TOP 2010: Round 1: Albany

TOP2010 RD1 Albany

The final stop in the opening of the Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union, in Albany. The matchups in this cheese-tastic round:

The Fountain vs. Paesan's Guilderland

Lou-Bea's vs. Pasquale's

There are some serious favorites in this bracket. And Pasquale's is the two-time defending TOP champ. But it's all about the pizzas you turn out now.

Let's eat some pizza!

sunmark pizza banner

TOP2010 RD1 Albany judging

A quick note about how all this works: The four judges -- Renee, Albany Jane, Joe and Daniel B -- taste the pizza blind. That is, they don't know which pizza they're tasting during judging. They taste the competitors side by side. The scoring is on a 100 point scale -- each judge represents a quarter of those possible points.

The Fountain vs. Paesan's Guiderland

The Fountain Paesan's
Crust 11 10
Sauce 12 17
Toppings 10 15
Overall taste 25 28
Totals 58 70

Post game:

This was a closer contest than the final score might suggest. The Fountain's "almost pastry-like" crust scored a narrow victory. And the judges seemed to enjoy the slice overall -- with one calling it "really tasty."

But Paesan's sauce and cheese were too much for The Fountain. The judges called the Guilderland shop's sauce "refreshing," "tangy" and "used judiciously." They also applauded the "beautiful golden color" of the "flavorful" cheese that they said formed a great combination with the sauce. The panel did have one complaint with Paesan's pie: the crust, which they said was not cooked as much as they would like.

Lou-Bea's vs. Pasquale's

Lou-Bea's Pasquale's
Crust 7 11
Sauce 8 18
Toppings 8 13
Overall taste 15 26
Totals 38 68

Post game:

A lot of this comes down a matter of preference and Lou-Bea's might just have run against the tastes of the judges in this one. The Delaware Ave shop is known for the garlic powder on its crust -- but the judges were not fans. The judges said it was too much and one described the flavor as "bitter." It's hard to make up points after that. Though it should be noted that Lou-Bea's did score a narrow victory on one of the judge's cards.

Pasquale's posted an OK score, but the judges weren't swooning. As in past years, they enjoyed the crunch of the champ's cornmeal crust -- but they complained about it not being cooked enough. But Pasquale's sauce scored big points with the "brightness" of its fresh basil and fresh-tasting tomatoes. One judge called the sauce "simply magnificent."

Up next

Round 2 could be very interesting in this bracket. Paesan's had a higher overall score than Pasquale's in the opening round. Could an upset of the champ be ahead?

Next week: Round 2 of the the Tournament of Pizza, AKA the Sausage Round.

+ Results from Round 1 in the Troy bracket
+ Results from Round 1 in the Schenectady bracket
+ Results from Round 1 in the Saratoga bracket

The 2010 Tournament of Pizza is sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union, which now offers banking from mobile devices. They even have an app for iPhones and Android phones.


Aw, I was pullin' for Lou-Bea's. They got a tough matchup being pitted against the reigning two-time champs, but that low score would have been tough to get past anyone. Their story isn't able to overcome their taste in a blind test.

The Fountain scored better than I would have expected: a 9-point improvement over their score in the 2009 tournament. It didn't help them advance any further than last year, but still, good for them!

The New York-style pizza remains king to these judges, and the two Albany joints truest to the style will make for a very interesting second round.

I'm glad Pasquale's (predictably) won. Again. It means I won't have to wait as long for pizza from Lou-Bea's.

I know looks aren't everything, but Paesan's pizza in the header image looks perfect! It's like the pizza that cartoon pizzas were modeled after ;)

You've really gotta do a restaurant style tournament and then a pizzeria style tournament. Two totally different styles of pizza.

One question I have: Do these places know you're ordering for the tournament or do you just walk in and order one anonymously (Well, pizza-anonymously)? I mean, of course these pizzas are going to be made perfectly if they know it's for an online competition. Consistency is a huge part of how people form their opinions on food. Paesan's I just don't get, tastes different every time I have it.

Lastly, I don't ever want my sauce to be "tangy". Anyone else agree?

End rant.

@Save Pine Hills: We order anonymously (more or less, I guess they could pull our names from caller ID, but I really doubt anyone's going to that length) and pick up the pizzas up ourselves. On rare occasions (because of some logistical issue), we'll walk in and order the pizza to go -- but again, we're just a person showing up to get some pizza. The only time the pizzerias know that they're making pizzas for the competition is in finals, when we tell them -- because they get to pick which type of pizza they're going to enter.

@Save Pine Hills - I *always* want my pizza sauce to be tangy. Tossed, thin crust, tangy sauce (with oregano!), 8-cut pie. If it's not "New York style," it's not pizza to me, it's just bread with cheese and sauce. It may taste good on it's own merits, but it's not pizza.

This is just my opinion, though, and I know many others who do not share it.

Burnt garlic is a bitter flavor, that shouldn't be a surprise... I cannot fathom why a pizza parlor would want to encourage such a flavor, but sprinkling garlic powder on it's crust is a sure-fire way to ruin a pie.

@AC--- have you ever tried Lou-Beas? The garlic crust is the reason why people love it so much. It's not for everybody, but a lot of people love it.

How was Marisa's of guilderland left out. They have great pizza. Is there any real knowledge of what good pizza is here?

@pizza fan: Marisa's was in last year's tournament. They did very well -- but ended up losing in the second round to Pasquale's, who went on to win the whole thing.

Marisa's wasn't voted back into this year's tournament. We'd be happy to have them back in the future, though -- they make quality pizza.

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