Pizza acrobatics is a game. This guy has gained 13 international championships.


Tony Gemignani began spinning pizza dough when he used to be 17. Crowds at his brother’s pizzeria in Castro Valley, Calif., would watch in awe as he tossed dough 15-feet within the air, sooner than seamlessly sliding it thru his legs, throughout his shoulders and round his again like a basketball. He by no means dropped it.

“I cherished it, and shoppers cherished it,” stated Gemignani.

Greater than 3 a long time later, Gemignani, now 49, has grow to be an acclaimed pizza acrobat, with 13 international championship titles underneath his belt, seven of that are for acrobatics, and 6 for cooking. He has gained a number of Guinness International Data, too, together with “biggest pizza base spun in [two] mins.” (The pie used to be 33.2 inches broad.)

“Tips that you simply see a Harlem Globetrotter do with a basketball, we do with a pizza,” he stated.

Pizza acrobatics, often referred to as pizza freestyle or pizza tossing, has been round for the reason that Eighties. The game — it’s if truth be told thought to be a game — comes to tossing mounds of stretched pizza dough within the air, and acting jaw-dropping methods with it. The dough apparently defies gravity, launching instantly within the air in highest round disks. Some acrobats can stay two pizzas twirling at a time.

It can be an atypical passion, however tossing pizza is not any comic story. Like different aggressive sports activities, it calls for center of attention, coordination, bodily power and — most likely maximum necessary — observe. A number of observe.

“It’s exhausting. You wish to have agility,” stated Gemignani, who to begin with practiced pizza spinning with rainy seashore towels that he minimize and sewed in combination to shape a 16-inch circle. “There’s some stamina concerned. You’d be shocked.”

Tony Gemignani, an acclaimed pizza acrobat, has gained seven international championships for spinning pizza dough. (Video: The Washington Publish)

Plus, he added, pizza dough is very fragile when put next with standard juggling props, and its elasticity is influenced through quite a lot of elements which might be past an acrobat’s keep an eye on. Heat climate, as an example, makes the dough softer — and extra prone to midair tearing.

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“It’s versatile, it could possibly rip, it adjustments in form,” Gemignani stated, explaining that dough for acrobatics differs from common pizza dough, and is made with triple the salt and particular flour for sturdiness. “It’s all the time slightly other each and every time you do it. The dough is all the time converting.”

The problem, although, is a part of what attracts Gemignani to the game. Over time, he has attended — and gained — many pizza acrobatic competitions, together with the once a year International Pizza Video games in Las Vegas (which is a part of the Global Pizza Expo & Convention), and the Pizza International Championships in Parma, Italy — the most important pizza display on the earth.

Global pizza makers — or “pizzaiolos” — shuttle from close to and some distance to wait the annual occasions.

He broke off their engagement in 1963. Sixty years later, they tied the knot.

“Competition from around the globe all fly in and compete,” stated Gemignani, who used to be born in Fremont, Calif., and has Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Local American roots.

Athletes, as they’re referred to as on the competitions, hail from throughout the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Morocco, Sweden, France, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and naturally, Italy. They spend all 12 months making ready and practising their acrobatic acts.

There may be typically a price of about $100 to go into within the competitions, although many contenders are backed through firms within the business. Winners from time to time take house money prizes, however in lots of competitions, “it’s bragging rights and medals,” Gemignani stated.

Whilst each and every festival has its personal algorithm and protocols, contenders all the time choreograph their very own three-minute routines, that are accompanied through song and carried out in entrance of a are living target market. A panel of a number of knowledgeable judges then critique them on quite a lot of elements, together with dexterity, problem, showmanship, synchronization and creativity. Issues are deducted for dropped dough.

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“You shouldn’t drop it that a lot,” stated Gemignani, who has began about 40 pizzerias around the nation, together with the well-known Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, within the middle of San Francisco’s Little Italy. “You’ve were given to drag it off and be the most efficient you’ll.”

Whilst pizza acrobatics is a distinct segment game, it’s if truth be told relatively typical when put next with different atypical contests available in the market, together with bee-bearding demanding situations, nail artwork competitions, excessive ironing events and bug fascinating championships.

Despite the fact that Gemignani has carried out “hundreds of occasions” over the process his occupation, “I nonetheless get frightened,” he stated, including that along with competitions, he has traveled the arena — from London to Thailand — tossing pizzas at most cancers camps, native gala’s, carrying video games, communicate presentations, fundraising occasions and different gatherings, huge and small. He particularly loves acting for youngsters.

“It’s so rewarding,” stated Gemignani, who has an 8-year-old son named Giovanni. In 2009, Gemignani printed a kids’s e book about pizza acrobatics, referred to as “Tony and the Pizza Champions.”

Along with acting methods with dough, Gemignani’s number one hobby is making pizza. In terms of pizza taste, he does now not discriminate.

“I have a good time each and every taste of pizza. I’ve each and every form of oven,” he stated, including that his new fast-casual franchise thought referred to as “Slice Area” provides 5 other types of pizza: Detroit, grandma, Sicilian, New York and California. There are gluten-free choices as neatly.

“I may just by no means get ill of pizza,” stated Gemignani, who additionally teaches cooking classes, together with on the Pizza College & Culinary Arts Middle in Maryland. “I may just devour it on a daily basis.”

In recent times, Gemignani has centered extra on cooking than acting, although he’s nonetheless very concerned within the pizza acrobatics scene. He is helping prepare the once a year competitions in Las Vegas, and is the keynote speaker for the impending International Pizza Video games, which will likely be held from March 28 to 30 on the Las Vegas Conference Middle.

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He has grow to be a pal and mentor to many up-and-coming pizza performers, together with Tara Hattan, 26, an award-winning acrobat from Tulsa. She has clinched six gold medals and used to be the primary girl to win the International Pizza Video games.

“I really like the joy,” stated Hattan, who’s the co-owner of Zasa’s Pizza & Wings — which has two places in Tulsa. “My frame takes keep an eye on, and I simply throw dough.”

Like Gemignani, she began tossing pizza in her teenagers whilst running at a pizzeria in Owasso, Okla., to make some more money. She discovered a number of methods on YouTube, and temporarily were given the hold of it.

Hattan loved it such a lot, that she sooner or later determined to drop out of faculty and pursue a occupation within the pizza business full-time.

“This makes me glad,” stated Hattan, including that she attributes a lot of her good fortune to her pizza grasp predecessors — together with Gemignani — who’ve guided her alongside the way in which.

“They all are simply so skilled and so an expert,” she stated. “It’s so nice to have other people like that.”

A scholar wanted hospital treatment and a house. His lecturers followed him.

Despite the fact that festival can also be stiff, the pizza tossing neighborhood prides itself on being supportive. It can be a significant game, however maximum contenders do it for a laugh.

On the finish of the day, Gemignani stated, pizza is one of the widespread meals on the earth for a reason why.

“Pizza all the time takes you again to a time when issues have been a lot more effective in existence,” he stated. “No pressure, no politics. It’s almost about consuming nice meals and having a great time.”

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