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TOP2013 RD1 Albany pizza closeups

TOP2013: Round 1: Albany

TOP2013 RD1 Albany

The opening round of the 2013 Tournament of Pizza -- sponsored by The College of Saint Rose -- makes its final stop in Albany.

The new-to-the-tournament pizzerias in this Round 1 pool competition of sausage pizzas:

Soho - Albany
Dino's - Albany
DC's - Albany
Andriano's - Delmar

The judges gathered to eat yet more pizza...

Saint Rose Tournament of Pizza ad 2013 in post

A quick note about how all this works:
The judges taste the pizzas blind. That is, they don't know which pizza they're tasting during judging. They taste the competitors side by side. Each judge assesses the pizzas by crust (5 points possible per judge), sauce (5 points), toppings (5 points), and overall taste (10 points). Each judge represents either 1/4 or 1/5 of the possible points, depending on the number of judges present. However many judges, all scores will be according to a 100-point scale.

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.

TOP2013 RD1 Albany judging

Round 1 pool

Post game

Solid, if not great, scores across the board.

The shop across the street from UAlbany's uptown campus won the pool with a consistent performance in each category. One judge described the DC's pizza's crust as "pillowy and yeasty, but sturdy enough not to flop." There's was a bit of a split by the judges on the sauce -- some found it "balanced" and "well seasoned", others thought it was a touch too sour. And many of the judges liked the combination of sausage and cheese -- the sausage with a "meaty" texture and a full-flavored cheese ("my favorite cheese"). Interestingly, DC's pizza got the top score on just one judge's sheet -- but it ranked highly enough, often second, on the other sheets to pile up enough points for the win.

This Delmar shop tied for second in the pool with Lark Street-area shop Dino's, though they reached that level in different ways. Andriano's was powered by its crust -- a few judges raved about it: "Awesome. Thin and tender all at the same time, poofy exterior" and "almost perfect." (Though a few others thought their portion's crust was a bit too tough.) And its sauce -- "velvety" and "balanced" -- got an appreciative, if not enthusiastic reception. What kept Andriano's from maybe taking the pool: toppings. The sausage -- which one judge compared to breakfast sausage -- didn't go over well. And while some judges appreciated the flavor of the cheese, others thought it overpowered the sausage.

Dino's was powered by its sauce, described as "salty, sweet, bright." But its crust was met with a lack of enthusiasm -- a few judges thought it lacked "yeasty" flavor. And it was ultimately kept from top of the group by toppings. A few of the judges found the sliced sausage "chewy" and the cheese failed to inspire.

This Lark Street staple didn't do badly -- it just didn't quite keep up with the pack in the judges' opinion. Holding it back: crust, which the judges described as "dry" and "lacking seasoning." The sauce scored relatively well, getting marks for being "sweet and zesty" as well as "nicely balanced." Perhaps as a result of the crust's texture, though, the judges were looking for more sauce. And the toppings also failed to inspire, though one judge was a fan of the cheese.

Up next

So DC's advances on the strength of a consistently solid performance. It will meet last year's overall tournament winner -- Marisa's Place -- in the second round.

Next week: The Tournament of Pizza loops back for the second round.

Thank you, thank you

Many thanks to everyone who's helped with logistics for the TOP this year, including Bridget, Bob, Peter, and Matt. We appreciate it!

The 2013 Tournament of Pizza is sponsored by The College of Saint Rose.


I drive by Andriano's at least once a week... breakfast sausage? well, I'll try the pepperoni then... Honestly, Swifty's has some pretty good pizza right next door..

I'm sensing my own mini tournament of pizza in the near future

The round balls of sausage on Dino's is known in the pizza biz as "sausage crumble" and as is low quality of a product as you'll ever find. Not sure what it is actually made out of.

Glad to see Dino's didn't get completely destroyed. I defend them from my friends who think it's only suitable for 'drunk food'. As I said in my comment on this year's bracket post (which never made it by the AOA spam filter, apparently), Dino's plain slices are actually great. I love their crust - reminds me of a good NYC slice. Their toppings are absolutely their downfall though, and it doesn't surprise me that they lost mainly on that category.

Editors: We just went back and rescued your original comment from the clutches of the filter. Sorry about that.

I hate low-quality toppings and SOHO has just that.

I also hate places that advertise bacon and give you either soy bacon or turkey bacon instead. SOHO has done that. Gross. Madison pizza has done that also.

That IS sad looking sausage at SoHo's, but I am a big fan of their veggie-topped pizzas (tomato and broccoli in particular). Though, to be fair, I only ever get pizza by the slice there and I think that improves the crust because you get it nice and toasty right before eating it.

Yay DC's! I will no longer hang my head when I say I love their pizza!

Who needs the baseball post season or football? We've got the Tournament of Pizza!

It is always interesting to see how the tournament unfolds. I'm going to nerd out a little on the scores, my apologies. I'm glad to see that all winner's broke 60. For a frame of reference, a Pizza Hut sausage pie scored 49 last year - kind of in range with a lot of the low 50's scores in this round.

LaBella's got unlucky in their bracket. They were outscored in Saratoga, but posted a higher score than Giovanni's which was able to advance in a weaker Schenectady bracket.

But all of the advancing pizzerias need to step up their game. Last year's finalists would have crushed everyone in this round. In 2012's sausage round, DeFazio's scored a 78 and tournament winner Marisa's scored an 81. Deli & Brew and DC's are looking like pretty big underdog's. But you never know with a one and done style tournament. Any given pizza...

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