The Tournament of Pizza

16 pizzas

A whole lot of pizza is going to be eaten.

It seems like there's pizza a place on every other corner in the Capital Region. And for every one of those pizzerias, there are probably about 20 opinions about which one is the best. Pizza everywhere x 20 = a whole lot of talk about pizza.

Well, we can talk about which place in the Capital Region has the best pizza, or we can actually do something about it (mainly, eat a bunch of pizza). We've chosen the latter. So let us introduce the Capital Region Tournament of Pizza.

What, you may ask, is the Tournament of Pizza?

Well, it's a tournament. Of pizza. Here's how it works...

AOA has picked sixteen pizzerias from around the Capital Region and placed them in four brackets: Saratoga, Schenectady, Troy and Albany. (Only 16? Yep, a lot were left out -- we had to draw the line somewhere. You're welcome to disagree in the comments, of course.) These pizzerias will "play" each other in a series of "matches" to deterimine the region's best pizza. It's kind of like the NCAA basketball tournament, but, you know, for pizza.

How do we determine winners? We have panel of three judges (more on them tomorrow) who will the taste the pizzas in a blind side-by-side comparison and vote for the one they like the best. Each round will have a different theme. Round 1 is plain cheese, Round 2 is pepperoni, and so on.

Check out the bracket for the whole tournament.

Here's how the brackets shape up for Round 1:

Saratoga Bracket

Marino's vs. D'Andrea's

Broadway Pizza vs. Caputo's

Schenectady Bracket

Scotti's vs. Home Style

Fireside vs. Pizza King

Troy Bracket

DeFazio's vs. Red Front

I Love NY vs. Knotty Pine

Albany Bracket

Paesan's vs. Pasquale's

Sovrana vs. Inferno

Round 1 starts tomorrow with the Saratoga Bracket.

Anyone care to handicap this competition?


I'm calling Red Front as the winner of the Troy bracket, and probably Paesan's for Albany (though I'm not as sure of that one).

An interesting side-experiment would be to have a "leftover pizza tournament." I would think that you're going to have a lot of leftover pizza, and it would be interesting to rate it on the basis of how it reheats vs how it was fresh. Also useful information, for, say, the couple that has the same pizza two nights in a row. No additional cost.

It is almost cruel and unusual that you would post all those delicious looking pizzas with an hour left in the work day. I am starving and you just had to post deliciousness. I was looking forward to my taco night but now I think I'm going to propose Paesan's. And fight tooth and nail for it.

What a great idea

I think you should name it the Metro Memorial Slice-Off, in remembrance of the pizzeria non pareil, Metro Pizza on Western in Albany.

Not a day goes by when I don't long for one of their baked potato or shrimp scampi slices...

I'm rooting for Pasquale's. They kick Paesan's butt!

Defazio's has got to win in troy; the only way that it may not is if it got matched up against I Love's chicken marsala slice. However, if one had to eat two of I Love's chicken marsala slices, they'd die of heart failure, so I guess Defazio's has got that goin for them.

Go Pasquale's and Inferno!

This can be the Albany "pizzeria" contest but you should maybe do one for "best pizza period" as many area restaurants (Purple Pub, The Orchard Tavern, Red Front) have pizza that blow these places out of the water.

If I had to pick out of that Albany grouping...I'd go Sovrana with Paesans in a close second.

I'm gonna pull a Slashdot and complain about missing poll options. Surprisingly, Latham has plenty of tasty pizza options, with Dom's and Little Bites topping the list, IMO.

I'm biased on the Schenectady front, I grew up on Fireside pizza. Mom was an RN at St Clares around the corner, and once every week or two she'd bring a sausage and mushroom pie home as a treat. Mushrooms are mushrooms and I don't think you'll find that much difference from one pizza place to another assuming they use fresh and not canned, but for sausage the Fireside uses the locally made Sindoni hot Italian sausage and it's THE BEST!

It's kind of weird to think that I've been eating there for over 30 years and almost nothing has changed about the place.

I volunteer to help eat.

