The Halifax Peninsula Pizza Finals were a success! My Pizza Team was joined by other participants for a total of 20 judges, tasked with scoring what we determined to be the 7 best pizzerias in Halifax proper.
That’s 20 people – 14 large pizzas, and the biggest event I’ve ever organized!
Joining us this evening was Josh Rankin of Life of Burgers, Natalie Morin of Rousseau Chocolatier, Arthur Gaudreau of Halifax ReTales, Jenn Gregory of Jenn Gregory Photography, and several members of my nacho team.
Much thanks to Haligonia.ca for filming the event, which you can watch below.
Eat This Town from videocontentfactory on Vimeo
In case you have no idea what’s going on:
I have spent the better part of this year eating my way through the bounty of pizza on the Halifax Peninsula. My Pizza Team and I have conducted pizza quests in the South End, West End, North Central, North of North, and Quinpool Road neighbourhoods. The pizzas were scored in various categories and winners were declared. The second place finishers from each neighbourhood were put to an online poll to determine which two pizzerias would get a wild card pass to the finals.
After determining the final contestants, I had to decide which pizzas to order. In all of the preliminary quests, we ordered pizzas with pepperoni and green pepper. The idea was to evaluate the core elements of American pizza construction – crust, sauce, cheese, pepperoni.
I decided to enable creative combinations for the finals. The pizzas that passed the bar would now get a chance to show us what they’re made of! I visited several of the pizzerias to ask what their most popular pizzas were, the staff favourites, the prime pies to showcase.
Here is a list of the contestants and the pizzas we ordered:
Salvatore’s: Original w/ meatballs & onions, Bianco in Stephano
Tomavino’s: Tomasino’s Combo, Bel Cibo
Sicilian Pizza: The Works, Tuscan
Mumford Pizza: The Works, Hawaiian
Kit Kat Pizza: The Works (1/2 olives), Plain Cheese
Korca Pizza: Korca Works, Korca’s Special
Freeman’s Pizza: House Specialty, 5th Avenue
There were numerical categorical scores (crust, toppings, sauce, overall) but these were mainly used for interpretive purposes.
To determine the actual winners, each judge was to indicate their top 3 pizzeria picks. The points in this case represent how many people (out of 20) mentioned the pizzeria in their top 3.
1. Salvatore’s (14 points)
2. Tomavino’s (11 points)
3. Kit Kat / Mumford (tie – 9 points)
Looking at the data, it is clear that Salvatore’s scored very high in every category. They use a high gluten dough which is hand-tossed into a perfect thin crust. Only premium ingredients are used, and each ingredient has its own cooking time. The pizzas are masterfully constructed and dutifully watched as they cook.
The consensus was that Salvatore’s is best eaten in the restaurant while piping hot. Its delicate gourmet sensibilities do not stand up as well to delivery.
Tomavino’s exceptional scores were for toppings. People were impressed with their quality and inventiveness. While the crust did not receive an exceptional score, it did get some warm reviews. Honestly, it wasn’t as good as it usually is. Like Salvatore’s, it is best enjoyed in the restaurant – but I think it handles delivery slightly better than Sal’s.
Lowest scores were for the sauce, and reading through the comments it is evident that there just wasn’t enough of it.
Mumford scored exceptional points for toppings and sauce. The toppings were very generous and a good bacon was used, which, when combined with the spicy sauce creates a lovely combination of flavours.
The crust was just okay. This pizza is not as gourmet as Salvatore’s or Tomavino’s, but for a no nonsense American-style delivery pie – this is your neighbourhood shop of choice.
Kit Kat Pizza
Exceptional points for crust. The dough is basically made by a grandmother in the back. It is delightfully soft and doughy, with some good flavour. Also, I forget who said it first, but this pizza is a “Wall of Cheese!” In a good way. If you like cheese.
Weaknesses: Aesthetics, arguably. Structural sloppicity. Mediocre toppings – Tinfoil notes the presence of “spongy pepperoni”.
People had lots to say about Kit Kat:
“Some weekends, I grab a brick of cheddar from the fridge and eat it like a candy bar, because I’m that lazy. I have no regrets. This pizza reminds me of those days” – Denton
“This pizza suffers due to low quality toppings. The cheese and the crust are actually very good, but it’s a difficult pizza to eat, very messy” – Mike M
“Breath of fresh air amongst everything else” – Graeme
As for which individual pizzas people liked the best, there was a very evident admiration for the Korca Special. This pizza converted many who had pre-existing loyalties.
This seems to be directly related to an impressive score for toppings. The Korca Special really won people over with its feta cheese, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, red onions, bacon, garlic and red peppers.
Korca’s main weakness was its crust. Despite having an old brick oven, the crust was described as: “bland”, “buttery”, “sweet” and “dry”. I’m not sure if it is the dough recipe, the oil used, or the brick oven, but Korca’s crust had an unusual amount of “weak” votes, and very few “great” votes.
Despite trailing behind Mumford/Kit Kat by two votes, this pizza was mentioned more times as “Favourite Pizza of the Day”.
Some of the other favourite pizzas were the Sal’s Original w/ meatballs, Tomavino’s Bel Cibo, and the Mumford Works.
Notes on Sicilian:
Sicilian only had 5 mentions but of those 5 mentions 3 people declared it to be their favourite pizza of the day. So obviously Sicilian has a fan base. It was noted that Sicilian had excellent topping coverage and sauce distribution. The cheese and pepperoni are good quality, but the bacon was the little processed-looking “meatballs”. The sauce was much sweeter than that used by Freeman’s and Mumford – I leave that to your preferences.
Notes on Freeman’s:
My first bite of the day was the Freeman’s 5th Avenue, which is a scaled down version of the Works. I loved the initial burst of Freeman’s spicy sauce, real strips of bacon, and their gluten-free top-side pepperoni. In fact, Freeman’s had exceptional scores for toppings. One of the things holding Freeman’s back was the crust – which is normally much better. Then again, I usually eat personal sized pizzas right at the bar – so maybe it’s just better that way. It could have been fist-bite-syndrome, but Freeman’s was still ranked among my top 3.
I’d like to make it clear that all of these pizzas were delicious. While Salvatore’s is the undisputed champion(with the most points and votes in its favour), pizza tends to be very subjective and a full consensus is an utter impossibility. The Pizza Quest is just a guideline, a journey of discovery that will hopefully get people to try new places and discover new favourites.
Some of the honourable mentions that didn’t make it here today are: Island Greek, Dimitri’s, Alexandra’s, Shadia’s, Bramoso, Xtreme, Randy’s, and Velo’s.
I would like to thank the members of my Pizza Team for their undying support and participation: DoomGuts, Talix, MGyver, Tinfoil, Mike, Emily & Sean.
Special thanks to LA DoomGuts, Talix J, MGyver and my lovely parents for their help with the Pizza Final – I couldn’t have done it without you guys!
Credit goes to Michael Dinn for most of the photography, and to Haligonia.ca for filming the event.
So much love and pizza to you all!
2015 will hopefully see pizza quests in Fairview, Clayton Park, Spryfield and Dartmouth. We will be looking for volunteers to host the events (5-7 ppl), so if you live in one of these neighbourhoods and want in on the action, e-mail me at email@example.com