The staff of the Advocate realized something this week: we are really full of pizza.
That’s what you get when you commit to judging a blind-tasting contest between 27 of the Valley’s best by-the-slice pizza establishments. In round one, back in March, we chowed down on cheese slices from Northampton. In May, we set our sights on Springfield pizzerias. In July, we broadened our horizons and pulled slices from all over the northern Valley. In this issue — our fourth and final round — we hit up pizza joints all over the southern Valley.
(Note to co-workers: when choosing the next item in our Taste-Off! series, let’s remember to lay off the bread. You all seem a little sluggish around the office lately. As for me — I feel like I’m baking a dough baby right now.)
But first, we’ve got some boxing up to do. How did our six cheese slice contestants do this round?
We tasted slices from Capri Pizza in Holyoke, Brothers Pizza in Chicopee, Paisano’s Restaurant & Pizzeria in Southampton, Pizza Towne in Westfield, Family Pizza & Grinders in South Hadley, and Liquori’s Pizza in West Springfield.
Slices were rated on a scale of 1 (yuck) to 5 (yum). Judges were editors Kristin Palpini and Jeff Good, staff writers Amanda Drane and Hunter Styles, and multimedia maven Micky Bedell.
Sixth Place: Liquori’s in West Springfield
Average score: 1.58
Micky: This is just bread masquerading as pizza.
Amanda: This slice is super-doughy. It could have been saved with some more sauce. A fat-bottomed slice like this needs a healthy dose of sauce.
Hunter: It’s hard to even say what this sauce tastes like, besides diluted tomato. And yes, it’s really chewy — almost a bubble-gum level of chewiness.
Kristin: I took a couple of bites and now I don’t want to eat pizza anymore.
Fifth Place: Capri Pizza in Holyoke
Average score: 1.75
Jeff: This pizza made me think of driving across Nebraska. It was flat, dull, and dry.
Hunter: The only reason you should eat this is if you’ve just run a 5K and you need to pump some carbs into your body or you’ll die.
Micky: I like this one. The dough wasn’t crunchy enough, but it had a buttery aftertaste. So maybe I just don’t like tomato sauce … Let the record show that Kristin just tried to slap me.
Kristin: I’m sorry for the violent outburst. But I feel very strongly about tomatoes, so this pizza left me uncomfortably numb. This pizza is like a rainy day, just staring out the window into the abyss.
Fourth Place: Brothers Pizza in Chicopee
Average score: 2.16
Kristin: I thought this one was saucy and garlicky, with nice cheese. It’s like the Miss Manners of pizza — proper and inoffensive, but there’s no sparks.
Micky: I don’t like a pizza where the crust is just a continuation of the dough. Like: oh, sorry, we just didn’t put cheese on this part.
Amanda: I agree with Micky — it’s too mushy-doughy. And it could use more sauce.
Jeff: I want to ask the Obama administration: Is there a sauce embargo in effect? I’m thinking of giving up pizza altogether and switching to a raw foods diet.
Third Place: Pizza Towne in Westfield
Average score: 2.5
Hunter: This pizza is like Olivia Newton-John in the last scene of Grease — it woke up one morning and decided it wasn’t going to be sweet anymore. The sauce has a full tomato flavor with a bunch of seasoning.
Jeff: Great sauce. It had a nice garlic edge, which I very much enjoy. The cheese and crust were mid-range.
Amanda: This is a solid slice. The dough wasn’t quite as airy as I typically like it. But I like whatever cheese they used — it had a little saltiness to it.
Kristin: I got kind of an American cheese vibe, which irked me, and the sauce and bread needed more character. It was like all of the pieces were in it for themselves.
Second Place: Paisano’s Restaurant & Pizzeria in Southampton
Average score: 2.92
Jeff: Nice bubbly-brown cheese top, plenty of sauce, but it’s too sweet, and the crust is non-descript.
Micky: I like the look of this pizza more than the taste. It was too mushy for me. I wish the whole pizza was as crunchy as the crust.
Amanda: I like this pizza. The sauce is a little too sweet, but it has a lot of flavor — you can taste the Italian seasoning. And it has a good amount of cheese and sauce.
Hunter: Really good. There’s a serious cheese layer that’s nicely toasted. Also a nice hot bed of sauce. It’s greasy, but it’s got big taste.
First Place: Family Pizza & Grinders in South Hadley
Average score: 3
Kristin: I just loved this pizza. The sauce was sweet and tangy. It would make a good Bloody Mary mix.
Amanda: This is great. The dough is pleasantly airy and crispy on the bottom. The only thing is that I want a little more of that delicious sauce.
Hunter: The thickness of the crust is a little much. It’s light on the sauce, but it has a nice herby, savory flavor profile.
Jeff: This is an Olympic-caliber crust. I’d buy this pizza for the crust alone. I’ll just bring my own sauce next time.