TONY AND THE PIZZA CHAMPIONS by Tony Gemignani,
(Chronicle Books, 2009), PB ages 4-8, 40 pp.
Have you ever seen Tony Gemignani toss pizza dough?
He’s a veritable legend and superstar, a master of pizza acrobatics that will make your jaw drop as he flips, twirls, whirls, rolls and spins pizza dough. Flying high with no fewer than nine World Pizza Championships, Tony first gained fame as a tosser, but later earned serious chops for creating the winning Neopolitan pizza at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy. This made him the first non-Italian citizen to win this highly prestigious prize in the city where pizza originated.
In Tony and the Pizza Champions (fresh from the Chronicle Books oven this month), Tony tells the story of how he and his friend, Ken, who works with him at Pyzano Pizzeria in Northern California, assembled a team of the finest tossers from around the country to compete in the World Pizza Championships in Italy. In their Pizzamobile, they first drive to Ohio, where they pick up Strong Sean and Mighty Mike. Then, it’s off to South Carolina to meet up with Silly Siler, and finally, to New York City for Famous Joe.
Some of Tony’s best moves.
Each member of the team has perfected a special trick — the Sky-High, Rapid Fire, Whip, Whirlwind, and Double Trouble. With a lot of hard work and practice, they combine these in an incredible Top Secret routine that eventually astonishes the judges and earns them perfect scores. Bravo!
The lively narrative captures all the excitement of this fascinating sport, with a nod to the importance of determination, teamwork, and a healthy spirit of competition.Young readers will marvel at all the amazing tossing techniques, while nibbling on tantalizing tidbits about pizza variations in different parts of the U.S. and the world. Who knew that in some parts of Italy, people put french fries on their pizza? Or that in Japan, you can order a pie with mayonnaise, squid ink, and fish eggs? And do people in Philadelphia really wrap pizza slices around cheesesteak sandwiches?
Factoids about pizza around the world.
There’s more fun at the end of the book, too, where Tony shares his recipe for the perfect pizza dough, as well as step-by-step instructions on tossing. There are also some tasty suggestions for making Pizza Faces, with links to the publisher’s website for recipes and must-see videos of Tony in action.
Matthew Trueman’s zany, eye-popping mixed media illustrations pulse with action, energy, and totally engaging comic exaggeration. I love Ken’s flying hands as he performs the Whirlwind, the giant pizza dough that is so large one can only see Sean’s big boots beneath it, and Silly Siler spinning dough with both hands while riding on a unicycle.
All of this frenzy explodes in a gatefold spread of the team’s winning routine, the Pizza Pyramid. There’s nary a dull moment sandwiched between the red and white checkered endpapers, which feature crave-worthy bell peppers and tomatoes. And it’s loads of fun comparing the real photo of the team members with Trueman’s caricatures of them. You gotta love all those dark, wiry eyebrows!
Brazil created a pizza tornado, while Italy did headstands and back flips.
Tony and the Pizza Champions will delight young pizza lovers, since it serves up a new spin on a favorite food. Cooking is an art, and some aspects of preparation can sometimes turn into a marvelous, awe-inspiring sport. A savory, satisfying read, topped with just the right blend of fun and facts.
The champs (l-r): Mike, Ken, Sean, Tony, Joe, and Siler.
Check out the Official World Pizza Champions website here.
Recipes for Tony’s Pizza Sauce and Sweet Cherry Pizza are here.
Flip out over Tossing Tony’s pizza dough tricks here.
Tony is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the Biggest Pizza in 2 Minutes Continuously Spinning (crust measuring 36.5 inches), and Most Consecutive Rolls Across the Shoulders in 30 Seconds (37 rolls).
*Interior spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2009 Tony Gemignani, illustrations copyright © 2009 Matthew Trueman, published by Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.