TOP 2010: The Semi-finals

TOP2010 semi-finals

We have nothing but winners left in the 2010 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union. The semi-finals pit the winners of the four regional brackets against each other. And the competition should be fierce, because all these shops are very worthy contestants. The match-ups:

Troy champ DeFazio's vs. Saratoga champ Nunzio's

Schenectady champ Marino's Flying vs. Albany champ Pasquale's

First, how we got here. DeFazio's charged past I Love 79-63 in the Troy bracket, Nunzio's moved past Cusato's 65-25 in the Saratoga bracket, Marino's Flying topped Pizza King 67-57 in the Schenectady bracket, and Pasquale's zoomed past Paesan's 78-52 in the Albany bracket.

In a twist, we switched out the broccoli ricotta challenge from previous semi-finals for... veggie pizza. Specifically, we ordered pizzas topped with green peppers, onions, mushrooms and black olives.

Let's eat some pizza!

sunmark pizza banner

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.

TOP2010 semi-finals defazios nunzios closeups

DeFazio's vs. Nunzio's

DeFazio's Nunzio's
Crust 13 13
Sauce 12 12
Toppings 14 10
Overall taste 23 24
Totals 62 59

Post game:

Yow, was this thing close. DeFazio's and Nunzio's were tied in both the crust and sauce categories. The judges said both shops were good, but not great there.

So, it came down to the toppings. The judges praised the preparation of DeFazio's mix of raw and cooked veggies. They said the veg was bite-sized, well distributed and worked well with the cheese. The judges were less happy about Nunzio's toppings, calling them "big and raw" and "too clumped together" in a mix that was tipped too much toward the green peppers. They liked the cheese, but said there wasn't enough of it.

And that's what tipped balance ever so slightly in favor of DeFazio's. A point here or there and this match-up would have gone to Nunzio's. Sometimes the TOP is all about the thinnest of margins (or crusts).

Much praise should go to Nunzio's for repeating in the Saratoga bracket. A round of applause for them!

TOP2010 semi-finals marinos pasquales closeups

Marino's Flying vs. Pasquale's

Marino's Pasquale's
Crust 16 17
Sauce 14 17
Toppings 13 9
Overall taste 26 23
Totals 69 66

Post game:

Down goes Pasquale's!!! Down goes Pasquale's!!! The two-time tournament champ finally falls!!!

Holy moly, this was another close one. Pasquale's took the early lead on the strength of its consistently superior crust ("perfectly cooked") and sauce ("lovely" and "so good").

But, like in the first match-up, the contest was decided in the toppings category. The judges praised Pasquale's for using fresh mushrooms and other "nice and crunchy" veggies. But the returning champ's pizza featured big chunks of green pepper -- and the judges weren't buying it. One judge said the pepper chunks were "completely overwhelming and destroy the balance of the slice." And other judgse criticized the way Pasquale's large slices of onions clumped up on the green peppers.

On the other side, Marino's offered a pizza well-covered by veggies that included canned mushrooms and olives, as well as diced onions. The judges praised the size of the veg and the balance among them -- no one topping overpowered the others. Remarked one judge: "the classic veggies prepared right!"

And that's what finally ended Pasquale's run. A huge round of applause for the New Scotland Ave shop. To win 10 match-ups in a row in the Tournament of Pizza is amazing. Pasquale's has set the standard for other pizzerias with their excellence and consistency.

Up next

The big, big final. DeFazio's and Marino's Flying will compete for the 2010 Tournament of Pizza title. And in this final match-up, the pizzerias get to choose which pizza they'd like to enter. Look for a video report from Steve tomorrow about the two shop's choices.

Results from the final will be out Thursday. We can't wait.

+ Steve's semi-finals predictions
+ Results from Round 2 in the Albany bracket
+ Results from Round 2 in the Troy bracket
+ Results from Round 2 in the Schenectady bracket
+ Results from Round 2 in the Saratoga bracket
+ Steve's picks for Round 2
+ Results from Round 1 in the Albany bracket
+ 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.


Congratulations to Victoria of Pasquale's for making it this far. You really do make a great pizza (and the other dishes at the restaurant are fabulous also). We will be placing our weekly order for the extra crispy pie on Friday.

We just had DeFazio's the other night for the first time in ages. My DD wouldn't touch it when she saw the herbs sprinkled on top. 0_o The folks at DeFazio's are in fine form, as always, IMHO.

We've been big fans of Pasquale's since they first opened but I, like the judges in the first round, also have noticed recently that the crust gets terribly soggy in the middle. I've wondered if telling them to hold off on cutting the pizza until I do so at home would help prevent the grease and moisture from attacking the middle, but I never remember to ask when I order. We'll still go back, but I've found that the best way to eat it is the next day, reheated to cripy cheesy goodness in the toaster oven. MMmmm....

The canned mushrooms would be enough for Marino's to lose, if I was judging. Mushrooms are probably my favorite pizza topping, but if the pizzeria uses canned, I won't order them. I think the canned ones are vile. I must really get to DeFazio's to try, though. It looks great and I've heard so many good things.

Yaay! Marino's is going to win it all. Best pizza in the area. Hands down!

Yaay! DeFazio's is going to win it all. Best pizza in the area. Hands down!

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