TOP 2010: The Final

TOP2010 the final

It's time for the match we've all been waiting for: the final of the 2010 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union. We have quite an impressive pair of competitors in this final matchup:

Troy champ DeFazio's vs. Schenectady champ Marino's

First, how we got here. DeFazio's edged out Nunzio's 62-59 and Marino's ended Pasquale's incredible run with a 69-66 victory.

Unlike in previous rounds, the two pizzerias get to pick the pies they enter in the final. Steve visited the two shops this week and their choices look great:

A whole-wheat crust pizza with spinach, sausage, kalamata olives, roasted red pepper pesto, fresh mozzarella and Pecorino Romano cheese.

A classic pizza with sausage, peppers and onions.

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 in every round... except this final. Because the two pizzerias' choice were known ahead of time, the judges knew which which pizza belonged to each shop. As usual, they tasted the competitors side by side. The scoring is on a 100 point scale -- each judge represents a quarter of those possible points.

TOP2010 Final DeFazios alt view

TOP2010 Final Marinos alt view

DeFazio's vs. Marino's

DeFazio's Marino's
Crust 14 15
Sauce 13 14
Toppings 13 17
Overall taste 28 33
Totals 68 79

Post game:

There was a lot of excitement leading up to this tasting because of the choices made by the two pizzerias. And the offerings did not disappoint.


DeFazio's choice to go with a whole-wheat crust was a gutsy move -- and the judges were generally positive about the change of pace. They said the Troy shop's crust was "nice and crisp on the bottom and outer edge" and commented that it supported all the toppings the well. Their one complaint: multiple judges said the crust was a bit too thick and heavy for their liking. Marino's classic crust scored well again -- the judges said it had a "nice crunchy edge" and a "nice sweetness." They did note it seemed to be a touch undercooked.


The judges called DeFazio's sauce "delicious," with a rich, peppery flavor. But Marino's again edged a slight victory in the category with a sauce the judges said was "salty" and "bright." Commented one judge of the State Street shop's sauce: it "picked up a nice sweetness from the peppers and a [good] greasiness from the sausage."


This category sealed the win for Marino's. The judges raved about DeFazio's olives and spinach. And they said the sausage was tender, though it got a little lost. They also said the pesto didn't register as much as they might have liked. The judges really grooved on Marino's sausage and peppers combo. Wrote one judge of the toppings: "love how crusty the sausage is and the juiciness of the sauteed peppers." Another commented that the sausage registered with a lot of flavor and really paired well with the peppers.

DeFazio's prepared a very good pizza for this match-up, with some standout flavors. They deserve a big round of applause.

But Marino's straightforward approach was just too much. Its 79 ties it for the second-highest score in the history of the TOP. Said one judge of the sausage and pepper combination: "This is a classic for a reason ... everything [on this pizza] works hard and everything works well."

Congratulations to Marino's, the champion of the 2010 Tournament of Pizza!


Many thanks to Renée, Albany Jane, Joe and Daniel B for judging this year's competition. They take their job very seriously -- and they're a lot of fun to be around.

Big thanks also to the Times Union's Steve Barnes for joining in on the fun this year. Steve went a a remarkable 12-14 on his picks. We also very much appreciate Jennifer Gish's help with the video visit to the shops.

Thanks also the great venues that shared their space for tasting this year -- Spring Street Gallery in Saratoga, Anthology Design Studio in Schenectady and EMPAC at RPI.

And thank you to Sunmark Federal Credit UnionSunmark Federal Credit Union for its continued support of the Tournament of Pizza.

+ Results from the semi-finals
+ 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.


Both of these pies seem amazing. I'm sure the judges did not take lightly to this challenge...

Speaking of judging, now that the 2010 Tournament of Pizza is all said and done, I'm officially starting my campaigning to get on the judging panel in 2011. derryX in '11!!!!

Better check your math if Mario's won the sauce category like you described.

Thanks for doing this! I'm sorry the Troy shop didn't win, but all of their pizza looks awesome. And Mario's is pretty close to work - I definitely have some new places to try!

Editors: thanks for catching that. We just transferred the numbers incorrectly. Fixed.

Hurray! I was pulling for Marinos and I'm so glad they won! They make a mean pie!!

I totally have to disagree with the judges. An undercooked (or overcooked) pizza should be an automatic big fat loser! No Pizzeria should ever over or undercook their pizza!!! It's embarrassing! AUTOMATIC DISQUALIFICATION!!!

