The pizzerias in the Round 1 pool competition of sausage pizzas:
Returning champ: DeFazio's - Troy
Crowd pick: Bacchus - Troy
Tough luck: I Love - Troy
DeFazio's has been the tournament runner-up two years in a row -- is this year it finally takes the title? It'll have to get through Round 1 first.
The judges assembled at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in downtown Troy...
A quick note about how all this works:
The five judges -- Albany Jane, Daniel B, Jerry, Joe, and Renee -- 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 1/5 of those possible points. (We're using an adjusted scale this year to accommodate five judges.)
How this year's brackets were selected.
If you'd like to get a closer look at the pizzas, there are large-format closeups above -- scroll all the way up.
Round 1 pool
The returning finalist shows up with a big score -- the highest so far in the opening round. DeFazio's crust was praised for its "nice fluff" and best-of-the-bracket flavor (the judges did note that it was a bit overdone in spots). Its sauce was described as "bright and lemony" with "soft onion and herb" flavor and "great" garlic (though one dissenting judge declared it "bland"). The judges weren't necessarily fans of the sausage -- it scored points for a texture ("tender, crusty") but lost points for being "bland." DeFazio's cheese was a universal winner, though -- one judge called it "buttery, flavorful" and another said it was "great." The judges noted the slice's over heft -- "very substantial." And one concluded: "a great slice of pizza."
A very solid performance from the 4th Street shop in its return to the TOP. The judges called its crust "yeasty," "chewy," and "sweet." They were a little less enthusiastic about the sauce, noting its sweet, concentrated tomato flavor. The judges liked the sliced sausage -- "intense and flavorful," "good spice flavor" -- but weren't so happy about the cheese, which was described as "average" and a bit "rubbery." The pizza scored well overall, but one judge noted that more seasoning and herbs could have lifted the pie higher.
This was the first time in the TOP for Bacchus -- it was voted in this year with the highest (by a lot) crowd vote total. And it did OK. But the crust on this pizza really held it back. Noted one judge: "End crust is beautiful, but the bottom looks raw." Another judge called it "tough and limp," and yet another said it was "chewy and raw tasting." The sauce also didn't light up the judges. Bacchus fared better on the toppings. The judges praised the sausage's texture -- "good char" -- and described it as "pockets of umami." Many of the judges concluded that the pizza showed promise, it just might not have fared well as takeout.
And the mystery entry in this bracket is... Papa John's. It is often regarded as one of the better chain pizzas. But its score in this match didn't lend any evidence to that idea. Judges called the crust "fluffy," and "chewy, like gum" -- also: "kind of bland." They described the sauce as "too sweet" with "too much seasoning" The toppings didn't score points, either -- the cheese was described as "pasty" and the sausage "mushy" with an "off-putting" sage flavor. One judged called it "Thanksgiving pizza, with all that sage in the meat." Concluded another: "obviously inferior to the others."
DeFazio's and I Love advance. They'll face each other in Round 2.
Tomorrow: the opening round of the Tournament of Pizza concludes with the Albany bracket.
Thank you, thank you
Many thanks to the Arts Center of the Capital Region for letting us taste pizza in one of its studios. It was a great space.
The 2012 Tournament of Pizza is sponsored by Sunmark Federal Credit Union.
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