A trophy for the Tournament of Pizza champ

marisas place exterior TOP trophy

Marisa's Place's Alfredo Musumeci and Albert Pistana, with AOA Mary and David Weinstein from TOP sponsor Sunmark Federal Credit Union.

We stopped by Marisa's Place in Guilderland Thursday to award them the trophy for winning this year's Tournament of Pizza.

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.

sunmark pizza banner

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.

marisas place antonio and alfredo musumeci
Alfredo and his dad, Antonio.

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.

marisas place alfredo musumeci albert pistana
Alfredo and head pizza maker Albert Pistana, who made the pie they entered in the finals.

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?"

Tournament of Pizza 2012 trophy
The trophy for this year's TOP. (It's the first year we've had a trophy.) It was created by Design It Together in Troy.

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."

Find It

Marisa's Place
5 New Karner Rd
Guilderland, NY 12084

Comments

Their delicious pizza aside, Marisa's meatballs are humongous and delicious portions of garlicky goodness.

Where was the pizza place they used to have in Latham?

Was the name of the old shop Pizza Italia? It was where the new Dunkin Donuts is next to Taco Bell? That place had the best pizza when I was at Siena, we went or ordered from there like three times a week if not more.

My sister and I went to Marisa's after they won. Very good pizza :) They owner was very friendly and funny.

After their win, my husband and I stopped in and picked up a Rusticana to try and we were both underwhelmed. It just seemed like the pizza was trying to be too many things. That being said, I did get a fantastic piece of tiramisu and the people working were lovely. We're definitely going to give them another chance - I really like to judge a place by a plain cheese pie but we jumped head first into the Rusticana. I owe it to them to try the cheese. :-)

I want to try their pizza but I usually order on Sundays when we have friends over for football. They are not open on Sundays which seems crazy to me for a pizza place. Luckily, there are tons of other pizza shops in Guilderland to choose from!

Congratulations to Marisa's Place! Although I'm not surprised they won. Tony, Alfredo, Albert and all the staff work very hard to make Marisa's one of the best pizza places you'll find in Albany.
Glad to see all their hard work has paid off!

Congrats,

John, Guilderland

Finally went to this place tonight to see what the hype was about. I was pretty pleased and our family will be adding this to the top of our pizza list. Also the garlic knots are very good here. Our favorite pizza for over 20 years bar none, was PJ's pizza over on Ontario + Lex. They recently changed to a thicker crust and it breaks my heart to be looking for a comparable pizza, but this has been the closest so far.

So happy to see Marisa's Pizza recognized for what I already considered to be the best pizza around. It is consistently delicious and the salads are fresh, fresh., fresh. I love the penne al vodka but usually just get a pepperoni pizza and rusticata salad. Also the chefs always are so sweet to our children twirling the pizza in the air for them to see! Congratulations guys!

I was a customer for over five years. I say was because Marisa's lost me as a customer today. It wasn't just because they didn't have any cheese pizza to sell on the day when their special is two cheese slices and a fountain drink for $5.00, but because the owner was rude when the girl at the register asked if she could substitute something else. This is after I came back a second time when I realized I didn't have enough cash to pay and had to go to the ATM across the main road.

When I called later to point out that they should have cheese pizza to sell during the dinner hour on the day they have this special the owner couldn't be bothered to speak with me and the girl at the register hung up on me when I told her that I didn't want another apology.

It was the rudeness and the apparent lack of caring of their customer's opinion that drove me away. I can find pizza elsewhere. It was the only thing I liked there anyhow. Their dinners aren't that good.

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