Chicago pizza chefs compete for global bragging rights

PARK RIDGE, Ill. (WLS) -- A Chicago trio hopped on a jet today, off to Italy for a chance to represent the USA. They're not Olympians-not really athletes at all. But next week, the owners of Panino's Pizza make sport of this beloved food at the World Pizza Championships.

Lenny Rago's making his second trip to the showdown; he's no stranger to pressure.

"I think the first time I competed, I shook.... I don't shake anymore. I don't get nervous. I just do my thing."

He's made this pan pizza 40 times. fine tuning it for the trip to Parma. In fact, the dish came in second place at the Las Vegas International Pizza Expo.

If you like it on a pizza, it's probably in this pan. Two types of mozzarella cheese, Applewood smoked bacon, homemade sausage, and a colorful array of peppers.

After 20 minutes in the oven, it melts into a salivating symphony, with a pesto crescendo dolloped on top!

"I'm looking for the balance," explained Lenny after letting me taste a corner slice of "grandma" pizza.

Savory and sweet pull back and forth, leaving only one question: Is there more?

Lenny's not worried about anyone stealing his recipe because it demands something uniquely Panino's.

"You can make this with our Via Pizzeria," says brother Gino Rago.

It's a secret dough mix that with a little water and olive oil becomes the magic base of this award-winning pie. You can buy it in stores, knowing it's the real stuff.

"We use it for our competitions. We win with it. It's simple and it's ready to go," adds Gino as he waves a square of pizza in the air, showing off its thick crust.

Gino's competing in two events next week, including the gluten free category, which he won in Vegas last year.

There are 11 total events next week including a largest pizza and free style competition. Lenny Rago and fellow Panino's partner Bruno Brunetti are teaming up for the duo event.

Rago says there will be 600 competitors from 30 countries- a very hot kitchen. But Panino's is ready to take a bite out of the competition.
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