to the community, and high quality pizza followed.
For a taste of that unity and a good slice, of course, twenty of Southern Nevada’s best gather on Saturday.
The event runs from 1-4 p.m. and is sponsored by product supplier Greco and Sons, oven maker PizzaMaster, craft brewers Big Dog’s, CraftHaus and Trustworthy, Glacier 45 Distillery and California-based Jupiter Wine Co. .
Tickets are $75 or $125 for a VIP, which includes noon entry to the event and free beer and wine. More information at vegaspizzafest.com.