The final first round matchup in the 2014 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Keeler Mini is last year's tournament runner up, DC's of Albany, against the 2012 tournament champ, Marisa's Place of Guilderland.
This year's clash-of-champions format includes first round matches consisting of two pizzas. Highest aggregate score advances. And, again, the two types of the pizza for this first round: sausage and the deceptively difficult broccoli ricotta white pizza.
Can Western Ave handle the drama...
A quick note about how all this works:
Unlike in years past, the judging for the first round of this year's TOP occurred at the shops and, as a result, was not blind. Pizzas are scored in four categories: crust, sauce, toppings, overall taste. The scores from the judges -- each matchup is scored by a panel of 4 or 5 judges -- are combined and pizzas are scored on a 0-100 scale.
A barn burner! Each shop came out ahead on one of the pizzas, but Marisa's was able to eek out the win!
The judges weren't thrilled with the crust on DC's sausage pizza, calling it "underdone" and commenting that it didn't hold up well to the toppings. It scored better with a sauce that was "sweet, chunky, and a little tart" with "bright tomato flavor" -- though a few judges thought there was too much of it. The sausage got a good reception -- judges noted a good fennel flavor -- though one judge would have liked a bit more time in the oven for the sausage. Overall, the impression seemed to be a solid pizza, but not necessarily one that stood out.
The Marisa's Place sausage pizza jumped to an early lead with "crispy and chewy" crust that had some "good charring." Its sauce was described as "bright and sunny, very well rounded, like a hug" -- and judges appreciated the sauce being lightly applied. They noted good fennel flavor in the otherwise mild sausage, and one judge liked how the sliced meat curled to collect the pork fat "for juicy bursts of deliciousness." One judge said the cheese added a nice saltiness, though a few thought it was a bit chewy. Overall, though, the judges concluded it was a strong sausage pizza.
Broccoli ricotta white pizza
The crust on DC's broccoli ricotta pizza did better with the judges compared to the sausage pie. Judges noted good crispness with "subtle crunch" and appreciated how it stood up to the toppings. They seem to enjoy how the pizza was seasoned with herbs and garlic, and how that seasoning worked with the "tasty and not dried out" "a little sweet" ricotta. And the judges praised the distribution of the broccoli, which retained "some firm texture," though some judges wanted to see larger pieces. It was a good pizza -- but enough to overtake Marisa's Place?
The momentum from the sausage pizza didn't carry through here, and it made the matchup a close one. The judges didn't like the crust on the broccoli ricotta pizza as much as the sausage pie -- a few thought their portions were underdone. They noted a strong garlic flavor, but not a lot of other seasoning -- and that seemed to turn them off to the ricotta, which they thought lacked flavor and creaminess. And they didn't appreciate the "teeny, tiny" broccoli. One judge concluded that there was no fatal flaw with this pizza -- it just didn't inspire.
But it the did score high enough to hold onto the lead.
DC's has been on a good run since last year's TOP, reaching the finals in its first year in the tournament. And this year it turned out some good pizza. Marisa's Place was a just bit better, though. And the Guilderland shop advances to the semifinal.
Next week: The Tournament of Pizza heads for the two-part semifinal that will pit four former overall tournament champs against each other. That is going to be something to see.
The 2014 Tournament of Pizza is sponsored by Keeler Mini
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