Tournament of Pizza 2014

TOP2014 logo

Each September in the Capital Region we mark the return of the crisp autumn air, the warm sun shining upon us from brilliantly blue skies, and a tradition most august: The Tournament of Pizza. Many years we have celebrated this tradition -- multiple champions have been crowned and (so) much pizza has been eaten.

So it is with great excitement that we now announce the Tournament of Pizza to end all Tournaments of Pizza -- TOP2014: Clash of Champions, sponsored by Keeler Mini.

For the first time ever the Tournament of Pizza will pit only returning winners against other in a new format that will challenge the shops on both quality and consistency. The winner will stand as the victor of the last-ever Tournament of Pizza.

But, wait, there's more: Also for the first time, you -- yes, you -- will have the chance to attend the TOP Final and your votes will help decide who wins a new trophy.

Here are the details...

TOP2014 Keeler Mini in-post-ad

TOP Champions format

The 2014 Tournament of Pizza field (listed below) will be made up of the four currently-existing shops that have won whole tournament in years past, along with four shops that have come very close in years past.

First round
In Round 1 each former tournament champ will be paired with an almost-champ in (relatively close) geographic pairings. Two pizzas of the same type will be tasted and scored from each shop. The highest aggregate score of the two pizzas will decide which shop advances to the semifinal round.

Semifinal round
The four winners from the first round will meet in a pool competition during the semifinal. Again, two pizzas from each shop will be tasted and scored. The two shops with the highest aggregate scores will advance to the final.

For the first time ever, a select group of people will be invited to observe the semifinal on October 2 -- and eat pizza, of course. If you'd like attend, head over to the Keeler Motor Car Company Facebook page for a chance to enter the drawing to attend.

The final
On October 11 the two finalists will meet at Shmaltz Brewing in Clifton Park for the first-ever public TOP final tasting. Each shop will bring two types of pizzas of their own choosing to compete for the title. Highest aggregate score takes the crown.

As mentioned, this final will also be open to the public. Attendees will get the chance to taste each of the four finalist pizzas and vote for their favorite pie. The pizza with the highest score from the voting will win the People's Choice Plate. Tickets will go on sale this Thursday at noon.

And, of course, because we'll be at a brewery, there will be beer.

How you can take part

To review, there are two opportunities to be part of the TOP this year:

The private semifinal
A small group of people will be invited to the private semifinal on October 2, courtesy of Keeler Mini. Head over to the dealership's FB page to enter the drawing.

The public final at Shmaltz
On October 11 there will be a public event at Shmaltz Brewing in Clifton Park. Attendees will get to taste the final four pizzas and vote for the People's Choice Plate. A limited number of tickets will go on sale September 25.

The field

TOP2013 Final composite
The two pizzas from last year's final -- DC's vs. DeFazio's.

Here's the field and first round matchups:

5th and 50 - Scotia - The 2011 TOP champ.
Mama Mia's - Saratoga Springs - A two-time semifinalist.

Marino's - Schenectady - The 2010 TOP champ.
Mario's - Niskayuna - A two-time semifinalist.

DeFazio's - Troy - The 2013 TOP champion and frequent presence in the final.
I Love - Troy - Twice a semifinalist.

Marisa's Place - Guilderland - The 2012 champ.
DC's - Albany - The 2013 overall tournament runner-up.


This year's tournament will make use of the TOP modern era 100-point scale on which judges will assess crust, sauce, toppings, and overall taste.

A new twist this year is that the first round will judged in the pizza shops. As a result, the judging will no longer be blind.

We'll have more about this year's lineup of judges later this week.

Many thanks to Keeler Mini for sponsoring the 2014 Tournament of Pizza.


"The winner will stand as the victor of the last-ever Tournament of Pizza."

That's kind of snuck in there, no? Sad this is ending. I liked seeing the results.

Why is this the last TOP?

Holy Cow! If this doesn't determine the best pizza in the region, I don't know what will!!!

Why is this the last TOP?

Maybe they're sick of eating pizza?
Wait, no. That is impossible.

Just say no to final TOP! This has been a fun contest to read about over the past few years, and has done a wonderful job bringing local pizzerias the attention they deserve. As a transplant to the area, I have deliberately sought out the pizza shops that got good reviews. All I can hope is that there are plans for something bigger and better, just run by someone other than AOA. The recent successful fundraiser to find Bishop Scharfenberger's favorite pizza shows that these contests are popular!

If it's the last TOP because of lack of taste testers, let me be the first to offer my services to keep this going

What time is the semi-final?

Editors: It will start around 6:30 pm.

Funny, I even have professional food-reviewing experience this year... and yet, you never call, AOA, you never write... *sad tear*

Two things: first of all, KB--the TU is looking for a new restaurant critic! Maybe you could offer your talent there?!
Second: I wanted to enter the judging group that happens at Keeler but I didn't want to have to "like" them to enter AND I decided to have a tantrum instead over the fact that this is the last TOP!! Say it ain't so!

Re: This being the last Tournament of Pizza…

The 2014 edition of the tournament will be the 7th time we've run it. And we'd rather end the tournament while it's still strong instead of running it into the ground.

The TOP is also a big draw on our time and attention. And because AOA is often operating at the edge of our available supply of those resources, we have to make tradeoffs. Sending the TOP off on a high note will open the way for us to do other things in the fall. (We don't have anything specific in mind... yet.)

It's great to hear that people enjoy the tournament. And we're very appreciative that so many people have given it their attention over the years. We think this last TOP will be a lot of fun.

I'm very much looking forward to the TOP, as always...but I was just thinking the other day that I'd love to see a TOW (yes, a Tournament of Wings) in the Capital Region. Since this is the last TOP, maybe a new tradition can begin next fall? Personally, I find it hard to imagine anyone beating The Ruck in Troy in this category, but it would be interesting to see what other good wings are out there!

Instead of making this your last. Why not make it a biannual or every 3-4 years? It would make it a bit more interesting given that the winner could claim bragging rights for more than a year. And perhaps it would, as you say, free up your resources since you wouldn't have to do this every year.
Just a thought.

@CapHwys: Thanks for the suggestion. It's something to think about.

See you at the Final! Got my tickets! This will be cool to be a part of. You guys create the most interesting things to do. I understand about it taking a lot of time away from other things.

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