FREDERICKTOWN — If cook-off results are any indication, the best pizzas in the nation are produced in Knox County — at Pizza Dock in Fredericktown.
Owner Mike Amheiser outbaked the competition to take top honors in the Gourmet division at the North America Pizza Pizzazz competition, one of the toughest in the nation, bringing home the first-place prize. A total of 75 contestants competed in the first-round bake off, with the top six advancing to the championship round in the North America Pizza and Ice Cream Show held Feb. 22 and 23.
Amheiser’s cheesy meatball entry, according to a press release from the NAPICS, swayed the judges by combining a cheese blend, homemade meatballs, sausage, onions and a marinara sauce before being topped with Romano cheese after baking.
Amheiser said the sausage is also homemade, and the crust is stuffed with cheese and marinara sauce. Toppings can include gorgonzola cheese, cheddar cheese, provolone cheese, mushrooms, onions, oregano, onions, basil and garlic.
“It’s just a great-tasting pizza,” he said.
The contestants brought their secret ingredients to the show and baked their finest creations in front of a gallery of industry critics; a panel of 30 judges ruled on appearance, marketability and taste.
“The bottom line is the judges really analyze the pizza,” Amheiser said. “They look at the cheese. They look at the bottom of the crust. They’ll slide the cheese back and check the dough and do a side view of the crust. Some people think it is all in the cheese. Others think it is all in the crust, but every detail is important — toppings, cheese, crust and sauce. You can’t have anything messed up.”
Pizza Dock is also home to the third-place prize winner in the traditional pizza division — Mike’s Favorite. In spite of having to adjust to using sandwich ovens to bake pizza, and slightly burning the crust on the bottom, Amheiser again outbaked 75 initial challengers and placed third.
Mike’s Favorite Pizza starts off with a deep dish pan brushed with Amheiser’s homemade blend of Amish butter, margarine, spices and Romano cheese. Then he stuffs the crust with Wisconsin award-winning provolone. The pizza is topped with fresh chopped garlic, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, hard salami, pepperoni and bacon, allowing the juices from the meats to seep down into the pie. After baking, Amheiser sprinkles the pizza with basil and more Romano cheese.
Amheiser’s next stop is New York City, for the America’s Plate World Pizza championship. There he will compete against pizza chiefs from a minimum of seven other countries, vying for the title of World’s Best Pizza Maker. This year he is the only American who qualified to cook in the contest, which will also feature piemasters from Italy, the Czech Republic and China. Finland currently has the plate and Ameheiser hopes to win it back for the United States.
The America’s Plate competition ran March 1 through March 3. Results were not available as of press time.