The world eats a slice: Around the world, few dishes are as talked about as pizza. Topping the yeast dough perfectly is an art – says an award-winning baker from Germany.
The world champion doesn’t like pineapples. “On the pizza? That’s a mortal sin,” says Francesco Ialazzo indignantly.
The tropical fruit could be okay as a dessert – but not as a topping. “That doesn’t fit. Like schnitzel with Nutella.” Ialazzo should know: The 42-year-old from Ingelheim near Mainz is the pizza world champion. “You have to pay a lot of attention to your reputation,” says the German-Italian with a wink. “I know that many Germans like the Hawaiian pineapple pizza. But if I make it, I’ll have to give up the title.”
Two years ago, Ialazzo celebrated a triumph that he had dreamed of for a long time and for which he worked a lot. In Naples he prevailed against colleagues from several countries at the world championship of the professional association of professional pizza bakers and confectioners. And he won the Trofeo Super Campione (“Best of the Best”). “Practice makes perfect, a lot of practice makes the world champion,” he says.
Ialazzo learned from his grandparents as a boy
The man with a gemstone in his earlobe (“A gift from my wife”) was born and grew up in Mainz. His grandparents ran a pizzeria. “I was already turning pizzas when I was eight. My grandfather put a small ladder in front of the oven for me.”
At 17, he spent two years in Naples, where legend has it that the world’s first pizza was baked in 1889. “I wanted to learn the craftsmanship where it came from. A different kind of pizza is baked in Naples than anywhere else,” enthuses Ialazzo. Unesco even included this art in the list of intangible cultural heritage in 2017.
In Italy, pizza is also considered a piece of national identity. But there are differences: in Rome, the filled yeast dough is thinner, crunchier and is sold “al taglio”, by the hand.
In Naples, on the other hand, pizza is baked over wood fires at 485 degrees for just 60 to 90 seconds. “In the wood-fired oven, the heat rises and radiates downwards again, that’s the secret. A baking tray, as is often the case in Germany, is not used,” says Ialazzo, who opened his “Capri” pizzeria in Ingelheim in 2006.
Pizza World Cup in Naples 2021
The “Pizza World Cup” in Naples has always appealed to him. “The World Cup is also science,” emphasizes Ialazzo. In 2021, a week before the start of the World Cup, he rented a pizzeria in Naples for a few hours a day to find the perfect recipe. “The conditions in southern Italy are different from those in Ingelheim. After a week I had adapted my ingredients to the climate and knew: I’ve got it now!”
Ialazzo was successful in one category after another over the course of the tournament days. “The others said: “Look, he’ll take everything with him.” In the end it was eight trophies,” he says and laughs.
New challenge in Las Vegas
His next goal is next year: the “World Championship of the Superchampions in Pizza Baking” in Las Vegas. “There are only five people in the world with that title, including me.” Unlike in Naples in 2021, Ialazzo wants to travel to the USA two weeks in advance to find the ideal recipe for baking on site.
The National Association of the Hotel and Restaurant Industry (Dehoga) sees the title from Naples as a very special recognition of the pizza baking arts. “Ialazzo is a master of his craft. That’s why he can certainly attract and inspire additional guests with this title,” says Dehoga state chairman Gereon Haumann.
The secret of the perfect pizza
And what is the perfect way to a good pizza? “This includes passion, experience and good products,” says Ialazzo. “I use Neapolitan buffalo mozzarella, Campania flour and chop the tomato seeds for the sauce instead of mixing them.” The most important thing is the fluffy dough. “Not everyone can do that. I learned in Naples how to keep the air in the dough balls.”
The world champion now also runs a branch in Mannheim, and he is planning more locations in the Baden city and in Hesse. “I learned from my grandparents and in Naples to love this job and to do it with passion,” says the father of three children.
And what does he think of frozen pizza? “It’s not taboo for me,” says Ialazzo. “You can eat this when you’re short on time.” But that’s nothing for him. “My grandfather said: There is the born pizza baker, who respects certain rules, and there is the turned pizza baker, who does everything. I count myself among the former, but I also like to try things out. I am a modern traditionalist .”