Picking which pizzeria to visit can boil down to habit and convenience, but a promotional contest now under way in New Orleans challenges locals to branch out and take a critical look at a wide variety of pizzerias around town offering different styles of pies.
"I feel like New Orleans is actually paying attention to pizza now, and I want people to see what's happening in this city," says local restaurateur Jeff Baron.
He's an owner of three players in the scene — the Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. (4400 Banks St., 482-2426; www.crescentpieandsausage.com), the Dough Bowl (1039 Broadway, 861-2200), and Pizzicare (3001 Tulane Ave., 301-4823; www.pizzicare.com) — and in February he helped launch Pizza Wars to promote some of these restaurants and highlight the change in the scene.
Pizza Wars continues through April 15. Participants will eat at 10 different pizza restaurants and vote on their favorite, which will enter them in a drawing for prizes (see details on the Pizza Wars Facebook page).
Participating pizzerias are Ancora (4508 Freret St., 324-1636; www.ancorapizza.com), Crescent Pie & Sausage Co., the Dough Bowl, Louisiana Pizza Kitchen (95 French Market Place, 522-9500; www.louisianapizzakitchen.com; note: this location only), the Midway (4725 Freret St., 322-2815; www.midwaypizzanola.com), Pizza Delicious (3334 Burgundy St., 676-8482; www.pizzadelicious.blogspot.com), Pizzicare and any location of Reginelli's Pizzeria (citywide; www.reginellis.com), Slice Pizzeria (1513 St. Charles Ave., 525-7437; 5538 Magazine St., 897-4800; www.slicepizzeria.com) and Theo's Neighborhood Pizza (4024 Canal St., 302-1133; 4218 Magazine St., 894-8554; www.theospizza.com).
This roster doesn't cover the full range of pizza available around town, but it shows some of the changes in local options. Of the 10 pizzerias participating, five have opened since Hurricane Katrina. Of those, three are less than a year old.
Was it hard to get competing restaurants to sign on for Pizza Wars? Not really, Baron says, since in addition to some promotional bounce from the contest, the participating pizza shops hope to "get customers to look at what's going on in different neighborhoods."
With three horses in the race between his different eateries, however, Baron's own interests are a bit conflicted.
"I'm having an inner battle every day," he says with a laugh. "But while I own all three, the staff at each don't necessarily associate themselves with the others. They're into it now; they're out to win."
Interested diners can pick up an entry card at any of the participating restaurants. Dining at each restaurant earns a stamp, and once all 10 are collected, diners can turn in their ballot at any of the restaurants. In addition to picking an overall favorite restaurant from the list, they can dissect finer points by naming a favorite sauce, best atmosphere, best beer list, best service and which has "the most 504ness," among other metrics. Voters could win prizes including Brass Passes to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and gift certificates the participating restaurants.