We’re back in action with more results and reviews, albeit, at a slower pace than anticipated. The road to pizza heaven is not devoid of obstacles. First, we have to replace a competitor in the tourney. Despite all of the great things I’ve read about Pasquarelli’s on ye olde internet, it appears that they may no longer be in operation. I don’t really know for sure, but they won’t answer the phone, so they done got bounced. This leaves an open spot that needs to be filled. I’m going to replace ol’ Pasqi’s with Driftwood Oven. This is a mobile pizza oven and it’s pretty darn good. They’ll be in my neighborhood on Sunday at Roundabout Brewery, so that’s when they’ll have their game.
Not all of the impediments can be blamed on external influences. Did you know that you should check to see if the restaurant that you are visiting is going to be open at the time you intend to visit? I found this out the hard way when I went to Ambridge too early in the afternoon for the Frank’s/Police Station battle. I couldn’t bear hanging out in Ambridge for hours without pizza, so I just took off. Don’t worry I’ll go back. Also, did you know some places are closed on Sunday and Monday? How dare they want to spend time with their families and friends?! Don’t they know I have a pointless endeavor to complete? Sarcasm notwithstanding, let’s get the results and the first upset of the tourney.
2 Colangelo’s vs 7 Enrico Biscotti
On the first day of the round of 64 in the NCAA tourney, I hit the strip district for this matchup with a pair of brothers (Jeff and Beau Bridges) and my neighbor friend (Wilson…wait, that would make me Tim Taylor…nevermind, let’s go with Kramer). The first stop was Colangelo’s which I had never visited, despite the fact that I’ve walked past it hundreds of times being that it is next to Pittsburgh Popcorn Company. We all grabbed a slice of pepperoni and ate outside. This pizza is the freakin’ shit. It’s square and slightly thick, but not quite like a Sicilian slice. It has a crispy outside while simultaneously having a pillowy inside.
We then walked the 210 feet to Enrico Biscotti and grabbed a table in the café. The café at Enrico Biscotti is pretty cool, although, there were some over zealous St. Patrick’s Day people wooing more than a douchebag at a Pirate game. We split a pepperoni pie and all parties came to an overwhelming agreement.
Appearance goes to Enrico Biscotti. It’s a pretty pizza. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed, but Components and Overall Flavor went to Colangelo’s. The crust on the Colangelo’s slice was fantastic. I liken it to a stereotypical dream guy. You know, crispy on the exterior (rugged), but still soft on the inside (sensitive). I feel like I’m gilding the lily, here, but I honestly can’t wait to eat this pizza again. That being said, Enrico knows his way around a pizza. For sure, give it a try.
4 Piccolo Forno vs 5 The Pizza Company
After my pointless trip to Ambridge for the aforementioned Frank’s/Police Station match-up that didn’t happen, I headed back to my hood and snagged some pizza from Piccolo Forno and The Pizza Company. I went stag to Piccolo and grabbed a pepperoni, then headed up the hill for a pep slice from Pizza Company. I hadn’t been to Piccolo for a while, so I couldn’t really remember what their pizza was all about, but I did remember that I liked it. This pizza has a super thin crust which is okay, but I kinda feel like it was too thin (something of which I will never be accused). The pepperoni on the Piccolo pie is the good kind. Like crispy little Stanley Cup tops full of roni grease. Super delicious.
Pizza Co is one of my neighborhood favorites. The crust is really good and they also have the Stanley Cup pepperonis. This was a tough choice to make. I would give Appearance to Piccolo Forno. The whole atmosphere at Piccolo is great. It’s a excellent place to grab dinner. Pizza Company may lack the aesthetics of Piccolo, but this is more of a utilitarian slice. Components went to Pizza Co for sure. Solid crust, great cheese, and sauce. Overall Flavor was a close call, but Pizza Co edged out Piccolo for the upset. Keep reading, though, because this isn’t the headline related upset.
