Stepping onto the marinara-red carpet of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s north hall, I inhaled a whiff of baking dough and followed the call of a gentle legato tune. Past a towering display of insulated delivery bags, I found the music’s source: at the Stanislaus Food Products stall (“Home of the Real Italian Tomato Since 1942”), a guitar duo plucked and strummed a Neapolitan jingle by a low white fence. As the players painted the coda, I took a few steps backward. A woman from Tyson Foods patted my arm and said she wanted to show me how they are so much more than chicken. “Would you like to try our Hillshire Farm all-natural pepperoni?”
The International Pizza Expo, now in its thirty-third year, bills itself as the largest gathering of pizza professionals in the world. From Tuesday, March 28, to Thursday, March 30, twelve thousand attendees filled the vast, brightly lit convention-center floor. More than five hundred companies descend on the expo, bringing independent- and chain-pizzeria managers together with the manufacturers and service providers who populate an industry with an estimated forty-four billion dollars in American sales and 128 billion worldwide.
I’m not a pizza professional, but I grew up in New York City, so the cheese slice is one of the foundational realities of my life. I’ve always been drawn to pizza, I probably worship it, and these days I’m often drawn to Las Vegas, almost like a pilgrim. So when pizza and Vegas collided for this year’s expo, I heeded the signal, and off I went to wander the aisles and consider the wares. Perhaps I would be led to the portal of the pie’s sorcery, and finally look straight into the metaphysical nucleus of the food’s mighty allure. Maybe I’d meet some hooded parmesan master and he’d disclose to me his secrets, or have my mind blown by the perfect grease-to-crunch ratio. Read More