It appears where DeFazio's went wrong is they tried to cook a gourmet pizza for judges who clearly wanted a plain old pizza. If someone from the Food Network judged, I think the results would have been drastically different. They should have gotten extra points for being so bold and creative!

To the contest judges - next year, you should order the same pizza...just like you did in each of the earlier rounds. And then allow each pizzeria to make a second pie any way they want. Score the pies that are the same as you did throughout the contest and then score "their pick" as an overall taste only. That to me sounds more fair. Also you should have 8 judges - there are usually 8 slices in a pie.

I couldn't agree more with ...well, EVERYTHING "2011 Judge...please?!!" said about the contest. The final round shouldn't be comparing apples to oranges.

DeFazio's specialty pizzas are gourmet masterpieces, my two favorites being the goat cheese (minus the olives ... i HATE olives) and the chicken pineapple fra diavolo. It's quite possible that w/o DeFazio's, I wouldn't be so madly in love w/ Troy.

That said, if I'm ever in Schenectady looking for a pizza, I'd definitely like to try Marino's, it looks amazing. I just hope the crust isn't undercooked.

I've never had Marino's, so I'm totally biased, but DeFazio's was robbed!

I've been a Marino's customer for over 30 years. He has the best pizza ever. His other offerings on his menu are fabulous too. My favorite menu items are the eggplant parm and small antipasto. This meal is enough for two and I'm not a small girl. When you split it and tell them, they bring out the portions in separate plates, which is great.

Well done and well deserved! Congrats Mario! I have been a customer for over 34 yrs. and i look forward to another 34!

To Kathy and other Marino's fans: I tried the winning pizza last night. I figured I would give props where props are due. Here is my post that is on Steve Barnes TU blog:

"I have been following the “tournament” and I will readily admit that I am a fan of DeFazio’s. That being said, I am always up for a great pizza, so I decided to head over to Marino’s for a taste of their winning pizza! The toppings were excellent. I was very skeptical about the raw sausage-I don’t like my meat to moo at me! But I put the thought of raw meat out of my mind and gave it a try… And I was pleasantly surprised! It had a great flavor! The cheese was very good and the sauteed peppers and onions had a great flavor, too. But then I got to the sauce. It just tasted like tomatoes to me. No flavor at all. I even took a finger swipe from another piece… still nothing more than tomatoes. Where are the spices?! And did anyone notice that I had to take a finger swipe from another slice?? That’s because there was barely any sauce on some of the slices. Now on to the crust – Unfortunately my crust was bland and burned on the top of a couple of the slices. I have to say that I was ready to give props to the winner, but I was disappointed in their pizza. I don’t get what the judges saw in it. It was just a regular pizza…nothing more. The kind you can get from almost any pizzeria in this area. I will definitely stay across the river. Only gourmet wood fired pizzas for me!"

And Kathy- We also happened to get an Eggplant Parm sub for my daughter. It was NOT good. Again, there was barely any sauce and the sauce that was there tasted like plain old tomatoes. And I almost wonder if they didn't use frozen eggplant. It just didn't have that homemade Italian taste. As a matter of fact I just went and took a bite of the leftover and it has a really bizzare smokey taste to it. YUCK. It's very strange to me that people are so over the moon about this pizzeria. I highly suggest that you head over the river to Troy and try a gourmet pizza. And if you want to stick to your stompin' grounds, then try Homestyle on Union. They are WAY BETTER than Marino's! Homestyle has a Portabello Pizza and a Garlic and Tomato Pizza that are to DIE for!

Wait...raw sausage? Please explain. It doesn't look raw in the photo.

Also: Raw Sausage is the name of my new band.

Kerosena, watch Steve Barnes' video where he visits the two shops. Marino's puts blobs of raw sausage on their pizza before baking. Presumably it gets cooked enough to be safe to eat. But it seems like it would make for a very greasy pizza.

Congrats to Marino's. I have been saying for years that they have some of the best pizza in the area. Now they have proven it.

@Heather check your directions. I don't think you were at Marino's! Also I live around the corner from Homestyle Pizza I have eaten it MANY times, it is good pizza but NOTHING compared to Marino's. I actually drive across town to get Marino's take out, when I could just have Homestyle deliver.

@Amy The pizza is not greasy at all its amazing. The sausage is actually one of the stars with their pizza.

Also check out their Sicilian pizza its just as good as the NY style

I've been a long time Marino's fan. So excited for a Sch'dy win!!

How can you have a pizza contest w/o Little Anthony's on Central or PJ's on Ontario?

@Brian: Little Anthony's was in TOP 2009, but didn't get voted back in this year.

As for PJ's... we're always looking for new candidates...

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