Don Evola is making everyone nervous.
In two days, the Italian co-owner of Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria in Everett will compete in the International Pizza Challenge.
He’ll make four pizza pies for four judges, and he hasn’t been practicing.
Sure, he’s shipped his signature ingredients to Las Vegas, where the International Pizza Expo opens Tuesday. But that’s about all he plans to do to prepare for a chance to win the $10,000 first prize.
“Everybody is freaked out,” Evola said nonchalantly, relaxing in the warm glow of his Hewitt Avenue pizza parlor.
Vicki Evola, his wife of more than 20 years, said her husband’s confidence is driving her nuts. She’ll travel to Las Vegas too, to make the dough.
She runs the day-to-day operations of the pizzeria. Her husband has passed on pizza-making duties to their 10 employees.
“I just make the dough,” she said. “Cooking makes me nervous.”
Don Evola, who has cooked all his life with recipes from his Italian family, does have a secret weapon of sorts: He’s enlisting his gregarious brother, chef Vic “Vegas” Moea as his assistant. He runs a catering company in Sin City and recently won a Food Network Challenge.
Still, Vicki Evola thinks her husband should brush up on his skills for the contest.
He’s resisted so far.
“I’m not going to practice,” Evola said. “I perfected this. Why change anything? What’s there to practice? I’m just going to walk in there, and I’m going to wing it.”
This kind of bravado, if you know the story behind Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria, isn’t just overconfidence.
Don and Vicki Evola, 47 and 49, respectively, have their pizza recipes down to a science, including a special slow-rise dough, a creation they tinkered with in their garage starting in 1996 using a second-hand commercial Hobart mixer and 50-pound bags of flour.
“We literally spent five years perfecting this dough recipe,” Evola said. “Pizza, to me, it’s an art.”
Today that recipe brings in crowds of New York transplants seeking East Coast-style pies.
“This town really was hurting for pizza,” said Evola, who describes his thin-crust pizza style as a cross between New York and classic Italian.
The Evolas also sell a Sicilian-style pizza with a thick crust similar to focaccia bread.
What makes their pizza stand out, Evola said, is the two- to three-day slow-rise dough combined with only the most authentic of ingredients, including imported San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce, whole milk Polly-O mozzarella, and specially selected meats, fresh herbs and house-roasted garlic.
All that quality and authenticity costs more.
“I could be making a lot more money, but I’m not,” said Evola, who refuses to use inexpensive ingredients. “I’m building something. My name’s on it.”
Evola, who grew up in Brooklyn, had always wanted to open a restaurant with his brothers. Instead, he teamed up with Brett Alkan, who became a co-owner and business manager. They remodeled an old antiques shop across from Comcast Arena and opened on Jan. 2, 2007.
Today, it’s not uncommon to meet ex-New Yorkers at the pizzeria.
John Mahoney of Lake Stevens, who moved to the Northwest from Staten Island more than 20 years ago, is a regular.
“It’s the closest thing to New York pizza that I’ve come across out here,” Mahoney said. “It melts in your mouth. It’s a pizza pie.”
Bryan Dirkes of Marysville, who was picking up multiple pizzas on a recent afternoon, said it’s all about ingredients.
“They pull the best. They know how to assemble it,” Dirkes said. “It tastes natural.”
Evola, a longtime guitarist who came out to the Northwest in 1981 for the music scene, said they hope to add a second pizzeria location or maybe an Italian restaurant serving pasta.
“I have my whole menu figured out,” he said. “I can do it tomorrow if I have to.”
For now, however, Evola is looking forward to visiting family in Las Vegas and competing at the expo.
He plans to make a traditional cheese pizza with, at most, some minced pepperoni and sausage for toppings.
“Do I think I’m going to win? No,” said Evola. “If I win, it’s a bonus.”
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eat it up
Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria 1919 Hewitt Ave., Everett; www.bbpmenu.com; 425-258-6900 Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
International Pizza Expo
Las Vegas Convention Center www.pizzaexpo.com