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As a member of the U.S. Pizza Team, Patrick Maggi will compete against some of the most talented pizziaoli from around the globe in the World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Most of the folks in Roanoke who know Patrick Maggi know him as a barbecue man.
I regularly hear people say they think his downtown Roanoke restaurant, Blues BBQ, has the best barbecue in town. On Friday, a film crew from the Destination America television show “BBQ Pitmasters” is scheduled to shoot a segment at the 6-year-old business.
For the past few years, Maggi has battled the best in some serious cooking competitions, and later this month he will travel to Parma, Italy, for one of the most prestigious contests in the world.
Not in the barbecue world, however — in the pizza world.
As a member of the U.S. Pizza Team, the 43-year-old Adelphi, Md., native will compete against some of the most talented pizzaioli from around the globe in the World Pizza Championship. He’ll even have to bake beside experts from his ancestors’ home country of Italy.
“Pizza is in my blood,” he said. “My dad had a place for 20 years and I love the BBQ thing, but I have always loved making pizza.”
Maggi’s Italian father, Pasquale Maggi, owned Maggi’s Pizza in Wheaton, Md., from 1971 to 1984. Patrick remembers being put to work there, along with his five siblings.
“I would help him make dough and cut onions,” he said. “I remember cutting onions forever.”
Although Pasquale Maggi worked all week in the pizzeria, he still enjoyed cooking for his family on weekends. Patrick remembers his father’s braciola, a dish of veal stuffed with fresh Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and garlic rolled up and tied with string, then cooked in red sauce.
His dad made Bolognese sauce, too, but one thing he never made at home was pizza. Patrick’s mother, an Irish-Cherokee woman who had learned to make pizza from her mother-in-law as a newlywed, always made the pizza for their family.
Pasquale Maggi taught all six of his kids to make pizza, and they continue to follow his dough recipe to this day. But the most important lesson Patrick learned from his father, he said, was “just to work hard. He always instilled a hard work ethic into us.”
Pasquale Maggi closed his pizzeria in 1984 when he became ill, but his sons Dennis, Chris and Patrick carried on his legacy when they opened Pasquale’s Deli in Damascus, Md., in 2010. The deli specializes in pizza, subs and gourmet sandwiches.
In 2004, Patrick had started the first Blues BBQ in Frederick, Md., with “$20,000, a truck and a dream.” That was just three years before they expanded into Roanoke. The Frederick Blues BBQ is still operated out of a truck, but he recently signed a lease for a permanent location that will open in a couple of years.
All of the restaurants are screaming along at a hugely successful pace. In December, a Pasquale’s opened in Chicago; they are currently working on opening a second Chicago location, which will make Patrick the owner or co-owner of nearly a half-dozen restaurants. He currently splits his time between Chicago and Frederick, Md.
At one time, he thought about opening a pizzeria in Roanoke, but he couldn’t find a location that suited his needs.
About 2009, while reading a pizza industry magazine called PMQ, Patrick decided he wanted to take part in a pizza competition. He traveled to Orlando, Fla., for the U.S. Pizza Team trials and the American Pizza Championship and took second place in the traditional category with his prosciutto and pear pie.
In 2010, he took first place in the gluten-free category with a wild mushroom and goat cheese pizza, and the following year he won second place in the same category.
According to PMQ, the U.S. Pizza Team was established in 2000 as a way to support the pizza industry through “friendly competition” among fellow pizzaioli. Members must work in a pizzeria, but otherwise anybody can register to take part in the competitions.
The contests typically include several pizza categories, such as traditional and pan pizza. An equally important part of the matchup is the acrobatics portion, in which contestants face off in such categories as pizza tossing and dough stretching. Patrick does not compete in the acrobatics.
Somewhere around a dozen people make up the U.S. Pizza Team at the world championships each year, according to Brian Hernandez with PMQ. Some win trips at the U.S. Pizza Trials in Orlando, some earn their way by winning other national contests, and some pay their own way. Patrick will pay his own way to Italy this year, which will cost $2,600, Hernandez said.
He remembers being impressed by Patrick’s knowledge of pizza-making the first time he met him in 2011.
“He is very passionate,” he said. “He is very knowledgeable about the flavors and how they compl ement each other. Every time I talk to him, he is working on something different.”
Patrick said he tries to dream up a new pizza just about every day. In addition to cooking, he likes to watch people eat his food.
“When we visited him, I swear to God he made us try like six pizzas,” Hernandez said. “He was making us eat sandwiches, too.”
The 22nd World Pizza Championship takes place at the Palacassa event center in Parma April 15-17. There, Patrick will compete in the traditional, gluten-free, pan pizza and pairs events.
As soon as he arrives, he said, he will have to go shopping and make his dough so it will have 30 hours to rise.
“They [the judges] really like it yeasty, and the longer it rises, slowly rises, the more yeasty it tastes,” he said.
As much as he enjoys competing, this probably will be the last time he does it “because it is a lot of work and it is exhausting,” he said. “So I’d like to win for that reason, and more or less try to promote pizza in the U.S.
“I’m trying to get out there that we can make pizza just as good as Italy.”
After the championship, I’ll be sure to share news about how Patrick performed. And if I hear that the “BBQ America” footage is going to be used, I’ll post that on my blog. Meanwhile, Patrick was kind enough to share his family’s recipe for Bolognese sauce.
On the blog: A recipe for spinach and artichoke gratin at blogs.roanoke.com/fridgemagnet .
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