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Local chef takes part in the U.S. Pizza Competition in Italy

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By Christina Ruotolo

Friday, July 14, 2017


A Greenville chef is taking his pizza-making skills to the world stage.

Massimo Mannino, of Greenville restaurants Marabella Old World Pizza and Nino's Cucina Italian, competed in the 26th Annual World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy in May.

Mannino is part of the U.S. Pizza Team, which consists of 17 master pizzaiolos from across the nation. This year’s competitors hail from North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, California, Michigan, Florida and New York. Mannino said he was proud to represent the United States and Greenville in this culinary event.

Teams from more than 30 countries vied for the title of world champion. Seven categories of competition focused on pizza-making skills: Classico, Neapolitan, Gluten-Free Pizza, Pan Pizza, Pizza on the Peel and Pizza for Two (one pizza made by a team of two pizzaiolos). The remaining three categories — Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pie Maker and Freestyle Acrobatics — tested competitors bicep muscles, too.

The pizza teams arrived in Parma a few days prior to the event to scope out the competition, test their dough recipe and seek out authentic and fresh ingredients to include in their recipe. Mannino said he was excited about shopping in the local markets and finding new ingredients to use for the competition and to bring back to the states for incorporation in future dishes at Marabella and Nino's.

Inspired by the city, Mannino chose to make a pizza with fresh, local produce and cheeses. He competed in the Pan Pizza competition and topped his pizza with sliced zucchini; fresh arugula; a regional Italian soft cheese called Stracchino; Lardo di Colonnata, an aged pork fat, for its velvet finish; and a final topping of piped crema de Parmesano Reggiano cheese.


The pizza scored in the high 650s, but Mannino didn't win an award. The Italians were the front runners in this year’s competition.

Despite the disappointment, Mannino said it was a positive experience.

“Although winning was my goal, I came for the experience and enjoyed meeting great people and learning new techniques such as the aging process of cheese and tasting new flavors,” he said. 

He is already preparing for his next events, a pasta and pizza competition in Ohio in September and another in New Jersey in October.


An award-winning chef

Mannino is no novice when it comes to food competitions. He has competed and placed in several international challenges throughout the years.

- Third place in the Western Culinary Trials, Classico division, 2016

- Second place in the International Pizza Challenge, Pan Pizza division, 2016

- Second and fourth place, International Pizza Competition, 2016

- Signature Chef at March of Dimes’ Chefs Auction, 2013, 2014, 2015

- Best Pizza (awarded to Marabella Old World Pizza), Mixer Magazine, 2010, 2011, 2012

- Featured on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Weekend program