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The Pizza Game

August 30, 2018

I have food dreams. Quite literally. Last night I dreamt that Emily L and I were at a small specialty meat market waiting for their pork delivery. We heard good things. And when the pork came in it looked amazing. However, they wanted $30 a pound for the stuff, and we both thought that was far too precious.

Maybe that was a food nightmare.

The Pizza Game was the other kind of food dream. You know, a big idea, that requires organizing a lot of people around a singular task. The seed of this idea was planted over a year ago when I helped to organize a vegetarian pizza night at DeFazio’s. We tried a lot of different pizzas, but I wanted to try more.

How could I maximize the number of different pizzas one could sample over the course of a night? Well, the first step was eliminating anything that wasn’t pizza. Bye bye salads. See ya later dessert. The next step involved a little bit of math.

Did you know DeFazio’s has a private dining room for large parties? It does. They set up a long table in the deli, and it’s fantastic. The downside is that it can only hold 24 people. Last year, this Troy institution opened up the back patio, which can fit over 70 people. And last night I got to experience it for the very first time.

Despite the heat, I really did enjoy eating pizza al fresco. The beers from Brown’s Brewing Co. helped. As did copious amounts of water.

While the back patio is large, I needed this even to go off rain or shine. So I planned for a maximum of 24 people, just in case the skies opened up and we had to escape into the deli.

So, how many pizzas can 24 people reasonably eat?

The answer is twelve. That comes to half a pizza per person. Which is a lot, to be sure. But spread out over two hours? I had faith that my friends in the Yelp community would be able to tackle such a challenge. Certainly my food blog and pizza judging friends could do it.

Here comes a little math. A large pie has eight slices. Half a pie is four slices. But at DeFazio’s, if you ask nicely, they will double cut the large pies to provide sixteen party-sized slivers of pizza. And that means everyone could try a maximum of eight different pies.

Bear with me for the last bit of math here.

If you put three different double-cut pies on the table, you’ve got exactly 48 party-sized slices to go around. With 24 people, that’s two per person. And if you do this four times, that’s twelve pizzas. So at the end, everyone will have consumed half a pizza.

Ooh. But the fun is just beginning.

That means each round, every participant is going to have to make a hard choice. One of the pizzas is going to be left behind. However, every person will make different choices. Will they choose their favorites? Or will they use this as an opportunity to try something new? Whatever criteria people used, each player has three different potential outcomes per round. Because one of the rules is that you have to take two different slices per round.

I’ll spare you the math, but that means there are potentially 81 different outcomes.

Perhaps even more fun than playing The Pizza Game was deciding which pizzas should be included in the twelve. And then from there, it was important to make sure the flavors built from round to round. Plus, within each round, there needed to be sufficient differentiation between the pies.

Here’s how it broke down. I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details of how many times I swapped out pies and rearranged the order. Because I was pretty happy with how this worked out, with one minor quibble.

We started with the fresh mozzarella pizza; the Capriccio pizza with prosciutto, mushrooms, and olives; and the eggplant florentine pizza with seasoned eggplant and spinach. All the flavors were delicate, by design. I didn’t want the grace of these pies to get drowned out by the bigger flavors of some of my other favorites on the menu

Round two was still in the realm of delicate flavors, but kicked up a notch. We had the pesto pizza, the bolognese pizza, and the Greek pizza. As a side note, in the AOA Tournament of Pizza I found myself voting against the bolognese when it was put up against something more assertive, but it’s a great pie when given the room to express itself.

Round three got intense with the smoked mozzarella pizza with roasted red peppers and red onions; the fra diavolo pizza with hot sausage and hot chopped peppers; and the broccoli, ricotta, and garlic pizza with DeFazio’s house made ricotta. Matt gave us his new version of this pie which brushes the crust with a house made garlic butter too. The sixteen people who tried it really loved it.

The final round brought spicy, briny, and funky flavors to the table. It consisted of the buffalo chicken pizza; the four cheese pizza, which includes gorgonzola in the blend; and the puttanesca pizza, with the addition of hot chopped pepper on top of the artichokes, mushrooms, olives, and capers which typically come on the pie.

This was my first time doing this, and I may have made a mistake including two pies with gorgonzola cheese in the final round. Perhaps, in retrospect, the buffalo chicken could have gone in round three, and the fra diavolo in round four.

But live and learn.

I had a great time, and I learned a lot about DeFazio’s, got to try the newest thing from Brown’s, and made my pizza dream come true with the Yelp community. Now, here’s the question. Would you like to play? Because while this event was totally free for the Yelp Elites who made the guest list, it would be totally doable to pull off on your own.

Just don’t forget to send me an invitation. And if you want copies of The Pizza Game scorecard, I can send you a PDF. Some pictures of the event are already up here, but more will be coming soon.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. B. Maggi permalink
    August 30, 2018 11:52 am

    I woke up this morning with hazy memories of eating a lot of great pizza, drinking a bit of wonderful beer, playing many card games with friends, immense amounts of laughter and insightful conversations, and and then walking down a dark, narrow alley to my car. This sounds more like a heavenly dream or the opening chapter of a great mystery novel then reality. Were it not for the email below, I would be hard pressed to admit that it wasn’t just a fantastical dream.

    Thank you for a most wonderful evening. It was absolutely terrific, and I am glad to have been able to partake in your pizza madness. I am positive my wife enjoyed it too.

  2. Ewan permalink
    August 30, 2018 3:03 pm

    Even better: accompanied by both card (Egyptian Rat Screw!) and dice (Liars’ dice) games. And the new Brown NEIPA was excellent – thanks, folks.

  3. MattC permalink
    August 30, 2018 5:37 pm

    Great idea, I loved just reading it and think how it would be amazing to sample that many DeFazio pizzas in one evening. Genius.

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