Webisodes
Final Webisode, Tony Gemignani, Respect the Craft
Peter Reinhart

It's fitting that we wrap up our first year of PizzaQuest.com with the final segment of our series with World Champion pizzaiolo, Tony Gemignani. We did it in grand fashion, climbing to the top of a hill above the Golden Gate Bridge, looking back on Tony's new "kingdom." It looks almost like the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, and the view was truly majestic, as you will see (you can see Angel Island and a hint of Alcatraz off in the distance too). But it also gave us a chance to reflect back on some of the key life lessons that Tony shared with us during our time with him. His catchphrase at the restaurant is "Respect the Craft," and he elaborates a bit in this segment about what he thinks are the keys to success for anyone getting into the pizza game (for those who were with us way back when we launched, you may recall Tony's guest column -- still available in the archives of the Guest Columns section -- in which he writes about his strong feelings regarding respect for the craft).

Perhaps his most valuable parting advice in this segment, which sums up so perfectly what we've discovered in all our encounters with artisans everywhere that we traveled during our first year of Pizza Quest, and a great place to end the year, is this: "You have to be in love with it."

 
Harvesting Tomatoes with Tony
Peter Reinhart

This is one of my favorite webisodes of all time. Tony Gemignani took us on a field trip to Stanislaus County, to the town of Westley (near Modesto, CA), where we met Steve Rouse, the marketing director for the world famous Stanislaus Food Products company. We arrived just a week or so before the peak of the harvest, but found a few vines that were, nevertheless ripe and ready, as you will see. But more importantly, as you watch us in the field, the wind blowing, surrounded by acres and acres of low lying tomato vines, the smell of those tomatoes infusing the atmosphere with that distinctive tomato vine aroma (well, you had to be there for that part), there were a few indelible moments that I will never forget. First, for Tony, who we've been featuring for the past few months in this webisode series and whose talent is prodigious, this was not just a source for his tomato products but a place where, as he explains, he feels a deep connection to his own heritage, especially to his grandfather, a hardworking farmer and his personal hero, and this sense of connectedness clearly infuses and informs his own work. For Steve, as you will hear, there is a connection to his company's own quest for quality, embodied in the values of the owner, Dino Cortopassi, to keep reaching for perfection. One of Dino's sayings, and Steve shares it with us in this segment and I'm sure I'll be stealing it many times in the future, is: "In the race for quality, there is no finish line."

Even if you can't smell the tomatoes the way we did that day, take it all in through these images and words. There are a lot of life lessons in this segment, transmitted through many generations of hard earned wisdom.

 

 
Special Webisode: The Italian-American Experience
Peter Reinhart

While we were filming at Tony's Pizza Napoletana we met Marti Casey, the editor-in-chief of Salute' Magazine, a publication dedicated to celebrating the Italian-American experience. Of course, there we were, in the heart of San Francisco's Little Italy section, North Beach, eating amazing pizza at Tony's, surrounded by quintessential Italian-American focaccerias, pork shops, bakeries, and classic spaghetti and meat ball trattorias, so what better place to discuss the immigrant experience. As you will see, we got off the subject a few times (don't miss Marti's description in the first part of the video, of her first business, making beef jerky, and the slogan they came up with to sell it), but we soon realized that the Italian-American experience was, in a sense, a metaphor and microcosm of the entire American immigrant experience. What used to be called a melting pot is now often called a salad bowl, but the common thread and essential commonality is that people came to this country, and still do, because it represents the single greatest symbol of opportunity in the history of the world. The immigrant experience is all about the possibility of reinvention of one self and freedom from any preconceived boxes that held individuals back in the past. Not everybody manages to leverage that opportunity into a successful life but the odds sure are greater here, even now during these turbulent times. North Beach, and its adjacent China Town, are perfect examples of that, so it was enjoyable spending time with Marti, sharing our own stories and viewing them through the lens of the Italian-American version.

One thing we've learned over and over again while out on our pizza quest is that when you're on a quest you meet some really interesting people and it reinforces an intuition that I think many of us have: no matter where you are from, when it comes right down to it, we are not all that different from each other.

 

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Vision Statement

Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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