Rachael Ray Magazine officially announced Phoenix-based Pizzeria Bianco as the winner of its first annual "March Pizza Madness" tournament. Pizzeria Bianco, owned by namesake and James Beard Foundation award winner Chris Bianco, beat out regional finalists including L.A.'s very own Pizzeria Mozza, NYC's Motorino and Chicago's Great Lake.
Spearheaded by Slice pizza bloggers Ed Levine and Adam Kuban - Ms. Ray herself had nothing to do with the pizzeria selections - the tournament "scouted 64 pizzerias in 25 U.S. cities before slicing down the competition to 16, then trekking a total of 11,000 miles to check them out." The pizzerias were then judged according to services, toppings and "the interplay of crust, sauce and cheese."
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With so many pizzerias dotting the U.S. culinary landscape, how did they seed the top 64? Says Ed Levine, "I wish I could tell you that we used some incredibly detailed scientific method to seed the 64 pizzerias included in our nationwide bracket, but in fact we didn't." Instead, they used a bracketing system similar to that of the NCAA basketball tournament, matching perceived high and low seeds so the "powerhouses" wouldn't find themselves competing pizza-to-pizza in the early rounds.
L.A. powerhouse Pizzeria Mozza beat out 60 of the 64 contenders before being eliminated in the Final Four. Still, it earned rave reviews from the judging team. "Mozza chef-partner Nancy Silverton was already legendary in L.A. for her work at La Brea Bakery," reveal Levine and Kuban. "No wonder her crusts have all the chewiness and rich flavor of artisan bread. And when that base is topped with one of the inventive combinations of ingredients (the pizza with peppers, olives and oregano is especially good), you can't go wrong. Some pizza purists ding these pies for being too bready--as if that's a bad thing. You won't leave a scrap behind."
But after all was said, done and tasted, Levine and Kuban announced Pizzeria Bianco as the best pizza in the U.S., if not the world. Fine. If you need a real March Madness bracket, check in with the NCAA.
Christie Bishop is author of PardonMyCrumbs.com.