By Janis Seminara
Before I went to the LongIsland.com sponsored Best Pizza on Long Island Contest, I associated autumn with red jelly apples, bright yellow candy corn, and crisp cool weather. Now I'm thinking crisp alright...crisp thin pizza crust, yellow and green peppers resting atop a sea of melted mozzarella cheese. When I see an orange pumpkin, I recall the way tomatoes sauce looks when it marries into the cheese on a thick crusted Sicilian slice. To hay with the candy corn, and jelly apples. Bring on the pizza! Ever since I saw those crowds of happy pizza eaters on the food channel last year, I counted the months to the big event. How happy I was to hear that the contest was at Adventureland, in Farmingdale, just a short ride on the Southern State Parkway from my home.
I have never seen so many pizza lovers having so much fun. And not only were the donations minimal, but all proceeds went to feed Long Island's Homeless, through Long Island Cares, Inc., The Harry Chapin Food Bank, and Island Harvest. I had absolutely no problem doling out dollar bills for a half slice of Long Island's best pizzas. I was eager to find out exactly how this contest even came to be, so I asked one of the pizza maker participants. He told me that any Pizza maker can enter, and then fans vote online at LongIsland.com. Those that make the most votes get to compete at Adventureland.
The participants this year were Nina's pizza of Northport, Gigantes of Oceanside, Paradiso of Mt. Sinai, Albert's pizza of West Babylon, Prince Umbertos of Franklin Square, Spassos of Wantagh, and Pietros of East Meadow. The judges are from various venues, either having to do with food or writing about it. Two actors from the show Tony & Tina's wedding, dressed in their costume of bridal attire also participated. It was funny to watch this elegant bride eat pizza slice after pizza slice throughout the day. By the end of the day, after all the entries were eaten I asked the judges how they felt. As you can guess all of them said "full" but they all had smiles on their faces. A few of the judges said that even though the specialty pizzas came out late in the day, when Spassos of Wantagh came out with their buffalo chicken pizza, their taste buds became re-engaged.
Speaking of specialty pizzas, I tried to get a slice of the calamari pizza from Umbertos, but it went fast... too fast. I was lucky enough to grab a slice of broccoli rabe and sausage pizza from Gigantes, and although that wasn't in the specialty pie competition, it was one of the best slices I had had all day.
Besides the pizza, there were raffles with plenty of great prizes, I won an apron that read " Italians have spicy meatballs" and a gift certificate to a pizzeria, and also a beautiful candle set with a frame. All prizes were donated for the event.
By the end of the day, my entourage and I still had room for more pizza. We all agreed that Gigantes of Oceanside had the best regular slice; my daughter thought they had a great marinara slice too. We even had room for dessert, the most delectable Italian ices we ever had; Bonanza's of Oyster Bay offers over 100 flavors. I finished my spumoni just in time to hear the winners get announced.
The winners were; Gigantes, Best regular pizza on Long Island (hooray, we loved it!) Prince Umbertos; Best Sicilian (we live near this pizzeria and have enjoyed many a slice over the years), Gigantes won a second time for best marinara, Spassos, won for best Grandma Pizza (YUMMY) and Best Specialty pizza went to Prince Umberto's for their calamari pizza (the slice I never got to try).
Thank you to LongIsland.com for sponsoring this wonderful event. So when Autumn of 2006 rolls around, and your setting your pumpkins out on the porch, think PIZZA, and join the Best Pizza on Long Island event!