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Italian pizza chef has everyone in a spin

By Ye Jun ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-10-18 13:48:33

Italian pizza chef Pasqualino Barbasso doesn’t just make great-tasting pizzas. He performs acrobatics with them.

After kneading a pizza dough into a round shape of the right size, he starts tossing and whirling it into the air, between hands, around the shoulder, behind the back. You wonder what he cannot do with that pizza.

His signature stunt is to toss and catch three pizzas in the air, and make them all fly high above his head. He can toss a pizza beneath the crotch like a cross-leg dribble. He can even do that when he lies on his back. It looks as if he has installed a handle on that soft piece of pizza dough, so that he can twirl and toss it however he wants to.

Chef Barbasso is from Agrigento, Sicily. He has recently arrived in Beijing to perform at the Bene Italian Restaurant at the Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng Hotel from Oct 11-31.

At 37 years old, the chef started working as a pizza chef at his family pizzeria 15 years ago. After a year of training he decided to learn some pizza acrobatics.

"I love my job, and felt the need to improve my career," he says.

He went to a pizza school to study for just five days, and then trained at home everyday. Although he said it was not easy, he managed to toss and spin his way to two world championships of pizza in 2011 and 2012.

In Italy there are constant pizza competitions, where contestants compete their techniques making authentic Italian pizza by acrobatically tossing and spinning dough. A lot of pizza makers do the show, but chef Barbasso says not many of them can do a "real show".

"Some pizza makers do it like they’re alone in the restaurant," he says. "I think it is important to interact with customers."

He considers the most important part of his show is that customers enjoy his work. Since he won the championships he has been traveling around the world to stage pizza shows for diners.

"The best thing is to know new people, new places and new cultures," he says.

The Chinese customers he has performed for are quieter at first. But they are as happy as anyone else at the end of the show, he says.

The chef can play pizza acrobatics with normal dough. But most of the time he prepares a special dough in which he puts salt in so that it becomes more elastic and won’t break.

He’ll also use different movements, depending on his mood. So he calls it "free style". The secret of pizza acrobatics, according to the chef, is that one needs to be very soft between the hands and the dough. On the other hand, one must train every day to be really good.

Pizza acrobatics has changed his life, according to Barbasso. "Now I can talk about cuisines of the world — Chinese, or Indian. And I can mix them in the right way," he says.

If you go

Bene Italian Restaurant

2/F, Sheraton Beijing Dongcheng Hotel, 36 Eastern North Third Ring Road, Chaoyang district, Beijing

010-5798-8995.

Recommended: Fresh Pizza with Tomato and Mozzarella Cheese, Lamb Rack, Italian Vegetable Soup

Average cost per head: World

Champion Acrobatic Pizza:188 yuan ($31) plus 15 percent service charge.

 

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