Growing up the son of a pizzeria owner, Carmine Testa had plenty of professional pie experience when he opened Carmine’s Pizzeria in September 2000. Carmine’s Pizza Factory is now at 366 8th Street. A world that was less familiar to the Jersey City born-and-bred father of three: the competitive pizza-tossing circuit. “It’s underground, but now that I’m aware of it, I’m into it,” Carmine says. “It’s a cool scene, and it’s pretty big. People as far away as South Korea, Japan, and Brazil, they take part in this.” Two well-known names on the circuit and on national talk shows are Michael and Nicholas Testa, Carmine’s kids. Brother Michael, 12, was the first to pick up the pizza-tossing habit.
Couldn’t Say No to the Dough
Michael and Nicholas started coming around Carmine’s back in 2012. “Mike was 8 and Nicholas was 5, and their little sister Chloe was a very colicky baby,” recalls Carmine. “I wanted to give their mom a break, so I started bringing the boys into the shop with me.” There was just one rule: The boys were supposed to leave the dough alone. But watching his father toss pie dough into the air proved far too enticing for young Michael; Dad’s one rule was promptly broken.
An Internet Star is Born
“So when he is playing around with the dough, I begin to notice that he is a natural,” Carmine says. “Like when you learn to ride a bike, and it all comes together, right away he picked up the right speed.” He showed off Michael’s skills to his buddy Giovanni, who shot a video of father and son tossing dough back and forth to each other, while Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger” played in the background. The clip immediately went viral with 100,000 YouTube views. Within days, Michael was on Good Day New York, and soon after that the Testas were inundated with calls from national TV producers, asking for exclusive rights to showcase the pizza prodigy. He went on to appear on The Chew and Hell’s Kitchen, where he replaced Wolfgang Puck in a “Mastering a Technique” challenge.
All in the Family
Soon little brother Nicholas got into the act. “He’s practiced a lot and is getting really good,” his father says, and the duo has made regular TV appearances on national shows like Rachael Ray, The Steve Harvey Show, and Dr. Oz, and shot a national commercial for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodeon. Their latest project, shot in June, finds the brothers flying out to Los Angeles for a taping. Does Dad worry that his champs will grow big heads?
Nah. “Of course, they love the attention and having a big car pick them up to take them to a taping,” Carmine says. “But my boys are very humble and good, good kids. They work hard at this, but they’re normal kids. It’s good exposure for them, but they don’t get paid for TV appearances.” But, he says, celebrity endorsements with pizza chains can land endorsements of up to $250,000 for crowd-pleasing performers and consistent finishers like the Testa brothers.
The Olympics of the Pizza World
Everybody who’s anybody in the world of pizza shows up for the Annual International Pizza Expo, held in March in Las Vegas. It’s the largest pizza event in the world, with bakeoffs, demonstrations, networking events, workshops, seminars, and the hugely popular World Pizza Championships. After completing a qualifying round, competitors vie for glory in five categories: Freestyle Acrobatic Dough Tossing, Fastest Dough, Largest Dough Stretch, Fastest Pizza Box Folding, and Pizza Triathlon. “This is the biggest competition out there, with the biggest crowd,” Carmine says. “It’s literally the Olympics of the pizza world.”
In 2014, Michael and Nicholas were the opening act at the championships, bringing the house down with a dazzling dual-toss performance. Fast forward two years, and Carmine is at the expo, while the boys are back East promoting it live on Good Morning America. They wowed the live crowd with their pizza-tossing skills and easy rapport with the show’s hosts. Check out the segment on YouTube—or any of their performances or guest spots—and you’ll see the boys are natural performers. Besides their way with dough, they’ve got the Jersey gift of gab. They’re confident, funny, smart, and sweet, without a hint of that annoying precociousness that can be encouraged in young performers. While they make a great duo, the future is bright for these two talented kids whatever they decide to do. No wonder their doting dad is so proud.
Star-Making Moments for Michael and Nicholas
After the Testa brothers opened the International Pizza Expo, Tony Gemingnani, world-renowned pizza expert and 11-time World Pizza Champion, honored Michael as an honorary member of the World Pizza Champions. “The highest honor out there” in the world of pizza, Carmine says.
Nicholas, who’s quick with a quip and born to be on TV, played young Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show last September.—JCM