Mace & Crown Hunts for the Best Norfolk Pizza
Story by Stef Wasko
Five Norfolk pizzerias, 16 pizzas, 10 judges, four category winners and one Mace and Crown 2016 Pizza Project complete.
Tuesday night, Feb. 23, Norfolk foodies and Mace and Crown staff gathered in the newsroom, drawn by the smells of freshly baked pizza from some of Norfolk’s best, including Cogans, Del Vecchios, Granby St. Pizza, Fellini’s and University Pizza.
Just after 6 p.m., the panel started the first round of pizza tasting, on the hunt for the best specialty pizza. The following rounds included best veggie, best pepperoni and best cheese pizza contests.
Cogans won “Best Overall Pizza” with close, winning scores in both cheese and pepperoni categories. Cogans also received the highest score of the night for their pepperoni pizza. Fellini’s won best veggie and tied with Del Vech’s for best specialty.
The slices were served on small, paper plates marked with letters, which corresponded to undisclosed pizzerias in order to prevent any bias toward certain restaurants. After each round of tasting, score sheets were collected and averaged to find the category-winning pizza.
Some pizzerias chose to participate in only the final rounds– cheese and pepperoni. The overall winner was chosen based on the average scores from these two rounds.
Graphic by Jugal Patel
So, who has the best take-out pizza in the ODU area? (Numbers indicate average scores from judges.)
Cogans just barely passed University Pizza to win the “Best Cheese Pizza” category by .3 average points. Several judges commented on the saltiness of Cogans pizza, but gave credit to its overall taste and even distribution of sauce and cheese.
Several judges, including Handsome Biscuit employees Raymond Braza and Mike Nietes, expressed their preference for University Pizza’s cheese slice. Although second place for the round, U. Pie’s slice crushed the other cheese pizzas in the “most greasy” category.
Cogans won again for “Best Pepperoni Pizza,” receiving more points than any other pizza in any round. Del Vech’s followed close behind with their pepperoni pizza, coming in second by just .2 points.
“Crisp! Yes! This is what I want to crush after a night out,” Enver Siddiky, a local restaurant manager and ODU student, wrote about Cogans pepperoni slice.
Del Vecchios and Fellini’s tied for “Best Specialty” with Del Vech’s chicken ranch pie and Fellini’s bourbon street pizza. Joseph Cosco, ODU English professor and George Culver, a local food blogger, were not impressed with the non-traditional ranch pizza from Del Vech’s, however.
“Don’t mess with the basic set up: crust, tomato sauce and cheese,” Cosco wrote in his comments.
And for all the vegetarians out there, Fellini’s took the cake with almost all of the ten judges commenting on the good variety and amount of veggies.
However, Christopher Ndiritu, the ODU student body president, commented, “The water from veggies drained the pizza. Too much veggie.”
And who were the lucky pizza judges?
Chef Robert Patton: Executive Chef at ODU. Chef Patton won the “Produce Excellence in Foodservice” national award for colleges and universities in 2015.
Dr. Joseph Cosco: “I’m Italian American, I grew up in New York and I have been to Naples. My mother made pizza with homemade dough, homemade tomato sauce, and only the best mozzarella. I know (and love) pizza.”
George Culver: Eater-in-Chief at I Heart Food. He is a food blogger and has freelanced articles for several local publications. Culver is a regular on WHRO’s “Let’s Eat” program and is on the board of directors for the local chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local.
Raymond Braza: “I graduated from the Art Institute for Graphic Design and am currently the assistant manager at Handsome Biscuit in Norfolk. Pizza is food. Food is necessary for living. Pizza is life.”
Michael (Mike) Nietes: “I’m a baker at the Handsome Biscuit and founder of Homeslice Pizzeria. While I was on a deployment, I created my own pizza service based off a Sunday tradition with my wife. It was called Homeslice Pizzeria and I worked during my off hours making and selling pizza to my comrades.”
Enver Siddiky: “I’m the general manager of my family’s restaurant, Cilantro Bangladeshi Bistro, in Norfolk. I love pizza so much I had an ‘I want pizza’ dance as a kid… though it didn’t always work.”
Christopher Ndiritu: ODU student body president who loves pizza.
Kody Kight: “I’m a super senior at ODU finishing a double degree in mechanical engineering and history. I spend most of my money on food, especially on pizza in Norfolk. With that being said, I am broke. What a great opportunity to score some free pizza!”
Alyse Stanley: “Supreme being, Mace and Crown alum, former tech section editor, copy editor at the Virginian Pilot… I’m a recent ODU alum and a discerning pizza eater. A few years ago, I discovered the glories of dipping it in ranch and never looked back.”
Adrienne Mayfield: ODU Mace and Crown alum and public safety reporter for the Virginia Gazette.