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Pizza Sausage

October 30, 2009

If you haven’t been following the 2009 Tournament of Pizza at All Over Albany, shame on you.  And I don’t just say that as a judge who by this point has eaten more pizza in a month than many people do in a year.

It’s just that pizza is a pretty big thing out here in Albany.  This is an old town, with old habits, and deeply ingrained preferences that may have little to do with the current situation on the ground.  And putting pizza places up against each other in a blind, systematic way is separating the history and hype from the product itself.  It’s a big deal, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

But I am so glad that Round 2 – the sausage round – is finally over, because that means I can now freely talk about pizza sausage, without the risk of giving anything away or tilting my hand.

I’ve said before that I’m a purist.  My preferred pizza is an unadorned NY-style slice, with perhaps some shakes of cheese powder to suck up some of the grease, a sprinkle of pepper flakes if I’m feeling spicy, and sometimes a touch of garlic powder if the slice needs more oompf.

Sausage is generally saved for other things.  My friend—let’s call her Princess Sparkle—of southern Italian heritage once made her family’s meat sauce, which included pounds of whole sausages.  Now that was a spectacular display of copious meat products.  But I digress.

The TOP reminded me of the vast array of sausage styles available at your local pizzeria.

Here’s a quick rundown of styles from most to least favorite:
1)    Chunks of loose sausage
2)    Sausage rings, generally with casing
3)    Shaved sausage, generally without casing
4)    Ground meat with sausage seasoning
5)    Rabbit pellet sausage, akin to what one sees on frozen pizza

But form really plays a back seat to flavor.  Because I can’t imagine anyone orders sausage on their pizza just to pack on extra fat and protein.  If you just wanted those, you could have gone for ground beef.  You order sausage because you want that sausage flavor.  You want some spice – not necessarily heat – but something zesty.  Sausage demands your attention.

At first I wasn’t so sure about the decision to change Round 2 of the ToP from pepperoni to sausage this year.  Pepperoni would seem to be the more popular and ubiquitous topping.

But the choice of sausage a pizzeria uses is huge.  And it’s a very clear indication of their overall commitment to quality and providing an awesome-tasting product.

I really enjoyed Marissa’s pizza.  In Round 2 where it went head to head with Pasquale’s, it wasn’t so much that Pasquale’s won as it was that Marissa’s lost.  Head to head in the block and tackle of crust and sauce, Marissa’s was the preferred pie.  But it was their sausage that killed it.  It almost drained all the good out of the exceptional pizza that lay underneath.

Perhaps if the brackets were different and Marissa’s had gone up against Pasquale’s in the first round, things would have been different.  In this alternative universe, my guess is that Marissa’s would have gone up against the Fountain in Round 2.  And while I do not have much love for the Fountain, they do have tasty sausage, and their pizza shows better with toppings.

So maybe things wouldn’t have been so different.

But now I am curious.  Are there people out there who prefer shaved sausage over loose on their pizza?  There is certainly a lot of it out there, so it must have its fans.  Let’s hear it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    October 30, 2009 10:07 am

    I gew up in NJ and there a sausage pizza has nice round slices of Italian sausage with casing. That’s how I like it, not crumbled pieces, and certainly not the ghastly crumbles you often get around here (Capital Region).

  2. October 30, 2009 12:36 pm

    You know, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered sausage on a pizza. I’m usually more prone to pepperoni. I think we should have our own sausage re-match though. Those sound like tasty brackets!

  3. October 30, 2009 1:38 pm

    too bad there wasn’t a bacon category, my preferred pizza topping. thought spicy sausage on a good pie really makes my toes tap :D

  4. November 10, 2009 1:39 pm

    I have to agree with Mr. S, I like rounds of sausage if I am going to have sausage at all. Not a fan of typical pizza parlor type pepperoni.

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