AG man wins at International Pizza Expo

It all started in Naples during the 18th century where tomato sauce was smeared over a flatbread. Now everywhere in the world, you can taste different kinds of pizza and in the Southwest Regon Division, the best pizza is found in the South County. 

Also considered one of the top five in the world, winning last month's Las Vegas Classic Pizza Challenge is Michael Steven's pizza. Overall his pizza is 5th best.

Pizza lovers always seem to be on the hunt for a better pie, and which pizzeria serves the best likely has been argued over mugs of beer since someone smeared tomato over flatbread in late 18th century Naples.

But it turns out, the best traditional-style pizza in the Southwest and one of the top five best in the world is served right here in the South County.

At least, according to the judges for the Classic Pizza Challenge held at the International Pizza Expo last month in Las Vegas.

Palo Mesa Pizza owner Michael Stevens captured first place in the Southwestern Region Division, then went on to place fifth for best pizza in the world.

“This is like our Super Bowl. There were all kinds of pizza makers there — New Yorkers, people from Connecticut, Florida, Japan, Australia. You rub elbows with people who have been making pizza for 50 to 60 years, old-time Italians,” said the Palo Mesa Pizza owner, and added “Yeah, there were Italians there. We beat them all.”

Though he's proud of winning the title, he says that he still doesn't know if other pizzas were better. 

“And it’s all a matter of the judges’ taste,” he added. “Your taste is different from mine. It all depends on what they want that day.”

And what did he serve?

“Traditional” pizza toppings are sausage, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, onions, olives, tomatoes and peppers," he said. “We just took what we give our customers every day. We make our own meatballs, sauce, pesto — we make everything.”

Over 21 years of pizza making and counting, Stevens has been in the industry since he was 16 cooking for his mom then working at a local pizza shop. Later on he moved in to the south back in 2006 and started the restaurant that was high end. 

Stevens has also been active in the International Pizza Expo as an attendee. Every year he would visit he event and see what he can find. 

The award winning pizza also has a story to tell. It so happens that the said pizza is a favorite of Stevens' friend and he even named it after him - Ken Craig. 

“I asked him what he liked on a pizza, and he said ‘everything,’” Stevens said. “Ken’s used to be our best seller until we won the competition. Now everyone wants that.”

Posted by Diane Araga, on April 24, 2013 at 11:00 AM