BY ASHLEY DINGES AND DOUG WERNERT
Daily Weekend Editors
Published April 13, 2005
Pizza. It’s the time-worn college food, the one that college students look to for both a quick meal and a late-night snack. With so many pizza places surrounding the University campus, the question is obvious: Which one is the best?
Enter the Pizza Challenge, a one-night event where pizza is ordered from every major restaurant in Ann Arbor to find out which one reigns supreme. Last year, NYPD emerged as the favorite. This year, it was anybody’s contest, and Weekend Magazine was determined to find a winner.
About 40 Daily staffers gathered last Friday evening to taste the best pizza Ann Arbor’s restaurants had to offer. Five testers, one from each section of the paper — News, Opinion, Photography, Arts and Sports — were designated to try a slice of pizza from each establishment.
The testers rated each piece on eight different categories, listed in the chart below. Staffers ordered two pies from every pizza place, and the purpose of the order was not explained until it was delivered.
The first round of calls went out at 7:45 p.m., with calls to Anthony’s, Marco’s and Pizza Bob’s. DJ’s and Mancino’s were supposed to be included in this first series of calls, but there was no answer on the other line, dropping them from consideration.
Both Marco’s and Pizza Bob’s estimated a delivery time of 30 to 45 minutes, while Anthony’s said their pizza would arrive in an hour.
Over the next 90 minutes, callers ordered pizzas from the remaining seven pizza establishments, bringing the grand total to ten different restaurants. The calling concluded at 9:05p.m. with calls to Leonardo’s — which was accidentally called twice — and Mr. Pizza.
The first delivery arrived from Marco’s at 8:05 p.m., ten minutes ahead of schedule. In fact, every pizza arrived early, with the exception of Pizza Bob’s, whose pie arrived at 9 p.m., one hour and 15 minutes after the caller placed the order.
The quickest delivery came from both Marco’s and Leonardo’s, who arrived in a scant 20 minutes. Anthony’s was also a pleasant surprise — as their order arrived at 8:15 p.m., a full half-hour before the estimated delivery time.
Besides simply testing pizzas and rating their personal choices, Pizza Challenge participants also interacted with several pizza deliverers.
Marco’s Pizza driver Matt Smith was “hassled” by a Daily writer who claimed he delivered the wrong type of pizza and demanding a new order. Smith was friendly, albeit confused by a Daily photographer snapping his picture from the front porch. Offering a refund for the mistaken pie, Smith was helpful and kind to the “rude customer.”
Jason Lavigne, the sole driver for Leonardo’s Pizza, stayed and chatted with Daily staffers for a few minutes after making two deliveries to the challenge due to the accidental order.
Born and raised in Ann Arbor, the Eastern Michigan University student has worked at Leonardo’s for about six months. He said the company has been his favorite place to work at so far, in comparison to previous employers Cottage Inn and Pizza House.
“The owners are real assholes,” said Lavigne of Pizza House.
As the only driver at Leonardo’s, he added that his job is easier because he doesn’t compete against other drivers for orders.
Most drivers who delivered pizza to the challenge were friendly and willing to talk to Daily staffers once informed of the contest. NYPD driver Hurol Ulupinar commented on his experiences as a deliverer.
“I like the communications with people. I like my boss,” Ulupinar said.
He added that his favorite NYPD pizza is chicken pesto, but he is also a fan of Pizza House pizza.
As soon as the orders arrived, Daily staffers eagerly snatched up slices of pizza. Comments on pieces ranged from “nothing special” to “sweet.” More opinionated staffers offered tidbits such as “the sausage was excellent — spicy enough, yet not too spicy for the girl I was making out with,” “a thoroughly average pizza” and “trying to kill me?”
Once the results had been tabulated, a clear winner emerged. Pizza House took first place in four of the eight categories, including Best Overall Taste. The testers remarked that they thought the sauce was flavorful, the cheese was high-quality, and the crust was good and crispy.
Final comments included “best yet,” “tastes really good” and “most flavor.” Leonardo’s had the weakest showing in the contest, averaging only a 1.6 out of ten in the Best Overall Taste category.
In general, the testers were picky, scoring only Cottage Inn, Marco’s and Pizza House above five in all categories.
Overall, the Pizza Challenge was a success. It proved that service in Ann Arbor is quick and efficient, and that good pizza isn’t too hard to find.
And The Winners Are...
Best Toppings: Bell's Pizza
Best Cheese: Pizza House
Best Sauce: Cottage Inn
Best Texture: Anthony's Cottage Inn
Best Overall Taste: Pizza House
Least Greasy: Cottage Inn, Marco's Pizza
Best Crust: Cottage Inn, Pizza House
Best Dough: Pizza House