I spent the day pacing myself so I could be ready for the Tournament Semi-Finals. Four shops each submitting two pizzas meant 8 slices per judge. Basically an entire large pizza. I started the day with a yogurt and banana. Had a peanut butter and jelly from Stewarts for lunch and then nothing else until the judging started around 6:30. Many thanks to the people at Keeler Mini for hosting and sponsoring these semi finals.
This tasting was kind of a sensory overload for me. Out of the 8 pizzas sampled, only two were similar so there were 7 very different kinds of pizza to eat. I think my note taking suffered during this tasting as I was trying to wrap my head around how much different the to-go pizzas were from the in-store pizzas. And there was just so much pizza. I didn’t step on a scale the morning after this tasting. Ignorance is bliss.
The four semi finalists were asked to submit a pizza they considered to be a “classic” and another they considered “spicy.” We started with four slices of classic.
5th and 50 Classic: Greek Pizza
The pie was cooked on a screen (the only shop in the finals using one) and my slice didn’t have a rim that easily pulled off. Maybe they roll the rim of the pie over itself. The crust was nicely browned on the top and bottom but a little oily toward the center of the pie. I though the crust was bready and tough by itself but worked with the pizza. A significant improvement, in my opinion, over their Round 1 pizzas. It was a white pizza so there wasn’t really a sauce. As with the white broccoli pie, judges used the flavors and extra cheese for the sauce score. The feta was fairly mild. Nothing wrong with that, I’m not sure a strong feta would have worked well on this pie. The feta was combined with diced bits of ham, or maybe mild bacon or maybe Canadian bacon. I’m not sure which it was and while that is a little unsettling the flavor combined with the tomato pieces was good. Not a great slice, but certainly not a bad one.
5th and 50 Classic
Crust:3, Sauce:3, Toppings:3, Overall Taste:6, Total:15.
Marino’s Classic: Margherita Pizza
This was the slice where the difference between eating in the store and getting takeout hit me. The crust that I had really enjoyed in Round 1 still had good flavor but was tougher to chew. The color on the crust was nicely browned but the toasty notes seemed to have gotten lost in transit. The sauce though…I think this sauce was the best thing we tasted all night. Really good tomato flavor with delicious chucks of tomato spread out over the slice. What brand of tomatoes are they using? The cheese had a nice flavor but it was a little tough/stringy. I’m not sure there is any way around that with a fresher style of mozzarella being transported. While still a good slice here, this would be great ordered and eaten at the restaurant.
Crust:3, Sauce:5, Toppings:3, Overall Taste:6, Total:17.
Marissa’s Classic: Margherita Pizza
I don’t know how they did it, but the crust on the Marissa’s Margherita travel better than the others. Definitely had more chew that when we were in the store but it never got that cardboard-y texture some pizza crusts get as the cool off. There was a very thin coating of sauce on the pizza but the tomatoes on the slice, while not looking like they would taste good, did taste good and really perked up the flavor on the slice. The freshly shredded basil was nice too. The fresher mozzarella had browned in spots and became like the Marino’s pie became tough/stringy but the flavor was nice. This slice tasted a lot better than it looked.
Crust:4, Sauce:3, Toppings:4, Overall Taste:7, Total:18.
Defazio’s Classic: Sausage with Peppers and Onions Pizza
The crust had good color and a little bit of char on the bottom. Once again, the impact of travel on the crust was clear. This crust would have clearly been better in the shop. The sauce had a good tomato flavor. The cheese was tender, flavorful/salty, and I still want to know the brand. The sausage was also good and well seasoned. It had much less of that paprika flavor that we had on their sausage pie in Round 1. Green peppers aren’t my favorite (they aren’t ripe) and this pie had a strong green pepper flavor to it, but it worked.
Crust:4, Sauce:3, Toppings:4, Overall Taste:6, Total:17.
After the classic round of the Final Four, I had this scored as pretty much a dead heat. In my mind at this point in the tasting, any of the shops could make it to the Finals. There was a little bit more spread when all of the judges scores were counted, but it is still anyone's round to win. The All Over Albany summary of the classic round is here. While the judges and I may differ on opinion here and there, one thing that stands out from looking at the summary is the score for the Marino's Margherita. Their sauce scored a perfect 20, 5 out 5 from each judge. It was really good.