A whole lotta pizza

Local chef competes in world championship while Mamma Celeste’s marks its spot in Paradise

I’ve raved in the past about Greek chef Michael Athanasopoulos, former proprietor of the much-missed (at least by this writer) Broken Plate in Oroville. I literally would drive 25 minutes just to get a bowl of mouthwatering spaghetti and Greek meatballs, or the shwarma pizza. (I’m drooling a little bit thinking about it!)

My cravings for Athanasopoulos’ spaghetti took on a life of their own a week or so ago. After a desperate message asking if he prepares the dish on his food truck, The Lamb & The Wolf, and a reply that no, he doesn’t, but he might in the future, I took to scouring the Web for recipes. I admit, I came pretty close with my replication. The meatballs were juicy and delicious (for my own spin, knowing I’d never get them exact, I stuffed them with feta). And the sauce was light, a far cry from a traditional marinara. But, I dare not use my oven in this heat wave … so, no cheese baked on top. Alas, I’ll wait longer.

But there is some news from Athanasopoulos. Last month, he traveled to Parma, Italy, to compete in the Pizza World Championship as part of the U.S. Pizza Team. And apparently he fared pretty well, placing 147th out of 720 entrants (according to the chef, the first 100 places went to Italians). He entered a horse meat pizza with arugula pesto and orange blossom honey feta drops. Wow. I know most Americans balk at the thought of horse meat, though it’s quite popular elsewhere in the world. I admit, I had horse meat sashimi in Japan and a horse burger in France. So, I’d try his award-winning horse meat pizza, no question. Congrats!

More pie It’s come to my attention that Mamma Celeste’s Stone-Baked Pizzeria, which closed in Chico earlier this summer, is making headway on its Paradise location. I haven’t made it up there to see for myself, but Mark Thorpe at the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce confirmed for me that Mamma Celeste’s is going into the old Annie’s Country Cafe building at 5522 Skyway. A new sign advertises it as not only a pizzeria but also a gastropub. If their new menu items are anything like that cornmeal crust, I may be making more trips up the Ridge.

More Paradise Thorpe also confirmed rumors that Starbucks has its eye on the former Coffee’s On spot, just up the road at 6344 Skyway. He says the property is currently in escrow and that Starbucks plans to level the existing structure and begin building a new one this fall.

All dolled up For makeup lovers, here’s some news you can use: Sephora inside JC Penney has expanded and now encompasses 2,800 square feet on the ground floor. In addition, the local store is launching eight new brands, including Clinique Color. And for those who want a full makeover, you can now book online through JCPenney.com.