A Fremont native and co-owner of Pyzano’s Pizzeria in Castro Valley, Gemignani is bringing his world-famous pizza tossing to the Exploratorium on Friday for Pi Day, a celebration of one the most important mathematical constants. Gemignani was inducted into the Legends of Pizza in 2006 after breaking two milestones in the “Guinness Book of World Records”: biggest pizza in two minutes continuously spinning and most consecutive rolls across the shoulders in 30 seconds. Gemignani also won the prestigious international pizza trophy last year in Naples, Italy.
What inspired you to go from making pizza to turning it into a performance art? Throwing for kids, primarily. Kids really respond to it. They’re like, ‘wow, Dad,’ and I started to get people coming into the pizzeria to check it out. Being an independent business is tough with all the giant pizza chains out there and I was just trying to get people into the restaurant by doing a little marketing. It’s a competitive market, like other things.
What’s the secret to a good toss? It’s all in the dough. High gluten and high protein makes it more durable. What I do is with fresh dough as well. It’s never frozen. When it comes to technique, it’s important to toss with your palm and bottom of the hand, not the top, that’s the key.
In Naples they take their pizza pretty seriously. How did they feel as an outsider winning their coveted prize? It was a pretty big deal, especially not coming from Naples. Even if somebody from Milan or Rome were to win that award, it would be out of the ordinary. The Neapolitan idea of making a pizza is considered a local treasure, and for an American to win was a huge deal.