I’ve never had more fun in a room full of strangers. A few months ago, I met Alex Goldmark at a pizzeria in the East Village. Mutual friends pulled us together (Alex is a producer for the WNYC show New Tech City) and we, of course, started talking about pizza. Alex started telling me about his friends’ annual event in which they get together to see who can make the best pizza. I must have been very obvious about my level of interest in the event because the organizer and host, Edna Ishayik (who writes for New York Magazine, The New York Times, etc), invited me to be the guest judge for the evening. I’ve judged many professional pizza competitions before, but this one had me more anxious than all the others combined. These folks had years of competitive history, but it turned out to be an extremely enjoyable evening.
About 20 people attended and fourteen pizzas were entered into the competition. Edna purchased dough from Eataly so everybody started off with the same raw materials. The results were pretty amazing and far more balanced than I see at most pro events. Take a look at this white clam pie…
It’s glorious! Whole, fresh clams! He started the night shucking them but quicky realized it would be easier and more delicious to cook them a bit just until the shells opened. The result was stunning, yet not the best of the night.
Dough stretching has always been the element that holds people back from home pizza making, so a couple of the more seasoned veterans helped out the other contestants. We did run into some common problems: too much flour (bitter, chalky crust), not enough flour (dough sticks to peel), and over topping (trouble getting pizza into oven).
Meats were big this year, especially prosciutto. Some cooked it, others added it after the bake.
The big list helped everyone pick their favorites when it came time to vote. Check out the fun names!
The best part of this event was that everyone helped each other. There wasn’t any real conflict, just great people having a great time. Next time you’re having friends over and don’t want to cook, have a pizza making competition.