Reno pizzathon 2011: Choosing the area's best pizza
The Greater Reno Grub and Gripe Group held a pizzathon Friday night in Reno to pick the best pizza, at least from the choices we had.
Bill and Linda were gracious enough to host so GRGAGG descended on their home with pizzas from eight places. We voted for best overall pizza and rated the pizzas based on their crust, sauce, cheese, meat topping and non-meat topping, usually meaning vegetables (I don't think anyone brought a pizza with nuts this time). A group of Chowhounds did this in 2006. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/330566
First place got 10 points, second 8 points, third got 6 and then deduct one point for each descending place until eighth got 1 point.
The top-rated overall pizza was Bistro 7. This is the place that used to be Ciao on South Virginia Street. The pizza oven was so big here it had to be lowered by helicopter. No surprise it would stick around when the business changed names.
Location Score Average
Bistro 7 Overall 82 6.31
Brugos Overall 73 5.62
Whole Foods Overall 73 5.62
Blind Onion Pizza Overall 63 4.85
Boulevard Overall 62 4.77
Black Rock Pizza Overall 58 4.46
Nik n Willies Pizza Overall 49 3.77
Pie-Face Pizza Co. Overall 47 3.62
For the individual categories, not everyone voted. So the scores were totaled and divided by the number of votes in each category.
Here are the results in the individual categories:
Bistro Seven Crust 6.82
Whole Foods Crust 6.00
Boulevard Crust 4.91
Brugos Crust 4.82
Black Rock Pizza Crust 4.64
Pie-Face Pizza Co. Crust 4.09
Blind Onion Pizza Crust 4.00
Nik n Willies Pizza Crust 3.73
Brugos Cheese 6.91
Whole Foods Cheese 6.36
Blind Onion Pizza Cheese 5.18
Bistro Seven Cheese 5.00
Nik n Willies Pizza Cheese 4.36
Boulevard Cheese 4.18
Black Rock Pizza Cheese 3.64
Pie-Face Pizza Co. Cheese 3.36
Brugos sauce 6.22
Whole Foods sauce 6.20
Pie-Face Pizza Co. sauce 4.80
Boulevard sauce 4.60
Nik n Willies Pizza sauce 4.60
Bistro Seven sauce 4.18
Black Rock Pizza sauce 3.80
Blind Onion Pizza sauce 3.11
Bistro Seven Meat 7.10
Boulevard Meat 5.80
Black Rock Pizza Meat 5.67
Nik n Willies Pizza Meat 5.10
Brugos Meat 4.56
Pie-Face Pizza Co. Meat Veggie
Whole Foods Meat Veggie
Whole Foods Non-meat 8.00
Pie-Face Pizza Co. Non-meat 6.89
Bistro Seven Non-meat 5.56
Brugos Non-meat 5.00
Boulevard Non-meat 4.56
Nik n Willies Pizza Non-meat 3.44
Black Rock Pizza Non-meat 3.00
Here are pictures of the pizzas:
Pie-Face Pizza Co.
Two different pizzas from Blind Onion:
Nik n Willies:
Black Rock Pizza:
Now for my opinion:
There were two main surprises in this for me. No. 1 is that Pie-Face Pizza would place last. I'm not necessarily a fan of Pie-Face Pizza. But I know so many people who are fans of it. They call it their favorite pizza. The thin crust is distinctive. In fact, I would have guessed RevAndy would have ranked it first. Nope. He didn't really like it. I pushed hard to get it included in the survey but no one seemed to like it. It was a vegetarian pizza, one with jalapenos, and that may have hurt it. My hope is that the people bringing the pizza would be an advocate for the pizza makers, picking one that puts their best pizza on display.
The second surprise is that Whole Foods would rank so high. For me it's just meh pizza. I've eaten it several times, although usually by the slice. It's not bad. But I wouldn't rank it near the top of the area's pizza.
I have not tried Brugo's in Reno yet. I've tried the one in Carson City. I gave some high marks to the one brought to Friday's pizzathon. But it seemed more like a pizza I respected more than one I liked. It seems like it was put together with good ingredients but I wasn't a fan of the pizza I tasted. It tied with Whole Foods for second place overall.
My favorite pizza locally is Boulevard. I ordered the combo and paid extra to get the green peppers and onions. Usually when I get that the peppers and onions are just loaded on the pizza. When I ordered it this time, Boulevard shot themselves in the foot. Look at the picture. There's not that many. At least compared to prior times I ordered the pizza. I enjoy their pizzas and I encourage people to give them a try, but the one I brought to the pizzathon was not a good representation of their efforts.
The Bistro 7 pizza did many things right. Great, distinctive crust. Nice sauce. It certainly merits our attention.
At the risk of having Mrs. RevAndy kick me for giving RevAndy a swelled head, I have to say RevAndy was absolutely right about one thing. It doesn't work well to bring pizzas to one location to judge them. Too many of the pizzas were cold by the time we got around to eating them. There were nine pizzas to judge, couting the two brought from Blind Onion. The first slices on the plate were fine. But by the time you get around to taking notes on the last slices, they were pretty cold.
When we did this in 2006, we drove to each pizza place. That was more time consuming. But it gave a more fair assessment of the pizzas. The problem with that method, of course, is that you can't do side-by-side comparisons. I guess there's no perfect method to judge pizzas.
Black Rock Pizza
2855 N McCarran Blvd Ste 106, Sparks, NV 89431
7111 S Virginia St, Reno, NV 89511
Thanks for writing this up, Steve.
I was surprised that Whole Foods finished so high. I personally rated it as last place, with my favorites being Boulevard, Bistro 7, and Brugo's, in that order. One caveat about Bistro 7, though, was that it was significantly (about 40%) more expensive than any other pizza in the tasting. By the way, Boulevard was the only one where every single morsel of the pizza was gone at the end of the tasting. I think it should get extra credit for that!
