GREENWICH, Conn. – The best pizza in the world isn't made in Italy, Chicago, New York City or New Haven. It's made right in Old Greenwich.
That's what the judges at the 2012 Pizza World Championship in Paris decided when Bruno di Fabio, owner of ReNapoli on Sound Beach Avenue, took the international contest's top prize in November.
A 1987 graduate of Greenwich High School, di Fabio grew up working in his grandfather’s pizza restaurant, Tony’s Italian Kitchen, on the West Side of Manhattan. He went on to own several restaurants in Westchester County, achieving critical and commercial success by his mid-20s.
But di Fabio, a Ridgefield resident, was determined to mine the secrets of pizza and delve deeper into what makes a great pie. He knew his pizza was good, but when he began participating in pizza competitions, di Fabio saw he still had a way to go to make the best pizza.
“I’m a very cocky person, and I had a lot of success early on. I said, ‘Nobody’s pizza is better than mine,’” di Fabio said. “But when I went through the competition circuit, I was humbled quite a bit. I saw pizza makers throughout the United States not only match my success, but surpass it and surpass my passion for it.”
So di Fabio dedicated himself to the science of pizza, traveling to study in Italy, finding the best ingredients, going to the best places to get those ingredients and even determining the chemical properties of what makes a perfect pizza dough.
With in-depth research and hard lessons learned working until late at night as a teenager in his grandfather’s busy restaurant, di Fabio was ready to see how his pizza stacked up against others. He began entering pizza-making competitions eight years ago and slowly worked his way up to the world stage.
“I really let myself explore what other people were doing and saw that it was a huge industry,” di Fabio said. “I saw I wasn’t at the top of my industry, and I still had a lot more to learn. So I figured what not try a little friendly competition between peers.”
Di Fabio beat competitors from the U.S., Italy, France, China, Indonesia and other locations with his authentic Neapolitan pizza in his sixth world championship win in November.
The offers came pouring in to open pizza restaurants all over the world. But di Fabio was eager to stay close to his home and family and opened his Greenwich restaurant, ReNapoli, in the summer of 2011. He says he goes out of his way to find the highest-quality ingredients to bring his world-renowned pizza to Greenwich.
"People in the Connecticut, New York and New Jersey area really appreciate an artisanal pizza and are not willing to compromise taste in their pizza for a few dollars." di Fabio said. "I'd rather pump gas all day than sell a five-dollar pizza."
Di Fabio owns 10 pizzerias in the tri-state area and in San Francisco.