So when he asked if I would help him with his local pizza competition, I quickly said yes. Apparently, the plans for a best pizza contest arose from the idea that since Herman Cain is the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and a favorite candidate of Gill's listeners, it would be interesting to see if they preferred his pizza as well. After a modicum of research, Gill's staff discovered that around here, Godfather's Pizza is pretty much limited to gas stations and would probably finish a distant third in the takeaway pizza category behind Hunt Brothers and "Other."
But the buzz had already begun, and Gill saw this as a chance to feature some local pizza options and share a good time with some of his listeners invited to the studio. So that's how I found myself in the comfortable garage-and-poker-room-themed room at Clear Channel that serves as Gill's studio, confronted with a stack of 12 pieces of pizza.
Listeners made the first pass through the boxes of carryout delivered by the competitors, piling their straining paper plates high with slices from the two categories, pepperoni and "restaurant's choice." Then a parade of pies was brought forth to the two tables of us judges by staffers and interns of the radio show. The entrants were: Porta Via on White Bridge Road; Joey's House of Pizza (newly relocated from Brentwood to Elm Hill Pike in Nashville); Marco's Pizza in Franklin; the punnily-named Knead Dough from Hendersonville; Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, also from Hendersonville; and Michaelangelo's Pizza (located just off Elliston Place in Nashville).
Judging was ostensibly blind, although some of the pizzas were served in the boxes with the pizzerias' names on them, but we were professionals. After pies were assessed on both appearance and taste, the People's Choice Award went to Knead Dough. I didn't see their pizza in the condition that it arrived, but apparently they cooked a 4' x 4' pizza that had both a pepperoni side and a Hawaiian ham, bacon, red onion and grilled pineapple half, which was my personal favorite. (I know ... the heresy! I went to college in California and developed an unholy attraction to Hawaiian pizza.)
The best pepperoni went to Joey's House of Pizza for their crazy double-stuffed cheese-and-pork bomb served with a side of dipping sauce. Yeah, it was as good as it sounds, albeit a bit unwieldy.
In the specialty pie division, there was a tie for the winner between Marco's, who I thought had the goat cheese, chicken and barbecue slice (but I could be wrong ... blind test remember?), and a very interesting offering from Michaelangelo's that looked like a cross between brioche and Cinnabon, but was stuffed with cheese, sausage and spicy tomato sauce. I would definitely hunt that one down again if it was on their regular menu.
As of press time, the Supreme Court still hadn't broken the tie between Marco's and Michaelangelo's, although we were assured that there were no hanging chads. I'm content to say they were both winners, but that's probably just the pinko secular humanist in me coming out.