Winner: The Pizza Company
1 Mineo’s vs 8 Jioio’s
Next up in the bracket is a 1/8 match-up between one of my all-time faves and distant spot that apparently is worth the drive. I met with a hockey playing buddy (aka the Zdeno Chara of men’s league) in Squirrel Hill and we grabbed a slice at Mineo’s. I haven’t had Mineo’s in a long time. Spoiler Alert: I still love this pizza. I’ve heard many argue that there is too much cheese on a Mineo’s pizza, but that was not my experience, at least this time around. There was definitely more cheese than some other pizzas, but not in an overwhelming way.
Zdeno and I then made the long trek to Greensburg so I could finally try the famous Jioio’s. Fortunately, Zdeno’s company made the long trip seem much shorter. I was aware that Jioio’s had a sweet sauce, but good lord, I had no idea. The sauce was crazy sweet, like a nice old lady that won’t let you say no to food that she is so kindly offering. Zed is a big fan of the sweet sauce, but I am not. I did kind of like the crispy thin crust, though. Don’t get me wrong, the pizza is good, it’s just not my preferred style.
This match-up was a bit of a blowout for me. All three categories go in favor of Mineo’s. I won’t be rushing back to Jioio’s, but if you like a sweet sauce or you live in the east suburbs, you should head to Jioio’s so you can come to your own conclusions.
3 Spirit/Slice Island vs 6 Giovanni’s
This is another game featuring two places that I’ve had on more than one occasion. Previous judges T-Boz, Chilli, and Left Eye joined me at Giovanni’s in Dormont (they also have a location downtown). I’ve previously been critical of Giovanni’s despite the fact that they have won best pizza in Pittsburgh in recent years. Not that I didn’t like it, just that the sauce was a little too sweet. “Jesus Christ, we get it, you don’t like a sweet sauce!” Sorry, fake person. I’ll try to lay off the sweet sauce putdowns for a while. Precursory assessments filed away, this pizza was much better than I remembered. The sauce was sweet (hold on…), but not too sweet, at all. In fact, this pizza was pretty amazing and TLC agreed.
I then rolled solo to Slice Island. Slice Island is located inside Spirit which is a bit of a hipster haven, but not in a bad way. In order to stay as profesh as possible on this trip to Spirit, I avoided the tradition of shotgunning a baby Bud at the bar and went right to Slice Island. Just as I remembered, this pizza is as good as Han Solo is cool. Square cut, great components, superb overall flavor.
I’ll give Appearance to Giovanni’s, although by a slim margin. The Components and Overall Flavor categories were a bit tougher to call. After contemplating on my way home, I decided to give the edge to Spirit/Slice Island.
Winner: Spirit/Slice Island
3 Aiello’s vs 6 La Tavola
Have you figured it out yet? This is the big upset that was teased in the headline. I’ve heard many people declare Aiello’s to be just as good, if not better than Mineo’s. I was hoping to have a Mineo’s Aiello’s showdown in the Elite Eight, but it just ain’t gonna happen. I had never tried Aiello’s because anytime I was on that particular block of Murray Avenue for pizza, I was heading to Mineo’s. That being said, I was super pumped
to finally try Aiello’s. A tall friend of mine (the Hightower to my Mahoney) went with me to Squirrel Hill to give Aiello’s it’s time in the sun. Despite my eagerness to give Aiello’s a whirl, I still had to repress my lust for Mineo’s since we were merely 128 feet away. We each grabbed a slice of pepperoni and ate there. I will give the following caveat to this upset: Aiello’s is in the middle of some construction, therefore, that may have played into the following results. Both of us, were quite disappointed with what we expected to be a great piece of pizza. Nothing was spectacular about our experience and all categories went in favor of La Tavola.
The slice at Aiello’s wasn’t what we expected, but again, the construction and the fact that we just ordered slices instead of a whole pie could be the reason why we were crestfallen after our visit. I know it seems like I am just straight up bashing Aiello’s, but I feel like this was just a bad performance, much like Duke vs UNLV in 1990. I will certainly go back to Aiello’s to give it another chance and you should not write them off as bad pizza. They can’t be bad for all the hype. This could have all been a fluke. Also, I know I didn’t really review La Tavola, but I’ll get into that in the next round.
Seriously, though, you should still try Aiello’s.
Winner: La Tavola
Okay, enough of the winners and losers. Check out the updated bracket below and keep your eyes peeled on social media for more updates!