Drinks & apps with Joe & Jeff and Brian

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The drinks were half a dozen Italian cocktails made with Prosecco; the apps were based on prosciutto, Italy's air-dried ham. Hosting was Joe Fugere (far right, the onetime Starbucks exec who launched the Tutta Bella pizza chain in 2004) alongside his husband Jeff Lewis and his food & beverage director, Brian Gojdics (who wielded the Berkel slicing machine).

Call him Viceroy of VPN. Fugere is a home-grown entrepreneur who launched the Tutta Bella pizza chain almost 15 years ago in Columbia City. But not just any pizza. He flew to Los Angeles and spent a week in the company of a pizza master, Pepe Miele, who had signed on with VPN as its director for North America. Before then, to be sure, there was plenty of pizza in Seattle, but none that followed the strict VPN standards for flour, for tomatoes, for mozzarella. Nor were there any authentic southern Italian ovens. Fugere had a pair custom-made and shipped from Naples, and when he opened he was rewarded with the first VPN certification in the Northwest, "Attesta Numero 198."

One key question: is there an "official" way to eat an authentic margherita? Do you pick it up with your hands, or use a knife and fork? The "official" answer: if the pizza is served uncut, use utensils; if sliced, you're allowed (but not required) to pick it up. On the other hand, pizza is the street food of Naples, where it's often picked up whole and folded over, not once but twice, in a style called al' libretto, like a book.

Nothing against his legion of competitors, though Fugere is clearly on the side of thin-crust. "In Naples, they say there are only two kinds of pizza: VPN and imitation VPN." And when President Obama had a hankering for pizza during the 2012 campaign, Fugere and his crew set up a mobile oven at Paine Field in Everett and delivered two dozen "Il Presidente" pizzas to Air Force One.

This week's get-together benefitted Mary's Place, the downtown Seattle shelter for women and vulnerable families .

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on September 27, 2018 4:30 PM.

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