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And Then There Were Four

October 26, 2010

Today I continue where I left off yesterday at the end of Pizza Parade, with the semi-final round of All Over Albany’s 2010 Tournament of Pizza.

Looking back at this year’s contest, this post could also be named, Marino’s Flying Pizza’s Unlikely Road to the Top.  I do not mean to besmirch their victory.  Making it to the semi-finals in 2009 and besting serious competitors for four rounds in a row this year, is no small feat.  Marino’s makes some serious pizza.

This is my version of the story behind the numbers.  There were three other official judges in the room and a rotating cast of other tournament supporters, including the AOA editors.  Each of them may have a different story to tell.  But people feel passionately about pizza, and there are some who have questions about what happens behind the scenes, and wonder how certain pies could have won.

Hopefully after today, those questions will be answered.  And if not, ask away and I will make sure they get included in the next installment of Ask the Profussor.

2010 Tournament of Pizza Semi-Finals
I can be bad sometimes about checking my email, so it came as a complete surprise to me that we wouldn’t be judging a white pizza this year for the semis.  I. Was. Thrilled.  The semifinalists got here on the backs of the interplay between crust, sauce, cheese and heat.  By keeping to a classic tomato-sauce-based pie, we were sure to be in for a treat.

The classic in this case is onions, peppers, mushrooms and olives. I love this combination, but I never get it because Mrs. Fussy hates onions.

The faceoff between newcomer DeFazio’s and returning finalist Nunzio’s was really won in the margins.  All of the pies would end up using canned olives, which I find to be unfortunate.  I do appreciate their visual appeal, but once you’ve had real olives on pizza, you can’t go back to canned.

I had a slight preference for Nunzio’s driven by the overall balance of the slice. DeFazio’s had better toppings, but once again their distinctive crust got in the way.  Not that the crust isn’t tasty, but at the end of a bite of pizza, I want to be left with the mouth-filling deliciousness of cheese and tomato sauce.  After eating a bite of DeFazio’s all I’m left tasting is crust.  But the rest of the judges didn’t mind, thus propelling DeFazio’s to the finals.

The big shock of the round was Marino’s versus two-time champion Pasquale’s.  When I was presented with my slice from Marino’s and I saw the canned mushrooms, I was convinced this was the losing slice.  Canned mushrooms are all kinds of nasty.

But Pasquale’s, which I thought really squeaked by in the first two rounds, finally delivered a pie that couldn’t succeed on the strength of its crust and sauce alone.  Pasquale’s failed in the toppings category with chunks of green pepper that were larger than large.  It was shocking.  And then there was the issue of the pepper seeds.

Green pepper is an assertive flavor.  A little goes a long way.  And this was like a green pepper pizza with a bit of olive, onion and mushroom for flavor.  Plus the pie was again a bit undercooked resulting in flabby cheese.  This was clearly not Pasquale’s at its best.  Even still, that crust and that sauce even on a poorly executed Pasquale’s pizza, make it a formidable competitor.

Luckily Marino’s pie was tasty as hell, despite their canned mushrooms.  I can barely believe it myself.  I’m not going to rush out and order it, but Marino’s understands how important a balance of flavors is to a pizza.  It’s why the onions get chopped, instead of sliced, so they can get into every bite and enhance the pizza without being overwhelming.

Their thicker and heavier-bottomed crust served them well in providing structural integrity to this slice, but I still consider it to be a little too much.  

And that is how DeFazio’s and Marino’s got to the finals.

It’s really a funny thing too, because I have a strong preference for thinner New York Style pies, like I Love of Troy and Pizza King of Schenectady, and none of them made it this far.   I still have a hard time shaking the feeling that Pizza King got robbed in the sausage round.

But this competition has seen me vote for thicker pizzas over thinner ones, sliced sausage over loose sausage, and canned mushrooms over fresh mushrooms.  I find it hard to believe.  Yet in all of these cases, those were the tastier of the two slices that I had in front of me.

I left my preconceived notions behind me and judged on taste.  And I feel good about all of my decisions.  Including the toughest decision, which will have to wait for tomorrow.

That is, if anyone is still reading after I hijacked the blog to talk about pizza for the better part of a week.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob W. permalink
    October 26, 2010 10:25 am

    “…after I hijacked the blog to talk about pizza for the better part of a week.”

    You make this sound as if it were a bad thing.

    Enjoying the blow-by-blow breakdown immensely. I had the same visceral reaction to the photo of the Marino’s pie — ‘canned mushrooms? ewwwwwww!’ Your commitment to impartial judging in the face of such a horrorific display is commendable.

  2. Phairhead permalink
    October 26, 2010 10:58 am

    Pizza talk never grows old :D

  3. October 26, 2010 12:24 pm

    I won’t order a pizza with canned mushrooms as I think they’re vile, and honestly, cheaping out on the mushrooms makes me wonder where else the pizzeria is cheap. I think I’ve had Marino’s pizza once, years ago, and it was unremarkable, so between that and the mushrooms, I’m really surprised they won.

    But since I wasn’t tasting, I’ll have to take your word for it that it was good.

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