When I was a kid, seeing TV spots and newspaper ads for sunscreen, water park tickets (I grew up in LA), new Kool Aid flavors and trailers for blockbuster movies only meant one thing:
For three whole months all I would do was play video games (in an actual arcade...I'm old!), skateboard, ride my bike, go to said water parks, level up my characters in D&D and spend a week or two away at camp. The warm bliss of those times were nothing short of brief miracles...which were cut short by TV spots and newspaper ads for all that "Back to School!" crap in August. But then that only meant Halloween was near by. With Thanksgiving arriving shortly after. Which could only mean Xmas was to round off the year with gifts, lights and all that holly jolly frivolity.
New Years was okay. Valentine's Day sucked. St. Patrick's Day...meh...
Oh. Sorry. Getting off track here.
Point is, when you graduate and move into all that adult nonsense, summer really doesn't mean that much anymore. Not like it did when you were a kid. Right? To me, living in San Francisco for many years, summer meant the tourists were coming and parking got even more intolerable. But then when I moved to Tucson, summer meant "Sweet Jesus...when is it NOT going to be 100+ degrees? Did you see my power bill? Yeah! Insane! Well at least the students and snowbirds are gone! Let me tell you, back in my day..."
You see, when you grow up, unfortunately summer means something completely different. Here in the Sonoran desert, its almost a burden. Yeah, its hot. Really hot. Yeah, your electric bill is like a mortgage payment.
But, yeah, it also means that its time for badass food festivals!
During the rest of the season, our beloved chefs are working overtime to feed those students, and snowbirds, trying to make them happy, putting in long hours, planning menus to appease the masses and just trying to get home at a decent time to see their family, have a beer and, for fxxks sake, get some sleep!
But when summer hits, hey!, the city is ours again...so lets have some fun!
For me, just like a kid watching commercials for shorts and t-shirts on sale at Sears or seeing that in TV guide all of my favorite shows were in reruns, when I get the invite to the annual Pizza Throwdown, I get that same dopey giddiness as a young suburban dork ready to hit the skate parks, get high score on Donkey Kong and, finally, try and get my stupid elf fighter/thief to level 10. Its so hard. Especially when I keep getting low rolls for my experience at the end of a module. Grrr!!!
2019 marks the 5th season for the Throwdown and, let me tell you, it was probably my favorite. Years previous had most of the contestants work inside Fresco Pizza and Pastaria, the host location since the inception, which usually proved for a cramped and difficult to maneuver environment. As the popularity of the Throwdown grew, last year's event was pretty elbow to elbow, with chefs having to run back and forth from the kitchen among the hungry throng of packed patrons, sort of like trying to exit an overstuffed elevator when you have reached your floor.
This year though was seamless. All of the contestants, including Mama Louisa's, Empire, Shifty's, Gourmet Girls, Dominick's, Upper Crust, Fiamme, Trident, Fresco and reigning champion Rocco's, along with Dante's Fire and The Dutch serving up some sweet desserts, were all tented outside allowing room for patrons to grab the goods, move indoors, if they wanted to, to eat and drink beer away from the afternoon heat.
I myself was too stoked to even consider taking my slice, and beer, away from the participants as I like to chat up what they were offering along with their process. All I can say is that after sampling one of each, and beers from Barrio, Crooked Tooth and Dillinger, I felt more elated than when I kissed that cute girl Kate at camp, even when she even moved in a bit of tongue giving me my first 'French' experience at age 11. Plus I was full. And the food at summer camp sucked.
The combinations and creativity this year were unsurpassed. Sure you're supposed to vote for your favorite, but seeing as I am the writer/blogger here and friends with a good support of the culinary lineup, I let the others do their duty while I remained impartial. On top of it all, I just couldn't decide. They were all so so delicious.
But in the end, there can be only one. Well, top three.
The winners were: 3rd place, Rocco's. 2nd place, Fresco. And in first...Fiamme!
Congratulations kids! You all earned it. And deserve it.
And thank you to the rest of the competing chefs. It was all so amazing. Like I said, I really couldn't pick a winner. This was the toughest, and tastiest, year so far.
Cheers to Tucson Originals for the invite and I can't wait for next year's Throwdown.
You see, being an adult doesn't mean you can't be excited for fun stuff in the summer. You just have to harness that youthful energy into a new happy cataclysm.
For me its pizza.
And, yeah, the students and snowbirds are gone for a few months. Tucson is ours again!
Now lets check out the photos from this years Pizza Throwdown!
|Here we go!|
|Oh, it is so on|
|A good crowd outside|
|And a good (if not slightly cooler) crowd inside|
|That balsamic drizzle on Dominick's pizza was outstanding|
|Elote pizza from Empire and a frosty brew from Crooked Tooth = heaven|
|As Upper Crust chats up their pizza, Bobbie from Dante's sizes up the oncoming, and hungry, crowd|
|Scott Volpe from Fiamme, literally the hardest working pizzaiolo anywhere|
|So happy to hear that Mat from Fresco is putting the 'Umami Tsunami' on his regular menu|
|The Rocco's crew surveying their award winning, and Guy Fieri approved, pizza|
|Marcus from The Dutch making mini pancakes in pans used for ebelskivers|
|How is that crust gluten free? So good!|
|It was hot. Ice cream melts. Didn't matter. It was yummy.|
|"But Mikey...where is the Joe's Special pizza?"|
|Nevermind, this is what Mama Louisa's served up this year, yeah...|
|Matty from Shifty's after I said I was going to steal that skate deck of his. Ha!|
Camera, Typing and Feelin' Cheesy
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
A Warm Late Spring Afternoon, 2019