The Vatican 500

Walk the halls of Rome’s most sacred museum. You might feel small under the ceiling of the Sistine. Or humbled by craftsmanship it holds. But what you are actually experiencing is NASCAR played out over centuries.

Asparagus and crab pizza with meyers lemon buerre blanc

Asparagus and crab pizza with meyer lemon buerre blanc

Daring, imaginative and experimental. Icons like Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo show us the extraordinary in the ordinary. They muscle through the curves and mash the petal in the straightaway. Each stroke a gear shift.

It was in this crucible of the Vatican where one artistic idea fed another. A narrative of genius that spanned frescoes, sculptures and canvases. Prompted by the Pope maybe. Or prompted by one-ups-manship.  No matter.

The contestants

The contestants

Because the end results are more than artifacts. They are history itself.

With this inspiration, we re-wrote what it means to party over dinner. To menu an evening with fine cuisine and close friends.

Today we broke convention. We invite strangers to build relationships through a competition. We unleash the Pizza Invitational. The F1 of dinner parties.

The rules are simple. Pizza dough and oven time are mastered by a single person. Teams are formed at random. Some ingredients ready to go.

The ingredients

The ingredients

In one corner stood the proteins. The salami, the hams, the shrimp, the crab.

Elsewhere soft cheeses like fresh mozzarella, blue cheese or brie sit ready. Hard cheeses and nuts for snap, crackle or pop.



Sliced vegetables, sauteed onions, garlic, honey, dried oregano, figs, olive oil and fresh herbs. Typical gourmet slight of hand.

Caramelized onions

Caramelized onions

Everything but tomato sauce. This is a race without bumpers or headlights. Win because you took chances. Not because grandma’s gravy carried the day.



Two pizza attempts for each pit crew.

Some spent too much time tweezering ingredients for balanced distribution. Some sat in committee for a long time. Some raided the pantry for a mystery ingredient.

Pizza Invitational - the making of 4Most found their courage.

Pizza Invitational - shrimp fig asparagus RAW

Each pizza emerges from the oven much different than when it went in. Shrimp now pink and opaque. Cheese now a molten lacquer. Crust bubbles dot the landscape.

Shrimp, fig and asparagus

Shrimp, fig and asparagus

Ideas explode. Duck Bahn Mi pizza with pineapple.

Roast Duck Pizza

Roast Duck Pizza

Ancho pizza with sausage and sweet potato. Asparagus and crab pizza with lemon buerre blanc.

Ancho pizza with duck sausage and sweet potatoe

Ancho pizza with duck sausage and sweet potato

To the winner goes bragging rights. And yet no one really loses.

There are always full bellies, empty wine glasses and an evening well spent.

The real winners

The real winners

This is a formula that can be repeated endlessly.

Next time you want to cook for others, don’t. Bring them to track, show them the vehicle and wave the checkered flag at the end.

What you get might just make your head spin.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Taste portals | ideas that taste good

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