Firefighters are known for their chili. But among fire stations and firefighters in Kenosha, they’re also known for their pizzas.
Each of the six stations in town make their own pizza from scratch. So who has the best?
On Sunday, a friendly battle ensued to settle that question. About 150 people sampled pizza at UAW Local 72 headquarters for the first Kenosha Firefighters Pizza Bake-Off, a benefit for the Kenosha Literacy Council and Kenosha Firefighters Community Awareness Relief Effort, the fundraising arm of the firefighters union Local 414 and the Kenosha Fire Department. The non-profit organization helps people or organizations during times of hardship, loss or other unmet needs.
“We have six stations that competed, making unique pizzas, various techniques, various ingredients, various sources,” said firefighter Jeff Weidner, a co-organizer of the event who created a pizza layered with homemade sauce sopressata, roasted red peppers and three kinds of cheese.
The firefighters baked 12 large pizzas for the public to sample.
Five other pizza offerings included two distinct sausage and pepperoni pies; buffalo chicken; barbecue chicken; and bacon, cheese and red onion.
Saturday night staple
“Pizza is a Saturday night staple at the fire department. If you do not serve pizza on Saturday night, you’re out. Not just out of the fire department. Out of the community, out of the state and potentially, elsewhere — permanently,” Weidner said, tongue in cheek.
“But seriously, pizzas are a really big thing. It’s all about tradition and everything from the dough to the final toppings. It’s different no matter what station you go to. A lot of it comes from the individual stations and the individual chefs. ... They get a flavor for what they like and they build off of that.”
Weidner said while firefighters have competed in chili contests for more than two decades, this year is a chance to do something different.
“And do something different and make it about families, and kicking off Fire Prevention Week,” he said.
Origins of bake-off`
The event was the brainchild of Geri Cucunato, a firehouse custodian who cleans the administration building housed in Station 4, 4810 60th St.
“I was in the firehouse one day and two firefighters were talking about who makes the best pizza,” she said.
So she suggested they do a bake-off.
Cucunato spoke with Fire Chief Chuck Leipzig, who was on board with the event. The Literacy Council was chosen as a beneficiary, and Oct. 7 was chosen as it is the start of Fire Prevention Week.
Enlisting the help of Alderman Curt Wilson, a retired union representative, Cucunato, a retired Chrysler worker, was able to secure the use of Local 72’s union hall for the event, and the bake-off was on.
“It worked out good where we got a lot of people involved,” she said.
Lars Bonovich, a Kenosha firefighter, said his favorite was a pizza marked “A,” a classic sausage-and-pepperoni offering with a crispy crust.
“But I thought they were all exceptional,” he said.
In the end, Station 4, won bragging rights for its pizza, garnering 40 votes to Station 2’s 32 and Station 6’s 29.
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