LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Surely someone has thought it, said it, right? “If heaven doesn’t have pizza and beer, I’m not interested.”
Good thing there will be plenty of both Saturday when the Las Vegas Pizza Festival returns to The Industrial Event Space after a two-year break because of the pandemic.
Josh Abelson, who is producing the festival, says the idea is to showcase pizza makers from the Las Vegas valley. “The real reason we do this is to focus on the Las Vegas culinary scene,” Abelson says. “We are really trying to highlight the city as a powerhouse in the pizza world.”
“Lots 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 flip the dough for a living would tend to agree. Pizza makers like the acclaimed Vince Rotolo of the celebrated Good Pie in the Arts District and Madisen Saglibene, a relative pizza newcomer, say there’s a harmony, a level of cooperation in the Southern Nevada pizza community that’s hard to find elsewhere.
“When I grew up in New York, there were pizza rivalries, pizza wars,” says Rotolo, whose ability to produce tasty pies dates to 1986 and New York City’s Bleecker Street, famed as a Greenwich Village nightclub district. He’s also a certified pizzaiolo. “It was protecting recipes 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 dough, tomato sauce and cheese for a living.
“The first couple of years in the business, I didn’t know a thing about making pizza. If not for the pizza community here …” Saglibene says, her voice trailing and inferring gratitude for a helping hand.
In a short time, thanks to the willingness of some Las Vegas area competitors to share secrets — plus support from the Women in Pizza social network — she’s learned about water quality, the right blend of cheeses and how to tackle a desert climate that isn’t always kind to making pies.
Today, business is so good her Pizza Stone’d food truck is in a stretch of 36 consecutive days of catering special events. Business now is more about catering, including weddings, than just a mobile operation, she says.
No surprise to Rotolo, who credits such local success to pizzaiolos like John Arena, co-founder of Metro Pizza (Las Vegas and Henderson) and Pizza Rock’s Tony Gemignani, whose “The Pizza Bible” helped school him and Saglibene.
“The Vegas pizza community has a really strong sense of unity,” Rotolo says. “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 into the community, and high quality pizzas have followed.”
For a taste of that unity and a good slice, of course, some 20 of Southern Nevada’s best come together Saturday.
The event runs 1 p.m. to 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’s Jupiter Wine Co.
Tickets are $75 or $125 for a VIP, which includes noon entrance to the event and complimentary beer and wine. More information is at vegaspizzafest.com.