Masontown native wins big at Las Vegas International Pizza Expo | Local News

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It all started at Dolfi’s restaurant.

“My mum was Italian so she cooked us a nice dinner. And then at the end of the night, I would always want pizza,” Masontown native Eddie “Ed” Stalewski said as he slipped a pizza into his kitchen oven in Allison Park. “(Dolfi’s) was a booming restaurant. They didn’t make the dough fresh, but their sauce was still homemade. It was always good. We would eat pizza maybe… four times a week after dinner.

The pizza was nice and cold the next day, Stalewski said, but between him and his three older sisters (twins Janet and Janice from Pittsburgh, and Carol, from Canonsburg), the pepperoni squares didn’t last that long.

“You could eat all that pizza,” Stalewski laughed.

From childhood evenings spent indulging in after-dinner ‘zah, Stalewski has established himself in the pizza world. In late March, the Fayette County boy won the International Pizza Expo’s Northeast Region Best Non-Traditional Pizza award for his beautifully balanced, tavern-style pie.

The Pizza Expo is the Pizza Olympiad, where anyone serious about pizza eats the knowledge imparted to the public at seminars, connects with other serious pizza makers, and competes for pizza glory.

Fame isn’t what the humble pizza maker who experiments with pizza crusts and flavor combinations in his Allison Park home was looking for when he jumped into pizza making headfirst. He was just trying to put a Crate & Barrel gift card to good use.

Stalewski’s passion for cooking was no secret at PPG Paints, where he has worked for 25 years. About eight or nine years ago, her supervisor gave her a Crate & Barrel gift card for Christmas.

“I went there, and there was this end cap of this pizza thing. There are pizza pills and there are cookie cutters and pans. And there was a book, called ‘The Pizza Bible’ by Tony Gemignani,” Stalewski recalls, keeping an eye on the oven timer. “I picked it up, started flipping through it. It looked really easy to read. I say to myself, OK, I will buy it. So I bought it.”

Stalewski was captivated. He would fall asleep, “The Pizza Bible” in hand. He read the book cover to cover.

“It opened up my world to all these different styles of pizza that I had no idea about,” he said, his eyes widening. “I wanted to learn how to make these pizzas. Eventually I bought an Ooni oven…and started to tinker around with it a bit.

Stalewski got into pizza, watching online tutorials and reading everything he could about the world. He researched Pizza Expo, which Gemignani talked about in his book. In 2018, Stalewski bought a plane ticket and headed west to see what the pizza event was all about.

“It was just 10 football pitches for pizza,” he said, pausing in mid-thought when the timer went off to check on his baking Rosie’s Tavern. “It’s not just pizza: there’s meat, there’s cheese. There are so many seminars. I was really fulfilled.”

But Stalewski took the event in stride. He attended Gemignani’s seminars (and had his “Pizza Bible” signed), bonded with local and national pizza royalty. Between that first show and this year’s show, Stalewski (an Albert Gallatin High School graduate who spent a year at Waynesburg University before transferring to West Virginia University, where he graduated in 1991 with a degree in marketing in business administration) began working part-time at the high-end pizzeria and ice cream parlor Mercurio’s, in Fox Chapel.

There he forged friendships in the local pizza community and perfected his pizza craft.

“There is so much more to learn. There’s something you can always improve on,” Stalewski said.

About four weeks before this year’s International Pizza Expo, Stalewski got to work designing his future award-winning pie. He’s known for his square pizzas – a part of his childhood that he still carries with him – and thick crusts, but tavern-style ‘zahs were trending on social media (taverns have a thin, crispy crust ).

The inspiration for the toppings came when Stalewski noticed salami roses decorating a charcuterie platter.

“My mother’s name was Rose. My daughter’s middle name is Rose. And March was what we call Women in Pizza Month,” said Stalewski, who topped her winning pizza with blooming pepperoni roses alongside buffalo mozzarella, homemade pesto and a myriad of other ingredients. costs. “I wanted some kind of honor and dedicate it to both of them.”

Rosie’s Tavern Pizza took four weeks to perfect.

“Wednesday I would make (a pizza) here at home, I would take it to Mercurio. Staff would eat it,” Stalewski said. “Thursday I would take half a day and then go down to Iron Born in the Strip District and prepare two there. Then the staff there would eat it. I’ll make another one here on Sunday, I’ll take it to the restaurant. They would eat it there and give me their opinion. I did this for four weeks straight.

Each time he received feedback, Stalewski tweaked his recipe. He ditched the original garnish of fresh basil, added Calabrian sausage to the mix (a tribute to his mother, whose family hailed from that region of Italy) and switched cheeses.

All the baking — at home, at Mercurio, and at Iron Born, who kindly lent their ovens to Stalewski — was worth it.

Because in the end — despite his daughter Lily’s teasing insistence that Rosie wasn’t a pizza winner — Stalewski came home from Vegas with some gear.

“I always try to push the envelope to do things differently…with pizza,” Stalewski said. “You have to be a little humble. There are many good pizza makers and people who make good pizza. I’m just glad people like it.

Stalewski said he was not resting on his laurels; he has his sights set on another award at next year’s International Pizza Expo, he said, adding the finishing touches to the freshly baked Rosie’s Tavern.

Although he’s not brick-and-mortar (Stalewski said opening his own pizzeria is something he could do when he retires), he has a massive following on social media, where people are drooling over awesome pictures of homemade pizzas posted – by Lily – to @eddiespizza412.

He prepares Mercurio’s delicious Neapolitan pizzas on Wednesdays and Sundays, and spends his free time making pizzas for love. Because if you don’t like something, why bother doing it?

“For me, it’s like a painter and his canvas. That’s how I see it. It’s nostalgic,” Stalewski said, plating slices of Rosie’s Tavern Pizza for this reporter to taste (not a spoiler: it was heavenly). “I think that’s how pizza is. It always brings people together. »

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