Things are heating up in the pizza bracket and are about to catch fire this weekend. We (me) got off to a slow start, but we’re going to hit the next gear over the next 4 days. The actual NCAA basketball tournament kicks off today and to fully immerse myself in the madness I’ll be abstaining from my day job until Monday. There will be 48 college basketball games over the next 4 days, which means that we need to turn up the pizza power, as well. In solidarity with the NCAA, I will be eating 48 different slices of pizza in the next 4 days! Just kidding, that’s impossible. Even for me, and I dream of a Michael Hutchence-esque demise, except with pizza asphyxiation.
So to ratchet up the madness and to make up for the slow start, the below match-ups will be decided this weekend, with the results being reported on Sunday night.
- 3 Aiello’s vs 6 La Tavola
- 2 Colangelo’s vs 7 Enrico Biscotti
- 4 Frank’s vs 5 Police Station
- 1 Mineo’s vs 8 Jioio’s
- 3 Pasquarelli’s vs 6 Mario’s
- 3 Slice on Broadway vs 6 Cucina Bella
- 4 Piccolo Forno vs 5 Pizza Company
- 2 Vincent’s vs 7 Italian Village
In one week, the NCAA tourney will be into the sweet 16 and so will the Pittsburgh Pizza Madness Tourney (or at least we’ll be close). Now, on to the results…
2 Mercurio’s vs 7 Graziano’s
Keeping it in the East End, this match-up features one of my go-to pizzas versus one that I have yet to try, but has a great reputation. Joined by two of my friends (let’s call them Tango and Cash) I headed to Mercurio’s first, before heading back to my immediate neighborhood to grab some Graziano’s.
Mercurio’s is on Walnut in Shadyside and in addition to pizza they have some great gelato, from what I’ve heard. I don’t mean this in a negative connotation, but Mercurio’s is the fancy type of wood-fired pizza place that has specific pizzas on the menu and not the kind of place where you can build your own pie. Fancy may not be the most appropriate word, because the space itself is very casual and comfortable. Regardless of the setting, we had to select a pizza that would be the most comparable to cheese or pepperoni so we could compare to Graziano’s as evenly as possible. Being that Tango, Cash, and myself are of the carnivorous kind, we opted for the Diavolo which has spicy salami. Yeah, I know that isn’t pepperoni, but it’s close enough, so lay off!
After we split the Diavolo, we stopped at Graziano’s to grab a small with pep. Graziano’s is of the less fancy variety of pizza shops, which I find to be endearing. This has always been a popular spot for me to grab a six pack and slice or two. I love a place where I can get a six pack of craft beer, or just a 40 oz Hurricane depending on how I’m feeling that particular evening.
After considering the criteria, the victor was not immediately clear. Appearance went to Mercurio’s. Graziano’s definitely appeared appetizing, but Mercurio’s was just pretty. It’s like comparing Maggie Gyllenhaal to Katie Holmes. Both are attractive, but one is just prettier than the other (I’ll let you be the judge of who is the prettier one). Narrow, superficial comparisons aside, the components criteria was a lot harder to figure out. Both had amazing crust, and while Mercurio’s had the great wood-fired style of crust that is simultaneously both chewy and crunchy at the same time, it was Graziano’s that had the better crust. The cheese/sauce/toppings, however, went to Mercurio’s, although, not by a landslide. Finally, the overall flavor category went to Mercurio’s after some deliberating. Tango and Cash agreed that while Graziano’s was fantastic, the sauce and grease were a little heavy and Mercurio’s was a bit lighter and fresher. Basically, Graziano’s is the pizza you should get if you wanna indulge and “be bad”. Another close match-up, but Mercurio’s takes this one…barely.
2 Il Pizzaiolo vs 7 Upper Crust
My familia had my back for this game. I was joined at Il Pizzaiolo by two of my sisters, let’s call them Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Also joining us were Kelly’s kids, Huey, Dewey, and Louise. The ducklings shared a Margherita, while my siblings and I ate a Margherita DOC. Kelly also ordered a Stracciatella, which I did not try. Kelly and Louise didn’t join the rest of us for our second leg of the game, but both were impressed with Il Pizzaiolo.
Huey, Dewey, Michelle and I made the trek to Washpa for Upper Crust, where we met my mother (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), my aunt (Billie Jean King), and my third sister (Beyoncé). Completely off topic, but, do you think we could convince the real Billie Jean King to open a retail denim outlet called Billie Jean King’s Jean Kingdom? Okay, so the kids, BJK, and I opted for the Margherita (for consistency), while Madre and two-thirds of Destiny’s Child sampled the Pancetta & Gorgonzola and Formaggio.
Appearance was about as close to a toss-up as you can get. Both looked fantastic and tasted as good as they appeared, but Il Pizzaiolo took this category by a thin margin. The components category was tough as well. I preferred the sauce and toppings at Il Pizzaiolo, but Upper Crust being so aptly named, had the better, crispier crust. Considering all items Huey, Dewey, and I feel that Il Pizzaiolo had the better overall flavor, while Michelle Williams feels it’s too close to call. Il Pizzaiolo will advance, but if you live anywhere near Washpa you should put Upper Crust in your heavy rotation.
Winner: Il Pizzaiolo
Check Instagram over the weekend and look for the next post Sunday night!