By now, I’ll assume you’ve read the first post giving you a general idea of the objective of this project. I’ve had this idea in my head for over 7 years and now that it is actually happening, we have to make sure it’s done right. So, we need to figure out who has the best pizza and we know its going to be done tournament style, but we have to lay the foundation of how this will work. We need to know who is going to be entered into the tournament, we need to know how the pizza will be judged, and we need to know how the match-ups will be determined.
Since this will be the most important tournament you’ve witnessed since Bloodsport, it is crucial to get the players right. In college basketball, the teams that make it to the big dance are revealed on Selection Sunday. Those decisions are made based on the rankings, conference winners, and overall season performance. We’ll have our own Selection Sunday, but we don’t exactly have rankings, conference winners, and overall season performance for pizza shops. Unless someone tells me that there has been a pizza fight club happening in the city, and if that’s the case, this whole thing can be scrapped since I will be disappearing into the pizza underground.
So who’s gonna make it into the big pizza dance? Hold on, to clarify, by big pizza dance, I mean the tournament, not this video that a seemingly very nice family made. Anyway, I have my ideas of who should be in and have compiled a list of possible competitors that was derived through research, personal experience, and testimonials from friends and family. However, despite the opinion of my mother, I am not perfect (though I AM a precious baby angel). I may have missed a place that you think has to make it, and I leave that up to you to let me know. Based on the comments I’ve read on sites that have declared the best pizza places in the Pittsburgh, people are extremely opinionated about where they think the top pizza resides. You’d be surprised at how many exclamation points people will use if they feel their favorite shop has been slighted.
I already have a list of 43 contenders, but I need to hear from the general public. The list of candidates will be provided in a future post where I explain who is likely in, on the bubble, or most definitely on the outside. Comment here or on social media and let me know who absolutely has to make the tourney.
How will the pizza be judged?
Full disclosure: I am not a professional food critic (Gasp!). While I may not have fancy credentials, this project is not intended to be a snooty display of criticism. I do have some experience in the pizza industry, but my expertise has been honed by eating pizza, probably more than a cardiologist would suggest. While my days of making pizza for money are over, I have always held the opinion that pizza is the supreme food item in all the land. That, itself, is a controversial statement, but let’s just pretend that I’m right.
So, while New York can be considered the pizza Mecca, Pittsburgh is no slouch. Okay, I hear you Chicago, but let’s not pretend that deep dish pizza is actually pizza. While it’s enjoyable, I would be more comfortable calling it a savory cake or crusted lasagna, but I digress. The unique problem in rating/ranking Pittsburgh pizza is that it comes in many different forms. The New York style is in play, but there are also different styles like Roman, Neapolitan, Sicilian, bakery style, Detroit, and even New Haven (known as apizza). This creates a challenge in trying to compare, but luckily I’ve come up with a plan to try to make the evaluations fair.
First of all, I will be eating only pepperoni or cheese pizza. No specialty pizza like Buffalo Chicken or Steak. Those are great, but I want to evaluate each slice in it’s base form. Some of the fancier places may not have just cheese or pepperoni, so I will choose the most comparable option. Second, I will be going to each establishment for every match-up. The higher seeded pizza place will technically be the home team, so I will visit that place first before going to the opponent’s establishment. I will be only eating one slice at each place in each round. If you’re wondering, that means I will be eating 62 slices of pizza during the course of this undertaking. Yeah, that is a lot, so I will be mostly eating salad for my other meals so I can avoid death. Finally, each slice will be judged based on three categories:
- Appearance – While this may seem shallow, how the pizza looks is important. Are all of the toppings jammed in the middle with a fat bubbly crust? I sure hope not, because then I will be much less excited to eat said pizza and subconsciously that might influence my opinion. This category won’t hold as much weight as the other two, however, it will factor into my decision.
- Components – Cheese, sauce, crust, and toppings. The guts of the pizza, as well as it’s structure will be evaluated in this category. This category will also assess greasiness of the pizza (and my face after eating).
- Overall Flavor – The components portion of judging will touch on flavor of individual parts of the pizza, but this category will judge the overall flavor as the title of the category clearly states.
On my quest, I will be joined by various friends and family members, so they will also be judging, however, I will have the final say. That’s not to say I won’t be influenced, but ultimately I will make the call. If you are interested in joining me during any of the “games”, please feel free to hit me up here or on social media (IG: pghpizzamadness or my personal account jakecsikora; Facebook).
How will the match-ups be determined?
This is an important piece of the plan, however, we can’t really figure this out until we know for sure who is in. We can revisit the specifics of this once we’ve finalized the contenders. Basically, the 32 entrants will be broken into four separate regions/brackets and each will be seeded from 1-8 based on popularity, just like the NCAA does (except they seed from 1-16 since their tournament is larger). The four brackets will obviously feed into the Final Four and then the champion. The four brackets will be likely be arranged by geographical zones or will be based on type/style of pizza. More on this after Selection Sunday which for this tournament will be March 1st.
Let me know where to go and mark your calendars!!