Thursday, October 2, 2014

TOP Round 1: I Love vs. DeFazio's

I have no idea if there are still tickets available, but if you are interested in being a pizza judge, follow this link to see if you can still get a now FREE ticket to the AOA Tournament of Pizza Championship.  This is going online a little late. The official results for this pizza battle went up yesterday.

DeFazio’s in Troy
Before becoming a judge, I was a tournament spectator that would download the spreadsheet of scores and make up my own statistics. Yeah, this pizza obsession isn’t healthy. Anyhow, a score somewhere in the low 70s seems to be the imaginary line in the sand the separates eh pizza from pizza worth seeking out. One of the stats I remember from looking over all the Tournament scores was that DeFazio’s had submitted the most pizzas with scores of 70 or higher in the tournament. Not too shabby.

Now DeFazio’s had a little bit of an advantage over all the other pizza shops - the group of tournament judges were recognized (and proudly shown pictures of a newly born but still unnamed granddaughter) before the pizza order was placed. I’m not sure if that helped or hurt (and my guess is that everyone that came into the shop that day saw pictures of the family’s newest addition), but when the pizza came out of the oven, they knew it was going to be judged. They also timed the delivery of the two pizzas to table a few minutes apart so both were fresh from the oven.

First up was the sausage pizza. No screen was used, the crust was nicely darkened, there was some char and the crust had good flavor. There were also a few crust bubbles. For the most part, the crust supported the weight of the slice, but the tip of the slice drooped so you had to be quick with the first bite. The sauce had a nice tomato flavor and there was the right amount of it on the slice - not too much, not too little. The sausage was seasoned all the way through and well distributed across the pizza but it wasn’t a standard salt/pepper/fennel Italian sausage. There was another flavor, paprika I believe, that might not be everyone’s favorite. The cheese on the slice was also really tasty and I’m curious about which brand it is. All-in-all, a very good slice that was better than my last visit to DeFazio’s when I ordered the same pizza.

Sausage Pie
Crust:5, Sauce:4, Toppings:4, Overall Taste:8 for a total of 21 points.

Moving on to the broccoli-ricotta pizza, I thought the crust was pretty much the same in appearance and flavor as the sausage pizza. The ricotta was very smooth and creamy. There was a nice garlic flavor to the slice. The garlic was there, but not overpowering. The broccoli was diced and spread nicely around the pizza but tasted like it had been frozen. This pizza also had the same, delicious mozzarella in the mix. It was a very good broccoli pie.

Broccoli Pie
Crust:5, Sauce:4, Toppings:3, Overall Taste:7 for a total of 19 points.

I Love
Where DeFazio’s may have had a slight advantage in recognizing us, I Love might have had a slight disadvantage in hosting a small crowd. Seating in the shop is limited. The broccoli pizza came out first and I think the sausage was ready at the same time, but there was no place to put it. So it sat in the back until we were mostly done with the broccoli pie. By the time the sausage pizza got to us, it was like we had ordered it to go and drove it home. It might have actually fared better in a cardboard box than waiting on a metal tray. Since the broccoli pizza came out first, this is in a different order than the rest of the Round 1 write ups.

The crust on the broccoli pizza was a little pale on top and light brown on the bottom. No screen was used. There was just a little, not a lot, of uncooked flour taste and the crust was crisp. The ricotta was smooth but seasoned with a ton of black pepper - to the point of almost being spicy. The mozzarella had good flavor and pulled into strings when you took a bite. The broccoli had been frozen and was cut into florets and there was a nice background of garlic to the slice.

Broccoli Pie
Crust:2, Sauce:3, Toppings:3, Overall Taste:4 for a total of 12 points.

The sausage pie had a crust with a little bit more browning and none of the raw flour taste. No screen was used and because the pizza sat a little while, there was a definite chew to the crust. The slice lacked any crispiness. The sauce was very sweet. Really, really sweet. The sausage was sliced rounds that had nice flavor but some toughness when chewed. The colder cheese had gelled up and lost all of the great stringy qualities that were on the broccoli slice.

Sausage Pie
Crust:2, Sauce:2, Toppings:2, Overall Taste:6 for a total of 12 points.

I’d argue that the pizza we sampled at DeFazio’s was much better than I Love and my scorecard clearly shows that (40 to 24). Looking at the total scores from all the judges for DeFazio’s I gave the sausage pie 21 out of its 85 points (25%) and the broccoli pie 19 out its 81 points (23%). At I Love I gave the sausage pie 12 of its 54 points (22%) and the broccoli pie 12 of its 46 points (26%). In a completely unscientific way, it would appear that the judges and I are in near pretty close agreement with this match up.

Round 1: Troy Wrap Up
Maybe I have a little bit of bias since DeFazio’s is the closest I’ve found to my ideal pizza in the area. I think the final tale of the tape in this match up can be told by the leftovers. The pizzas at I Love were a little larger than DeFazio’s, but a quarter of each pizza was leftover. Nothing was leftover at DeFazio’s. When put head to head, I think I would always prefer a pizza from DeFazio’s to I Love but the two shops appear to be targeting different audiences. DeFazio’s doesn’t sell slices and I Love looks to cater to a late night bar crowd long after DeFazio’s closes for the night. So, if you are looking for a 1 am slice (and ok with really sweet sauce), I Love will do the trick. And maybe a quick reheat helps out the crust too. If you are just into the pizza, I’d head up the road to DeFazio’s.

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