TOP 2011: Round 2: Albany

TOP2011 RD2 Albany

Albany is the last stop in Round 2 of the 2011 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union. The pizzerias vying for a spot in the sem-finals in this matchup of pepperoni pizzas:

Pizzeria Sapienza (Albany) vs. Marisa's Place (Guilderland)

How we got here: Sapienza and Marisa's separated themselves from the pack with two solid scores -- a 71 and 69, respectively.

This is probably the most even Round 2 matchup of the tournament. Who will prevail? There's only one way to find out...

Let's eat some pizza!

sunmark pizza banner

A quick note about how all this works: The four judges -- Albany Jane, Daniel B, Jerry, and our guest judge -- 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.

Guest judge

Our guest judge for the Albany bracket is once again Noah Sheetz, executive chef at the Governor's Mansion and a member of the Chefs Consortium, a group focused on promoting local food.

TOP2011 RD2 Albany judging

Pizzeria Sapienza vs. Marisa's Place

Sapienza Marisa's
Crust 12 14
Sauce 14 14
Toppings 13 16
Overall taste 27 31
Totals 66 75

Post game

A close match in every category! The difference was in the crust and toppings.

Sapienza's crust was described as being "bready" with a "beautiful" bottom. But a few judges noted some gumminess, and decided it was just a bit too thick for them. In contrast, Marisa's crust was thin -- one judge said it could have used "more lift." But the judges appreciated its crispiness and seasoning.

Both shops offerings had good pepperoni coverage (especially Sapienza) -- the difference was texture and flavor. Sapienza's pepperoni was curled and crispy -- which the judges liked -- but had a mild flavor -- which the judges did not like. Marisa's pepperoni was a bit thicker and didn't crisp as much. But it the judges really liked the "meaty," "zippy," "spicy" pepperoni, which "commingled with the cheese in a delightful way."

The judges liked Sapienza's pie, praising its balance of flavors and textures -- but a few of them just couldn't get past the thickness of the crust. As for Marisa's, one judge concluded "picture perfect" and another, "classic NY pepperoni slice."

So Marisa's advances, with Guilderland carrying the flag for the Albany bracket. Yep, the "city of" is shut out of the finals this year.

Up next

Marisa's takes its very good second score into the semi-finals, where it will face off with 5th and 50 out of the Schenectady bracket.

Next up: semi-final results, next week.

Thank you, thank you

Many thanks to executive chef Noah Sheetz for serving as a judge in the Albany bracket!

+ Results from Round 2 in Troy
+ Results from Round 2 in Schenectady
+ Results from Round 2 in Saratoga.
+ Results from Round 1 in Saratoga.
+ Results from Round 1 in Schenectady.
+ Results from Round 1 in Troy.
+ Results from Round 1 in Albany.

The 2011 Tournament of Pizza is sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union, which is collecting donations for the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York to help Irene recovery efforts.


I'm surprised, judging by the pictures. The Marisa's pizza looks very, very greasy.

Marisa's and DeFazio's are my favorite pizzas in the area (in fairness, have never tried the Saratoga and Schenectady joints), so I'm psyched of the possibility of them facing off in the finals. I'm so excited.

Having said that, have not had Sapienza's, and they deliver to my neighborhood. May be worth giving them a shot ...

I always disliked Sapienza's, and the staff are rude and surly. Oh well, different strokes for different folks. I'm still mourning the loss of Pasquale's.

@Irina - Very surprised. I'm always blown away by the friendliness at Sapienza's. Great pizza and really nice people.

Just for context this was a very tough round for me to judge. Both slices were good in different ways, but in the end I gave my vote to Sapienza, but only by the narrowest of margins.

Yes, the fat in the pepperoni on the Marisa's pie rendered out into the cheese. Some may call that greasy, but I saw it as imbuing the whole thing with the essence of the sausage.

But the Sapienza pie had pepperoni almost leaping off the slice. I loved how the curl resulted in some crispy edges, that along with it's thicker crust, provided a magnificent array of textures and flavors.

I had thought Albany Jane had a slight preference towards Sapienza too, although I could be wrong. However if that was indeed the case, it would mean that this contest was a lot closer than the score might otherwise indicate.

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