TOP2014: Semifinal: Classic

tournament of pizza semifinal at keeler mini

We have arrived at the semifinal of the 2014 Tournament of Pizza, sponsored by Keeler Mini. And it's shaping up to be quite a clash.

This year's all-champions format has resulted in four past overall tournament winners meeting in the semifinal: 5th and 50 of Scotia (tournament champ in 2011), Marino's of Schenectady (2010), DeFazio's of Troy (2013), and Marisa's Place of Guilderland (2012).

The TOP semifinal is a contest with two legs, each pizzeria offering up a pizza for each leg of the contest (so two pizzas from each shop, eight pizzas total). The two best aggregate scores advance to the final.

And the theme for the first pizza match: "classic." The shops were given this prompt and allowed to interpret it however they wanted in deciding which type of pizza to make.

Let's head to the Keeler Mini showroom to see how things turned out...

TOP2014 Keeler Mini in-post-ad

A quick note about how all this works:
Unlike in years past, the judging this year's TOP is 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.

The scene

TOP2014_semifinal_classic_scene.jpg

The pizza tasting was on the showroom floor. A handful of people picked via Keeler's Facebook page were invited to taste pizza. (They did not contribute to the scoring, though.)

The "classic" pizzas

5th and 50: Greek
TOP2014_semifinal_classic_5th50_Greek.jpg

Marino's: Margherita
TOP2014_semifinal_classic_Marinos_margarita.jpg

DeFazio's: Sausage, peppers, and onions
TOP2014_semifinal_classic_DeFazios_sausagepepperonion.jpg

Marisa's Place: Margherita
TOP2014_semifinal_classic_Marisas_margarita.jpg

Scoreboard

TOP2014 semifinal classic scoreboard

Post game

A close match! Two shops have put themselves ahead, but no one shop is clearly dominating the contest at this point!

5th and 50
It's probably fair to say the judges were intrigued by 5th and 50's offering of "Greek" pizza, with feta, tomato, bacon/ham, and herbs -- it was a bit of a different spin on the idea of a "classic," but as one judge noted of the ingredients, "they worked together." The judges weren't big fans of the crust, though, describing it as "very bready" and "tough." One judge described a "sweet burst" from the tomatoes and another called them "bright." One judge called the feta "delightful." And the ham was described as "meaty," with one judge noting it evoked a kind of "breakfasty" taste "like an omelette." The ingredients added up to a pizza that was, in the estimation of many judges, salty. That worked for some, and not quite for others -- one called it a "salt bomb."

Marino's
Marino's "Margherita" pizza didn't pile up the points on its crust -- judges commented that it had nice color, but had apparently toughened during transport because it was "a little tough to chew." Marino's sauce fared much better. The judges raved about the "chunky" sauce -- "the most tomato flavor on a pizza," "great homemade taste." The judges seemed to appreciate the flavors of fresh mozzarella and basil, though a few noted that the mozz maybe hadn't traveled well as it had toughened a bit and wasn't stringy enough. Overall, though, the pizza scored well and as one judge commented, "the sauce stole the show."

DeFazio's
In contrast to the first two shops, DeFazio's scored big points with the crust on its "sausage, peppers, onions" pizza. The "well done" crust had "good color" and "slight char on the bottom" and a judge described its flavor as "sweet, yeasty, doughy." The other elements did OK. Judges noted a "chunky," "salty" sauce that some would have liked to see more of on the pizza. The toppings were described as "top notch" with the vegetables maintaining "a slightly firm texture" (one judge wanted the peppers cooked a bit more). The judges thought the sausage had good flavor, though a few looked for that flavor to push through the others a bit more. Said one judge, "Could have been great, but it needs a bit more oomph." Overall, it won solid praise. Concluded one judge, "I don't like green pepper, but I liked this slice."

Marisa's Place
Marisa's was the other shop to offer a "Margherita" pizza and it posted solid scores. Judges described the crust as "airy and crisp" with "nice flavor." The sauce was "very fresh tasting," "sweet, but [with] a nice balance," though a few judges thought it was applied a bit too lightly. Judges liked the interplay of parmesan cheese ("sharp, briny") with the "nice contrast" of the basil and sauce. If there was a part the judges thought didn't quite measure up, it was the tomato slices, which one judge commented "just weren't there with ripeness." And again, there were comments about fresh mozza not traveling well.

TOP2014_semifinal_classic_judging.jpg

Up next

Marino's and DeFazio's have set themselves up as the early leaders, but not by wide margins. On Wednesday we'll see if they can hold onto those leads in the second leg of the semifinal.

The 2014 Tournament of Pizza is sponsored by Keeler Mini

Earlier in the 2014 Tournament of Pizza
+ TOP2014: RD1: DC's vs. Marisa's Place
+ TOP2014: RD1: I Love vs. DeFazio's
+ TOP2014: RD1: Mario's vs. Marino's
+ TOP2014: RD1: Mama Mia's v 5th and 50
+ TOP2014: Meet the judges
+ Tournament of Pizza 2014 field

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

A quick recap of the week

Here are a few highlights from the past week on AOA: + Eric asked about the experiences families have had with Albany schools -- and... (more)

Stuff to do this weekend

It's Memorial Day weekend. Time to fire up the barbecue grill and kick off the unofficial start of summer by doing fun stuff. This week... (more)

A few bits about that big, new mural going up on the side of the Quackenbush Garage in Albany

Maybe you've noticed the new mural going up on the south face of the Quackenbush Garage in downtown Albany. Here's what's up with that, along... (more)

A restaurant for regular group meetings?

Anne emails: I am a member of a service group that meets 2 evenings a month, during the week. We are looking for a restaurant/food... (more)

New York State city and town populations 2016

The Capital Region has some of the state's fastest growing towns in terms of population percentage change. That's one of the bits from new population... (more)

Recent Comments

I've found that anecdotes from neighbors, friends, or internet "strangers" can only take you so far. If you haven't already, I strongly recommend you get out there and visit these schools during the school year, during the school day to get a feel for things. In the last few months, my wife and I have made a series of visits to our local elementary, middle + high-school. During those visits, we had the chance to talk to multiple teachers and see the kids "in action". It was very VERY telling in a lot of ways - both good and bad.

A few bits about that big, new mural going up on the side of the Quackenbush Garage in Albany

...has 5 comments, most recently from Jamie

Fields Sculpture Park at Omi 2017

...has 3 comments, most recently from Jamie

A restaurant for regular group meetings?

...has 6 comments, most recently from Jamie

Stuff to do this weekend

...has 3 comments, most recently from JK

Where to get an Apple laptop fixed?

...has 8 comments, most recently from Greg