Again and again Pasquale Corvaglia lifts his pizza with the slider and checks it with a practiced eye as it moves past the front edge on the rotating stone plate of the electric oven - and lets it rotate for another round. The pizza maker and chef of the restaurant "Pasquale - La Trattoria" from St Peter Ording, German champion of his guild in 2019, is not at his own stove, but in the show area of the "Pizza Experience" at the Internorga in Hamburg. At the international trade fair for gastronomy and the hotel industry, Corvaglia is one of 22 professionals from Germany who are vying for the title of German Pizza Champion 2023 in front of dozens of spectators throughout the day.
After another round, his Pizza Classica is baked, but by no means ready to be served. Now comes the topping. First, the baker garnishes his round masterpiece with freshly plucked buffalo burrata and then generously rubs lemon zest on it. Then the pizza is cut into pieces with scissors so that the edge is not ruined when cutting, and divided into small portions. They are handed to five strict gentlemen on the jury, all of them true pizza luminaries. Among them is Luca di Massa from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the non-profit organization from Naples that certifies the classic of pizza cuisine worldwide. The Pizza Napoletana Moderna is one of two possible pizzas that may be baked at the German Championship. If you don't choose the classic with tomato and mozzarella because you feel like you have a brilliant idea, you can also try a Pizza Classica Gourmet, with your choice of ingredients. There is one winner per category, so two German champions are determined.
Getting the Napoletana right is a real art, explains Umberto Napolitano, head of Germany's oldest pizza school, which hosts and organizes the championship. Choosing the right flour plays a major role, Corvaglia relies on its special mixture of three types of wholemeal flour. The wonderfully high rim must come up again when you press lightly, certain ingredients are simply forbidden: "Garlic, for example, is criminal in the Napoletana," explains the expert Napolitano, who also organizes the participation of the German national pizza team in the world championships in Italy . The judges not only evaluate the quality of the dough, toppings, appearance, taste and baking skills. The external appearance of the pizza baker is also included in the evaluation. A kepi is just as obligatory as the cooking apron, watches and rings may not be worn.
A pizza is completed in several stages, of which baking in one of the two available stone ovens, with a choice of 340 or 430 degrees Celsius, is by far the shortest, taking 90 seconds to four minutes. Before that, each participant has 15 minutes to shape their dough piece with nimble fingers and just the right amount of flour on the work table - from the inside out - and topping it. It's not about the show, nobody throws the dough in the air, it's about the result. Making the dough, which each candidate creates according to their own recipe and brings to the championship, takes much longer than making the pizza. The yeast dough has risen between 12 and 48 hours, first 30 to 60 minutes at room temperature, then in the refrigerator. The longest part of the preparation, however, is the invention of the perfect pizza. All participants are long-standing professionals who are constantly developing their pizzas.
The German champion of the year 2022, Giovanni Stincone from the pizzeria "La Pergola" in Munich Garching, emphasizes that he has never stopped learning. He even got the title baked with German pizza flour, although he swears by fresh yeast. The most important ingredient, however, is "a lot of love," smiles Stincone, who this time is only there as an observer when the 22 participants compete for his successor. One day later, the best-placed take part in the 1st European Pizza Championship Germany - in competition with top bakers from all over Europe. This competition will also take place at the Internorga in Hamburg on March 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At the German Championship - this time in an all-male field - this time six bakers entered the race with the Napoletana Moderna and 16 applicants with the Classica Gourmet. The new German champion in the Napoletana category is Maurizio De Giacomo from the Pizzeria Maurizio and the Pizza Bäcker Bande from Berlin, followed by Tonino Pisano from Solingen ("Pizzeria Olive"). Pasquale Corvaglia ("La Trattoria" in St. Peter Ording) came third. In the Pizza Classica category, Massimo Passariello from Pizzeria Vilshofen won ahead of Domenico Tedesco from Weil im Schönbuch (“Pizza Vola”) and Benjamin Sezgin from “Aladin” in Unterkochen.