Eh... we need to get some serious betting going here. Ill talk to Sal and Christofa, we'll lay out the odds, handle the book, take care of everythink, ok? We cool?

Like sex, there is no such thing as bad pizza.. just different shades of good.

I (heart) AOA. This is an EXCELLENT idea.

And it's making me hungry for pizza- even at 8 in the morning.

I wish you were taking volunteers for judges (..minus the pepperoni round)! I'm gonna go with Alex on this one.. Red Front will take Troy and Paesan's will take Albany. I haven't had a lot of Schenectady's pizza but Fireside is delicious so I'm thinking they'll get it.

What... no little Anthony's??

After making your own homemade pizza, most of those just look... kinda gross. Sorry people.

Yeah, I though that was cultural, but they definitely look gross, not really subtle.
Good look to the judges :)

(that being said it can be the pic too, uncorrected red-push, blah blah blah).

Is the pic in row 2, column 2 Paesans?

Their pies are decent, but I think they overwork their dough and it comes out a little tough. A smallish problem for hot pizza, but a disaster for leftovers.

I'd like to name The Orchard as a write-in candidate.

ok ok ok. what?? I mean..WHAT?? How can you call this a tournament of pizza, when you pick a measly 4 pizzerias? You guys at AOA rock, don't get me wrong. But I gotta say, with regards to this "Tournament" - what the eff. For one thing, you could have easily increased the size of the brackets to, say, 8 in most towns (are your judges actually going to complain about having to eat more pizza??) Good idea, but the execution is lacking.

Round 2 should have the 'burbs face-off: Clifton Park, Latham, Guilderland, East Greenbush!

Mmmmmm.... DeFazio's...

Can the judges be bribed? :-) Perhaps with a donation to WEXT?

Sebastien, you may be right. It must be the hardware. My guess is they're using the new Sony Upchuck 7.1 that makes every photo look like crocodile vomit.

It would probably be more efficient to just buy a jar of spaghetti-o's, toss it on the cardboard box the pizzas come in, then melt styrofoam on top. I doubt they would taste much different.

I would have I Love NY win... buuuut I've only had 3 out of the 16 in the bracket so one could argue that I don't know what I'm talking about :D

Related question: I just moved to downtown Albany close to Dino's Pizza... are they any good?

@Sebsastien and B: Yeah, those aren't the greatest pictures. They were taken with a point-and-shoot in bad light with a flash. Glamour shots they are not.

@Ann Chovi: We hear you. If there's a Second Annual Tournament of Pizza, we'd love to expand it. As it is, the 16 pizza field has been quite the logistical challenge (not to mention a not insignificant cost).

@tomotoe: The TOP judges are of the highest integrity. But you should pledge to EXT anyway -- it's good karma.

@kerosena and Save Pine Hills: Can either one of you explain the appeal of Orchard pizza? We've had it a number of times and found it to be... let's, say... not one of our favorites.

@Tim: You're right, Fireside is seriously old school.

You should include the addresses of these pizza places so we can all play along.

i cannot get enough of that defaz...

Where's PJ 'S pizza in Albany? They make a great pie and I've never gotten a bad one in nine years. This contest is lame u left out some of the best pizza places around.

@chrisck - Here you go:

KML, suitable for Google Earth:

Paste that same URL into the Google Maps search box, to see the map that way. Or, just follow this link for the same thing:

Addresses are in each placemark's balloon, or you can rip them out of the KML

It's easy to compile a map like this. Takes about seven minutes.

1. Login to Google Maps.
2. Copy-paste or type the restaurant name into the Google Maps search box.
3. Don't click `Search Maps` yet. After the name, type [comma] city name [comma] state name. Now click.
4. The correct location is fairly clear. Open its balloon.
5. Choose `Save to My Maps`.
6. Choose `Create a new map`. Give the map a reasonable name. Save.
7. Repeat for each location, adding it to the map you created.

When done, you can choose `Link` to get a shareable URL for the map you just made, and can shortening it with one of the usual services before sharing, or not.

All done.


