By Jane Hudson
A Greenville chef and restaurateur again has earned national accolades in an Italian cooking competition.
Chef Massimo Mannino of Greenville placed first in the Southeast Region finals of the International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas on March 22.
He competed in the traditional pizza division of the bake-off, the largest U.S. pizza-making competition. It annually attracts more than 200 pizza makers.
Contestants bring their own ingredients and must create a pie from their pizza menu on the spot to present to a panel of judges. The pizzas are scored on taste and visual presentation appearance, according to a press release from the competition.
Mannino made a traditional sausage and cheese pizza.
"I wanted to keep it simple," he said.
The award-winning pizza is available to diners at Marabella Old World Pizza in Greenville and Farmville, restaurants owned by Mannino and his brothers-in-law Salvatore and Pietro Passalacqua. They also own Nino's Cucina Italiana and Marabella Italian Restaurant in Washington, NC.
This is not the first time Mannino has been recognized for his pizza at the International Pizza Challenge.
He earned second place in 2016 for Grandma's Pizza, which also is available at Marabella Old World Pizza. (A press release from the competition noted that he missed first place by only 1 point.)
Mannino and Salvatore Passalacqua were invited to join the United States Pizza Team in 2016. The team is made up of 17 master pizza chefs from around the country.
In the World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy in 2017, the brothers-in-law placed No. 40 out of 800 entries in the pan pizza category.
Mannino also earned top honors in the first-ever Northeast Pasta Showdown in October 2017.
The two restaurant concepts owned by Mannino and Passalacqua and their families -- Marabella and Nino's -- together have earned the People's Choice Award for favorite dish at the annual March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction in Greenville for seven consecutive years.
Marabella Old World Pizza locations are at 1898 S.E. Greenville Blvd. and 3750 S. Main St., Farmville. Nino's is at 511 Red Banks Road. Reservations are accepted; call 252-689-6446.
(Photo is from Nino's Cucina Italian's Facebook page)
Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.