BY JANIS SEMINARA
As I dusted a fall foliage bouquet out of storage and placed ceramic pumpkins on my window sills, I didn't have Halloween on my mind. I was thinking pizza and counting down the days to the Best Pizza on Long Island Contest at Adventureland in Farmingdale. Why? Just think of the way the mozzarella cheese melts orange/red into a pool of marinara sauce across a crisp, golden browned crust; come on, the analogy may be way off, but for my family, 'fall' means 'pizza' and this years pizza contest on Long Island was better than ever! The fall breeze moved the scent of garlic through Adventureland Park and my nose led me right to all the excitement. By the time I got there, between the pizza ovens, the growing crowd and the crowning sunshine, the day was getting hot! I bought my tickets and headed for the raffle table. I had won a great basket last year, and for a dollar a ticket, it was well worth the chance. Now that I had secured my tickets and chance for a prize, I peered over the sea of heads, bobbing up and down with mozzarella strings attached from their pizza slices held in midair to their lower lips. I couldn't wait to see which pizzerias Long Islanders voted to be here!
Albert's of W. Babylon was here for a second year, and they entered a 'Penne a La Vodka' specialty pizza. (It was delicious and there was a line waiting for pies to come out of the oven).
Paradiso's of Mount Sinai was here for the second year too and I couldn't wait to taste their specialty pizza which was 'nick' named the 'five pound pizza'. It consisted of delicately fried shrimp drizzled with creamy francesa sauce (a wine reduction), mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of bacon bits and breadcrumbs atop a thin, crusty bread. This was my personal favorite of the day.
Prince Umberto's of Franklin Square was here for their third year. Prince Umberto's coveted best regular slice and best Grandma their first year, Best Sicilian and Best Specialty; Fried Calamari pizza their second year, and so I was anticipating what they would do this year. Their pizza parlor is very close to my home, and we have enjoyed Prince Umberto's for many, many years. A few years ago they started jarring their own line of marinara sauces, and many a night I'll run in and grab a jar to enjoy for a special dinner.
Antino's of Rocky Point was here for the first time and besides the regular, sicilian, marinara, and Grandma submissions, they were entering a Buffalo Chicken pizza as their specialty pie. It was very good, with big chunks of buffalo chicken atop melted cheese and crust. Another newbie to the contest was Bucci's pizzeria of East Patchogue. Bucci's entries would include a Chicken Alfredo specialty pizza which I unfortunately didn't get to sample. The pizza went as fast as it came out of the oven!
Spasso's of Wantagh was here for their third year. Their first year they won for best regular and last year they won for their Grandma pizza. This year they entered a Chicken Marsala specialty pizza; each bite was like eating a delicious piece of chicken Marsala and a crusty piece of garlic bread all at the same time. Also, Spasso's went on to Milan, Italy for the World Pizza Competition where they ranked the top 11th. Based on the caliber of the participants, this year was going to be a tough contest. Now that I had acquainted myself with the contenders, I decided to start sampling.
Marietta of Longisland.com told me that "Long Islanders made a science of choosing the best pizza." One of the judges I'd spoken to had been asked, "How do you judge which pizza is best?" It's a complicated answer, every pizza, like every pizza eater is individual unto themselves, but some pizza is just better than others, and the top five contenders for this year earned their places here.
Of course, there were pizza related festivities all day in between waiting for fresh pies to sample. Bonanza's Italian Ices of Oyster Bay scooped over 600 delectable treats throughout the day, and announced their new Gourmet Ice Cream Line. The peanut butter and canola ices are wonderful as are many of their over 100 flavors. For entertainment, The World Pizza Champions returned to amaze us with their champion pizza making skills. There was a pizza making activity for children and of course a 'Zen' pizza pie eating contest where the five contestants had to become "one with their pizzas".
Some of the judges this year are celebrities in their own right: Tien Mao, Editor At Large of Gothamist.com, Bruce Chamoff, CEO and Show Producer of Long Island Podcast Music Network was there to judge and record the event and stream a live podcast as well. LauraLiz Montalbano of Neighborhood Journal, a Long Island Cable TV show was there too. Look for blogs, podcasts, and cable TV segments of the pizza contest on their respective shows. 101 Jack FM provided great music and give-aways all day, and Cremosa Cheese provided prize money's for some of the contestants. Micky D was also a judge, you may know him from Micky D's oldie (music) hits.
As always, all proceeds went to Long Island Cares; The Harry Chapin Food Bank, and Island Harvest: Long Island's Source Authority on Food Rescue. Based on the crowd, and how fast the pizzas were going, I hope these two wonderful charities fared as well in proceeds as Long Islanders did in enjoying the pizzas. The raffle was called out while we all anxiously waited to hear who won which category. I won a great basket of men's colognes, golf accessories and Harry Chapin CDs and was eager to share them with my family.
The winners were:
Prince Umberto's: Best Regular and Best Sicilian.
Paradiso Pizza: Best Marinara
Antino's: Best Grandma
Spasso's: Best Specialty-Chicken Marsala Pizza