(Below here is unnecessary silliness. Might interest some.)

If you want to get all fancy-pants and capture the Google Maps KML file and post it somewhere public (as I did, above), there are a few more steps.

8. In Google Maps, choose `Link`. Copy the same "shareable" link as above.
9. Assuming you have Google Earth, start it, and point it at the copied link. There's also a Google Maps option `View in Google Earth` that tries to do the same thing. Works if your system associates KML files with Google Earth. I'm a *NIX guy, so not sure what happens on consumer systems.
10. The pizza map appears in Google Earth, as a "Temporary Place". Right-click on it, in the list at left. Choose `Save Place as`. Google Earth will offer to save a KMZ file. Save it somewhere locally.
11. Open the KMZ file in a text editor. It's just an XML file, plain text. Look for the `href` attribute of the `NetworkLink` element. Copy that URL. (This is so much simpler than it sounds.)
12. Paste that URL into a Web browser. You should be offered a KML file, which you can save, post somewhere, etc. This is the basic data format that Google mapping products consume.

In #12, you may have to decode the URL first, in order to get the KML file in response. In this case, that means changing the _encoded_ ampersands (`&`) in the URL to just `&`. Kinda depends. One or the other will work.

Obviously you can write your own KML in the first place, longhand, and that will work too. Getting any kind of map you want out of Google is remarkably transparent (and free), once you get past the speed bump of looking at your first KML file and seeing how rustic this whole thing is. Seems complex. Ain't.

Madhatter, leaving out your favorite choices doesn't make the contest "lame." If you are the Grammy and Oscar-watching type, do you call those contests (and the results) "lame" if your favorite artists or actor doesn't get nominated (or win)?

They had to narrow down the pool, I'm sure, and this is what they got. They can never please everyone. It's a shame to see readers (you) complain, rather than finding something positive in the contest and looking at the inherent value.

And, YNK, maybe you'll decide to give the winner a try, find out you actually like it (the horror) and end up with a new pizzeria on your speed dial.

Don't resist the unknown, embrace it.

(I love the idea, AOA).

A good way to involve the community (the AOA community, not the larger community as a whole) would have been to ask for suggestions of commenters' favorite joints. I'm sure most of us would be much more interested to see how our favorite spot stacks up against the others.

Jus' sayin'.

Re: the appeal of Orchard pizza

Good question. Here are my thoughts: I've been eating Orchard pizza since I was about 5 years old. It's possible that I love the atmosphere and memories, and that translates to pizza deliciousness for me. Also, I only order the cheese pizza, cooked a little longer than usual so it's crispy. Their pizza does not stand up well to multiple toppings. I dig it, but can see how it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

@Save Pine Hills- can you expand on this?

The Orchard pizza is awesome and I have only been eating it for a few years now. Everything about Orchard pizza makes me happy. Especially the prices of both it and the beer to wash it down with.

The Fountain has good pizza too. Lou-Bea's has a nice garlicky crust.

Not hard to find decent pie in Albany at all. Lucky us!

I just want to echo some of the comments here. You should have let us vote on which pizza establishments would be judged. Is this not a democracy? Why do you hate America? I'm really upset about this, unless of course you feel like hooking me up with a free slice of pizza in which case we should just let bye-gones be bye-gones.

All joking aside, I can invision a couple of years from now when "BEST fill in the blank BY AOA" is an honor right up there with Metroland's best of the capital region. And I just noticed that this browser isn't automatically correcting my spelling like my other browser does, so I just want to remind everyone that I am not 4 years old even though my spelling suggets otherwise. K, thanx.

Re: Orchard Pizza

kerosena: You're right on about ordering it crispy, the middle will get a little mushy with multiple toppings if not ordered that way. I will also say that people either love or hate orchard pizza but like you I grew up on the stuff so I'm a lover.

Greg: So what is it about their pizza that you don't like? I understand that square, personal sized pizza isn't "normal" pizza but its better than most of those greasy pizza shop places. I get the feeling that "not one of our favorites" means you REALLY didn't like it...

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For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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