For once, Juliana Zarou was awarded for playing with her food.
For nine years, Juliana watched her father, Waleed Zarou, owner of Don Corleone’s Brick Oven Pizza, toss dough in the air, catch it with his fingertips and toss it behind his back and side to side. In March, she decided to pick up some dough and try it herself.
"Turns out, she’s pretty good at it," Waleed Zarou said.
In July, Juliana was the first girl to compete in the Throw Dough National Finals Junior Division for the under 18 division, in Orlando, Fla., where she placed third.
"She needs to work on some harder tricks for next year," he said, "but she did great. She’s a performer."
The day of competition, Juliana stepped up to a basket and drew the No. 1.
Even though she had to go first, the 9-year-old said she wasn’t nervous to toss dough in front of an audience.
"The stage was huge," she said, "but I just wanted to get up there and do my thing."
Under the stage lights, she performed her routine to the song, "Never Give Up." She tossed Throw Dough, practice dough made of rubber and sprinkled with flour, from the tips of her right hand to the back of her left palm, she knelt down on the ground, shimmied her shoulders and tossed it again.
"She has great stage presence," Waleed Zarou said.
While on stage, she said she could hear her sisters cheering for her.
"They’re her biggest fans," their mother, Amy Zarou said.
AT THE STERLING restaurant on Wednesday, Juliana and her sisters, Sophia Zarou, 7, and Nina Zarou, 4, went over her routine in between the glass counter and hungry customers.
"We screamed ‘Go Juliana,’" Sophia recalled.
"I could hear them the whole time I was on stage," Juliana said.
Waleed Zarou said his plan is to get all of the girls involved someday.
The Sterling family has made its mark on the dough-tossing community.
In September, Waleed Zarou and Juliana will return to Florida, to participate in the Orlando Pizza Show.
Representatives from PMQ Magazine, a food industry publication, asked Juliana to perform on the main stage of the pizza show. She will toss Throw Dough with other competitors, while her father competes in the fastest pizza-making competition. Other competitions include the Largest Dough Stretch and Freestyle Pizza Tossing competitions.
When her father asked her about her performance, she said she was going to stick to her same routine and try new tricks next year.
While Juliana talked about her next trip to Florida, 4-year-old Nina mimicked her sister by tossing a PMQ magazine from right hand to left.