Anyway, the whole thing was a lot of fun, and certainly satisfied me with regard to being a fun outing, with good food and 13 pleasant people to enjoy it with. This wasn't really a blind tasting in a controlled setting, but I'm fine with that. It was fun anyway.
It was a great night, delightful, and thanks Steve for organizing it and for Bill and Linda for hosting all of us, who descended into your backyard like starving chickens. It was a pleasure to see some familiar faces and meet new ones as well.
Nine different pizzas - that was ALOT to take in, and after the third slice, everything started to blend and blur together (and I didn't even drink any wine). There were also way too many scoring categories - after I hit the dreaded PIZZA WALL, I could barely remember my name, much less which pizza had which crust or cheese.
As Lana said, so much of the scoring was purely personal choice. For instance, I do love sausage on a pizza, but if it was sliced sausage not crumbled sausage, the pizza would have rated lower in my opinion. And the pepperoni and sausage combo was too much meat for me - all I could taste was salt. I am not a fan of olives or jalapenos, so whichever pizzas had those ranked lower for me too.
To be honest, coming from the East Coast Joisey pizza frame of mind, I also am not very fond of what I call "foo foo" pizza, which is basically too many ingredients piled onto a pizza, leaving a soggy crust and resembling a compost pile, and having too many complex flavors to swirl around my confused and very picky taste buds.
That's just me, of course. Otherwise, it was a great night and hope we can re-visit this in 2012.
Sorry it’s taken so long to respond but I’ve been too busy to post. Thank you Steve for organizing. It was nice to meet fellow chowhounds.
Although this wasn’t a fair way to assess pizzas because of the lag time between oven and plate, I suspect the overall results would remain. The crust suffers the most but toppings for the most part retain their original taste.
That being said, Lana and I agreed on Bistro 7 as our 1st choice and Brugo’s hot on it’s tail at the 2nd spot. Lana preferred Boulevard as her #3, while I leaned toward Whole Foods. Bistro 7 was the most expensive pizza but it’s cooked in a wood burning oven. Their pizzas haven’t suffered at all from their previous life as Ciao and was our 1st choice in the previous pizzathon a few years ago. Brugo’s reminded me of the thin pizzas I grew up eating in Chicago, with a nice thin crust and cheesy toppings of high quality. The chicken was delicious.
Although this was a fun event I agree with Steve that a fair pizza tasting is a tough task. The only way I could see this being truly fair is if all of our favorite outlets allowed for take and bake, which isn’t realistic. Bill and Linda should be applauded for hosting a wonderful event.
Any good Chicago style pizza? I mean, like Gino's East, Malnatti's, Connies or Aurelios? NY style and California variations are plentiful in Reno and OK, but I have yet to have a decent pizza since moving to Reno. Any former Chicagoans out there? I am ready to fly pizza in from Chicago, but it won't be cheap. Any insights?
Thanks Steve. While business takes me to Chicago every few months (and one of the first stops is at one of the awesome pizza places), my wife and I are thinking of a Chicago style dinner party with deep dish pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, Italian beef, and Eli's Cheesecake. I am going to have some Chicago pizza flown in. Is not cheap, but there is nothing even close to it. I appreciate the help, as I have been going crazy looking for any place in a hundred mile radius of Reno and have not found anything. Guess i should give up.
Sorry ChiSox but you are out of luck. I feel your pain as I'm a fellow Chicagoan who misses my hometown pizza. There's obviously no pan pizza in the area. I actually preferred thin crust pizza from Maria's on the north side or my absolute favorite Vito and Nick's on the south side. I also loved Pequod's. At the recent pizzathon, I thought Brugo's was the closest to thin Chicago style.
Don't even think about hot dogs or Italian Beef(boy do I miss Johnny's). They also haven't figured out how to make Italian sausage.
You will appreciate that I left Chicago 8 years ago and my only trip back was for our World Series. Thank god(more so my father), I'm not a Cubs fan.
Thanks RevAndy! I will never forget the first time I had a pan pizza at Gino's East- one of the most amazing food experiences I ever had (was in high school). I had a lot of great thin crust pizzas around the Chicago area, from Aurelios in Homewood to Capizzi's on the west side by Oak Park to Home Run Inn on south side. Also Dan's in Downers Grove and Malnati's and Duos. Sheer heaven. Never had a Vito and Nick's but will have to try it. I also like Connie's. Since I am trying to keep the weight off, probably a good thing all of that great food is not available in Reno. Will try Brugos, however.
Yes, the World Series was awesome, like the '85 Bears, the 6 Bulls championships and Blackhawks last year. Too bad my dad did not live to see any it. While I am not a "Cubs hating Sox fan" (son-in-law is a Cubs fan), they are the tourist's team. Like Chicago pizza is the real deal, it had become universally accepted that the White Sox are the more "pure" baseball fans (was not always like that).
Will see how many pizzas I can ship to Reno!
I know the feeling and had similar experiences. Some trivia you might like.... I designed the White Sox home uniforms. Not really a big deal, since they are based on the '59 uniforms, but still was fun to do around 29 different designs until they chose this one. I also worked on the uniforms for the Fisk years (big SOX across the chest). My design was runner up but they did use the hat. I do not do this for a living, but fun just the same and our son loved it. Herm Schneider is also a friend (trainer). I grew up in the area and remember playing football in the snow and rain. Not as much fun. Then lived in Texas, where it was 110 degrees- hated that even more. I do loike the Reno weather, even if I cannot fins a good pizza. Oh well, can't have it all.