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Prime Pizzas of the Past

May 10, 2011

There are all kinds of ways to evaluate food. Each has its pros and cons. And I do not think there is one perfect approach. Sometimes the food dictates the method, like soft serve ice cream. There is no good way to transport it to a central destination, thus it requires a tour.

Things like donuts, fudge fancies, or even the dreaded cupcakes are much more flexible. They do not significantly degrade in transit, and can be brought to a central location for a formal judging.

If someone has a good recommendation for a tasting venue, let me know, and we can work on setting up the Fudge Fancy Faceoff.

Pizza is more of a gray area. Yes, pizza is best hot from the oven. Yes, pizza degrades significantly in transit. But it’s also true that most people get pizza for takeout and suffer through the ill effects of a hot baked pie steaming in a cardboard sarcophagus for up to the better part of an hour. And this is why I support the method of evaluation used in All Over Albany’s Tournament of Pizza.

But I always wonder how much better the pizza would be at the source.

Well, within the past few weeks I’ve been able to go both to Marino’s in Schenectady and DeFazio’s in Troy. These two giants went head to head in last year’s semifinals, with Marino’s coming out on top. Marino’s owed its victory in large part to the wise selection of a classic pairing, topping their pie with sausage, peppers and onions.

First, I have to say that each of these two places is amazing, and we are lucky to have them both in the region.

DeFazio’s is a small place with just a few booths and a couple of tables. We were planning to go there with eight people. But I was told to simply call and let them know we would be coming, and they would reserve a table. I was skeptical, but I made the call anyway. And there when I walked in at six o’clock was indeed a table set up for the eight of us.

Wow.

And just in case you were wondering, I didn’t throw around any names. I was simply an anonymous caller who wanted to come in for dinner. The other side order of awesome here is that it’s BYOB, so we came with beer in tow.

Since the tournament finals, I had my heart set on a DeFazio’s pizza with those juicy and salty whole kalamata olives. Unfortunately, the kalamatas that came on our pizza were chopped, and just didn’t deliver the same thrill as those on the tournament pie. Perhaps the answer in the future is to specify whole kalamata olives. Live and learn.

That said, the pies were amazing. The crust is just so much lighter when it is piping hot and fresh from the oven. During the tournament I recall appreciating the quality of ingredients used on DeFazio’s pizzas, but being put off by the heaviness and overbearing nature of the crust. But there in the restaurant, everything worked together much better.

The winner of the night was the eggplant and spinach pie. Holy cow, was that good.

Marino’s in Schenectady has its own parking lot, so you don’t have to worry about looking for street parking on State Street. Compared to DeFazio’s it’s huge inside, but still there are only a handful of tables.

I was excited to see that they do not have wings on the menu. However, I was less excited to learn that the only beer on tap was Coors Light. That just seems so wrong. Drinking light beer with pizza is like drinking diet soda with barbecue. But I digress.

Since Mrs. Fussy can’t stand onions, we ordered the pizza with just sausage and peppers. Without a doubt, it was a tasty pie. And memory has a way of playing tricks on you. But I remember the sausage being crustier, the peppers being juicier, and the end crust being a bit yeastier. Perhaps they took a bit of extra care with the tournament pie compared to one of the countless pizzas cranked out on a busy Monday night. That would be understandable.

Or could it be that Marino’s pizza actually improves in transit? It does have a thicker bottom crust that can better withstand the rigors of a cardboard box. And a bit of steam after the fact could explain the juiciness of the peppers. Clearly more research is needed.

Regardless, it’s still fun to eat the pizza at the source in this old-time pizza parlor.

Naturally the problem of going to the source is that you can no longer directly compare two very different pizzas back to back. I stand by the judge’s assessment back at the 2010 Tournament of Pizza that of the two pizzas presented Marino’s was the best. However, DeFazio’s eggplant and spinach was a stunner, and eating it on their original crust moments after coming out of the oven was fantastic.

I’d even go so far as to say it was more fantastic than the Marino’s pizza.

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One year ago today: My Favorite Burger

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 10, 2011 10:07 am

    There’s more than one kind of Fudge Fancies? I thought there was just the original, the ones from Vanilla Bean (now Cookie Factory).

    We should totally do a cupcake-off — one location would be fine, you’re right. Maybe just chocolate/chocolate and vanilla/vanilla? Or add in a third flavor for variety? (I saw a site that did a cupcake-off for NYC, and they did four categories: chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and specialty.)

  2. Scott Bakula permalink
    May 10, 2011 10:07 am

    She doesn’t like onions? Have you been educating her on this to correct this problem?

    After all – it’s a matter of fact what foods are good and how all food should be prepared and we should all bow down before you and your vast knowledge.

    Give me a break.

    • May 10, 2011 10:25 am

      No, she doesn’t like onions.
      Yes, I have been working very closely with her on this.
      I’m pleased to say that we’ve been making progress.

      Thank you for your concern.

  3. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    May 10, 2011 11:21 am

    I think some people have a genetically-based attitude toward green peppers, rather like the demonstrated aversion to/love of cilantro. I hate green peppers! For me, they overwhelm other flavors and absolutely ruin a pizza for me.

  4. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    May 10, 2011 11:21 am

    Please excuse the redundant “for me.”

  5. Ellen Whitby permalink
    May 10, 2011 9:36 pm

    I’m a bit sorry to see that today’s post had nothing to do with IsraeliIndependence Day, which we celebrated today. They do have pizza in Israel – some of it actually good – but they specialize in the beloved falafel, which may even be Israel’s national food. It would be nice to hear a few words from you about that.

    Looking forward to it.

    Happy Independence Day!

  6. Kizzi permalink
    May 11, 2011 2:21 pm

    Eggplant and spinach is my pizza of choice at DeFazio’s. The eggplant just melts in your mouth, and the spinach has nice heat. It’s one way I can always be sure my son and husband will eat their greens.

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