Pizza BOGO won first place and a $7,500 prize at the 2011 Pizza Pizzazz competition with its Tuscan Fiorentina pizza in the contest’s gourmet category. Warrior Pizza and Ice Cream took the crown in the traditional category with its Lasagna Pizza, also winning a $7,500 prize.

The annual contest was part of the two-day North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show (NAPICS) at the Columbus Convention Center held Feb. 20-21.

Robert Kopis, franchisee operator of Pizza BOGO in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, beat 56 pizza makers in the contest’s gourmet category during the first half of the two-day competition. Ronald Erich, owner of Warrior Pizza in Mansfield, Ohio, overthrew 50 competitors in the traditional category.

“This will really be good for business,” said Kopis, whose pizza used a spicy garlic sauce and fresh basil, roasted red peppers, onion, mushroom, cheese and steak for toppings.

Erich described his Lasagna Pizza as “like a noodle-less lasagna” piled with red sauce, cheeses, sausage and beef. Among Warrior’s gourmet creations, the Lasagna Pizza is the best seller.

The two-day Pizza Pizzazz contest begins with the gourmet category on Sunday, followed by the traditional category on Monday. On each day, a panel of 30 judges evaluates as many as 60 pizzas for taste, presentation, crust quality and marketability. Six finalists are chosen to bake a pair of pizzas that are judged again.

NAPICS annually attracts 4,500 pizza and ice cream owners, managers and operators and provides a forum for them to meet a variety of food and equipment vendors.  The event features 200 exhibitors with demonstrations of new products and equipment, and seminars and workshops covering “how to” procedures and innovative methodologies.

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