You may have heard that Williamsburg Pizza's Nino Coniglio recently won the 2016 Pizza Maker of the Year Award handed out by the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.
Naturally, we were a little curious as to how something like that is even determined, and if the supposed "impartial" judges on the panel were even close.
Now, we're never ready to knock down the pie slinging virtuosos dishing out our favorite cuisine, but when it comes to New York City pizza and the prestige that comes with superlatives such as "best," well, we're quick to check it out for ourselves.
So, what did we do? We did what any sensible pizza loving media company does: we sent an intern from Chelsea to Williamsburg Pizza to snag two different pies; one cheese, one margherita.
An hour later, he popped in with two wind-whipped pies (yeah, it's windy as hell out today), and we dug in.
Now, the International Pizza Challenge, where Coniglio won the award for 2016 Pizza Maker of the year, has a number of different divisions, and each pie is scored a number of different ways.
For one, there are 5 different divisions with over 200 different pizzaioli, and all of the divisions are scored bake-off style.
So, right away, our understanding of this award was skewed because we were only tasting from one division, Traditional, and we weren't getting the pizza made right in front of us (it was cold because of the 30 minute travel and the blustery winds).
So we couldn't get the pizza to validate its stake on best pizza, and seeing how Coniglio is still in Las Vegas, we don't know if it's home to the best pizza maker because we didn't have that guy baking our pie.
But we ate it anyway.
Scoring is measured by taste: crust, sauce, cheese, toppings and overall taste (and creativity for non-traditional and American-Pan divisions only), and appearance: bake and visual presentation.
The Margherita pizza, although cold, was delicious. The tomatoes were perfectly splotchy; everything was adequately spaced so there wasn't any inconsistent flavor or texture in any bite.
Even cold you could still get delicious mozzarella in every bite, and the basil, while chopped a little too finely, added just enough to the whole pie without distracting from what matters: cheese, sauce, and crust.
The cheese pizza, however, was about as underwhelming as a plain pie would suggest. That's not to say it was bad, but it simply didn't achieve anything particularly special in any bite. Again, that's not exactly a bad thing as the pizza itself wasn't bad. It was just okay.
Sometimes with a plain pie, that's all you want: nothing special. But when it comes from somewhere understood to be the best in the world, well, you kind of want something special. We'll chalk that up to Coniglio's absence.
The true success of both pies, however, was the crust. New York City is really good at giving you a variety of different crusts.
Some joints do it too thick, so that cardboard consistency creates a carbo-loaded meal on its own. Some joints have a paper thin base and the grease seeps through almost immediately.
As underwhelming as these pies might have been, we had unintentionally given it all the time in the world to show us if the crust was any good in the long travel. Sure enough, looking at the box, nothing seeped through the crust.
Every bite was crispy without cutting the insides of your mouth, and even if the cheese pizza tasted a little off, it was at least consistent with every bite.
Verdict: We don't know if Williamsburg Pizza is the best pizza in the world, and with Coniglio still in Las Vegas, we can't say for sure if he is the best pizza maker. The only thing we know for sure is that they at least know how to make a good Margherita pizza, and their dough is on point.[Feature Image Courtesy BlackBook]