Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My night with the Stamford Pizza Tour

If there's one thing Stamforders take seriously, it's their pizza. If there's one person who takes that pizza very seriously, it's, well, the three guys of the Stamford Pizza Tour. Their goal is to "tackle every pizza restaurant in Stamford and eventually crown an indisputable pizza champion." Since beginning the Tour in February of this year, they've dished on the good and the bad of Stamford's pizza joints.

The SPT is the brainchild of Scott and Elliot, who laid the groundwork for this tour while undertaking two Burrito Tours of Ann Arbor, Michigan, while they were in college. The third regular judge is Dan, who attended Westhill High School with Scott and Elliot, and had the idea to take the concept to Stamford, judging pizza this time. There used to be a fourth regular judge, but he dropped out of the Tour because he felt awkward dining at pizza places with a clipboard and a scoresheet.

I recently had the honor of being a guest judge for a stop on the Tour, followed by a Q&A with the judges. Along with another guest judge, their friend and Burrito Tour regular Bryan, we convened in the Conference Room in Elliot's basement, where they have a giant map of Stamford with pushpins marking each restaurant visited.

They gave me a scoresheet and picked a name out of a hat. Speaking of the scoresheet, they've put together an elaborate rating system for a number of factors such atmosphere, cleanliness, ingredient slip and the ever-important "Hits the Spot." This week's Tour stop: Stamford Restaurant & Pizzeria on East Main Street.

I won't go into detail on our dining experience - you'll have to read the review on their site - but it was a lot of fun discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the menu selection, the decor, and the bathroom (yes, that counts). Here are a few funny pearls of wisdom from the discussion of our scores:
  • On Stamford Pizzeria's hours (they're closed on Tuesdays): "If you need a day off, take Sunday off like a normal person."
  • "It wasn't that dirty."
  • "To me, sauce is the most unexplored opportunity on a pizza. You could do such interesting things with sauce."
  • "I rate the bathroom on how comfortable I would feel to drop a deuce in there."
  • "The cheese was the lifeblood of that pizza."
  • "Being a guest judge is fun. You don't have to be responsible with anything. You can be a complete psycho." (Said by Bryan, I swear.)
Now on to the Q&A:

What goes best with pizza? Beer? Soda?
I like fountain Diet Coke.
Scott: Fountain soda or draft beer.
Bryan: I love soda.
Elliot: It washes down so good wth soda. I love it with soda.
Dan: I feel like if I drink beer, I can eat less pizza.
Scott: I feel like if I drink beer, I can eat worse pizza.

Do you ever get tired of pizza?
Scott: We get burned out sometimes.
Dan: We got burned out one time. Elliot was going away, so we went to four places in one week, but I had the urge to eat pizza again five days later. I don't think you can ever really get sick of it.

Have you ever had a slice of pizza you just couldn't finish?
Dan, Scott & Elliot: Speedy Pizza.
Scott: Michelina's, I couldn't finish. What did it for me was the god-awful sausage.
Dan: I was picking the sausage off.
Scott: It tasted like chlorine. I don't even know how that's possible. Everyone should try Michelina's sausage just so they appreciate other sausages more.

Greek pizza or Italian pizza?
Elliot: Italian.
Scott: I'm big on Italian.
Dan: I've always kind of had a thing for Greek pizza. I like them both though. Hope Pizza's one of my favorite places. That's a good pizza.
Scott: Greek pizza's not bad.

Cold pizza: yes, no?
Dan: Yes.
Scott: Absolutely.
Elliot: Oh yeah.
Dan: I don't heat it up again. Once it goes cold, it stays cold.

Why did you exclude Domino's and California Pizza Kitchen?
Dan: I feel like it's [about] Stamford pizza; local people go there to get pizza. But if you've had Domino's, you've had Domino's.
Bryan: "Mmm...really good Domino's..."
Dan: California Pizza Kitchen? We're in Connecticut. Get outta my face!

Any plans for another tour once you've crowned a pizza champion?
Elliot: We were all thinking we'd branch out of Stamford to the rest of Fairfield County, certainly not trying to hit them all but at least the well-known ones.
Scott: It would be interesting to compare some of the staple pizza places in New Haven like Pepe's and Sally's.
Dan: Or if someone says, "Hey you guys gotta do this place."
Scott: There's some good pizza in Darien.
Elliot: And New Canaan. It would be nice for anybody who's not for Stamford to look at the website and be able to benchmark something that they know to all these places in Stamford.

With this stop on the Tour, these princes of the pie have hit 31 restaurants, with 16 to go (17 if Nonna's opens soon). My hat's off to the dedicated judges of the Stamford Pizza Tour. You, sirs, really are the top crust.


Strictly Stamford said...

Pizza! Pizza! I love Hope Street Pizza!

Anonymous said...

ridgeway pizza is the best,hands down,.......joe