Prideful pie: Las Vegas represents at the annual International Pizza Expo

These are the last days of February, and we’re about a month away from the International Pizza Expo, the biggest pizza show in the world. In 2016 it drew nearly 500 companies and 7,000 attendees to the Las Vegas Convention Center, and this year, there will be some serious hometown participants in the expo’s International Pizza Challenge competition.

At Metro Pizza’s northwest location on Sky Pointe Drive, Chris Decker is getting ready to compete, making and remaking a Sicilian-style pie he calls the Americano. “The dough is a five-day fermentation, a very lengthy process,” explains Metro co-owner John Arena as Decker, his protégé, dishes it up. “It’s a very lengthy process. And he’s using Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, which [James Beard Award winner] Chris Bianco developed for his pizzeria [in Phoenix].”

You can tell the Americano is different and special before you bite it. When I pick up my square slice, it’s not as heavy as you would expect a crispy-edged, thick-crust pie to be. The first bite is fantastic, crunchy but tender inside, light and airy, and full of flavor—far from the flatness found in your average neighborhood pizzeria’s dough.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a cheese pizza,” says Decker. About a month from now, we’ll see.

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Most Las Vegans only think of Metro Pizza as a neighborhood family favorite, but Arena and his cousin Sam Facchini—who’ve been in business locally since 1980—have an immense industry reputation. They’ve been instrumental in the development of Pizza Expo, which began in 1985.

“It was fledgling but it was the first of its kind and the industry needed it,” says Facchini. “It really helped people that do what we do because we didn’t have a place to look for best practices, improvements, common solutions. It took a while.”

The expo was created by businessman Gerry Durnell, who owned an ice cream shop in Santa Claus, Indiana, and wanted to add pizza to his menu. He went…

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