This was Marisa's first tournament championship. And even though the shop has competed many times before -- and turned out some very good pizza (average score: 67.5) -- we didn't know much about the story behind Marisa's. So we stayed a few minutes to talk with owner Alfredo Musumeci.
Marisa's opened about 4.5 years ago. It's named for Musumeci's daughter. "I thought it had a nice sound to it," he says with a smile.
Like many of the shops that have done well in the TOP, Marisa's has some strong family tradition behind it. Musumeci's dad, Antonio, is from Sicily and has been in the business for 40 years. Alfredo's been working in it since he was a kid, growing up in Rotterdam. The family had previously owned a shop in Latham.
After heading to college and working in IT for five years, Musumeci was ready to get back into the pizza business. They still had the equipment from the old shop, and all along he'd been working up recipes in a notebook and testing them. "You study, you research, you try to find good toppings that would go together -- salty, sweet, crunchy -- balance."
It was during that time that Alfredo says he came up with the recipe for the Rusticana pizza, which he picked for this year's TOP final. He says his goal for Marisa's has been to bring together the Brooklyn/NYC style of pizza with the gourmet approach of the artisan pizza he'd eaten in Italy. And he says the Rusticana is a showcase of that because it's "the best of both worlds." The pizza features Italian prosciutto, roasted red peppers, asparagus, portobello mushrooms, fresh basil and garlic, and fresh mozzarella on a NYC-style crust.
One judge described the Rusticana in the TOP final as a "great fresh balance of flavors and textures" -- and another commented that it "looks lovingly prepared... beautiful... this pizza has heart." So, pretty much what exactly what Musumeci's was aiming for.
"To me, all of this is really an art. So I tend to look at it like that, even though we're not a fancy restaurant or anything." he says. "Why do something if you don't want to be the best?"
Musumeci says he always working up new ideas for pizzas. (This past fall he was experimenting with a white pie topped with apples, gorgonzola, and fried onions.) The promising combinations end up on the counter at lunch, where he can get feedback from customers. If they're a success, they're elevated to the regular menu.
But his favorite pizza? "I'm always good for a nice plain slice of cheese."
5 New Karner Rd
Guilderland, NY 12084
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