Raffaele Scalzi Dishes On Boston’s Mouthwatering Pizza Festival

A little slice of heaven is returning once again this year to City Hall Plaza. Next weekend, the Boston Pizza Festival will be satiating nearly 20,000 hungry appetites as attendees sink their teeth into some of Boston and Italy’s best pizza. (That’s right – they will be flying in pizza chefs from Italy to showcase their talent).

Next Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., the second annual pizza-centric festival will take over City Hall Plaza. Guests this year can expect to see pizza in all of its varieties (keep a special eye out for the pizza cones).

Boston Pizza FestivalPhoto Credit: Boston Pizza Festival

We caught up recently with the festival’s director, Raffaele Scalzi (owner of Casa Mia Cucina Italiana in Marblehead, Mass.), who dishes on what attendees can expect to find at this year’s event.

Why do you think Boston needed a pizza festival?

Even before the Boston Pizza Festival, the pizza industry was very diverse. In the North End alone, you have the old school Umberto, which recently won a James Beard award, and the new school pizza places that are doing different types of dough and adding wood fire to it. They are putting their own craft into making pizza.

How would you describe the perfect slice of pizza?

For me, I love a nice slice of pepperoni pizza New York style.

Why are Bostonians obsessed with pizza?

A lot of people associate pizza with New York or Chicago, but pizza has been a staple for a lot of Bostonians. We offer different variations, but pizza has been around in Boston as long as it has in New York and Chicago.

What can we expect at this year’s festival?

A first-time attendee can expect a few things. We are offering several different style pizzas this year, including Neapolitan, New York style, gluten-free offerings, vegan, Sicilian and Roman types with unlimited sampling. We have Neapolitan vendors we are flying  in from Naples so there will be a taste of Italy on City Hall Plaza.  One of the top three Neapolitan pizza chefs in the world will be in Boston direct from Italy. We really wanted to add a little more authentic Italian flavor to this year’s event. This year, we also have 30 different custom ovens from our sponsor, Marra Forni. Each oven features Italian products that are all then put together in the US.

A portion of this year’s proceeds benefit Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). Tell us a little about the organization and how you chose it as a beneficiary.

We wanted to help the youth in the city of Boston and this organization helps them to succeed. We are two city kids so we understand that some kids of different opportunities than others. (Scalzi is the co-founder of the festival with Giancarlo Natale). ABCD assists Boston residents with the support they need to transition from poverty to a stable environment.

Participating pizzerias include 1000 Degrees, Antico Forno, Anzio’s Brick Oven Pizza, Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca, Beneventos, Bertucci’s, Blaze Pizza, Bricco, Cafe Quattro, Pini’s Pizza, Easy Pie, Florina Pizzeria & Paninoteca, Flying Saucer Pizza Company, Freeda’s Pizza & Calzone, Kono Italian Delights, Bricco Panetteria, MAST’ Restaurant and Drinkery, Oath Pizza, Papa Gino’s, Parziale’s Bakery, Pizza e Fantasia (Naples, Italy), Pizza Taxi (Naples, Italy), Reach For The Pie, Real Italian Gusto, Rina’s Pizzeria and Café, Starita a Materdei – Le 5 Stagioni (Naples, Italy), Sweet Pizza, The Local Pizzaiolo (Atlanta, GA), The Upper Crust Pizzeria and Wicked Cheesy.

Boston Pizza FestivalPhoto Credit: Boston Pizza Festival