March 8, 2011

Tournament of Pizza winner: Luigi's

Luigi's wore down its competitors with consistency, talent and size, and has won The 2009 Observer Tournament of Pizza.

Luigi's wore down its competitors with consistency, talent and size, and has won The 2009 Observer Tournament of Pizza.

The little New York-style pizzeria, on South Tryon Street near Whitehall, defeated upstart Lorenzo's for the title in a battle of similar-styled pies.

Lorenzo's, which opened last fall near Ardrey Kell and Marvin roads, advanced to the final from the South bracket by narrowly beating North favorite Due Amici on the strength of fine crust and perfect cheese. Due Amici, a thicker-crusted and more generously topped pie, showed strong flavor, making it a tough contest.

Luigi's breezed through its West bracket with only one scare - from the contemporary American Pie Town, in the second round. And it had little trouble with Revolution from the East (also a contemporary-style purveyor) in the semifinals; Revolution, which had been strong through early rounds, suffered from oversaucing in the semifinal, the sweetness of that sauce overwhelming everything else.

Luigi's is owned by cousins Lui and Tony Montesano, who recently opened a second location a few miles from the 4-year-old original, on Steelecroft Parkway.

The Montesanos managed to be humble in victory. Said Tony, "It has been an honor to have been mentioned with the other great pizzerias in Charlotte ... We've had a lot (more) people coming into our store now, from Cornelius and Concord and Kannapolis. It's great to have the opportunity (and) we want to thank all our loyal customers."

He did note that while the Observer has reported that Lui was born and raised in Italy, we haven't pointed out Tony's pizza heritage: born and raised in Brooklyn. "Bensonhurst. Actually, if you can say 18th Avenue and 86th, that's even better." Done. Congratulations to the entire field for a terrific tournament. Where to find the winner

Luigi's is at 8170 S. Tryon St.; 704-504-2015. A second location just opened at 13551 Steelecroft Parkway; 704-587-6010. Observations

Let's share some tournament notes:

*Most-used phrase by readers when asked to nominate places last month: "... so I should know." This was preceded by an astonishing variety of phrases, from "I'm Sicilian" to "I've lived in Charlotte all my life" to "I'm a New Yorker of Italian heritage" to "My spouse is a true New Yorker/true Italian/chef."

*Second-most-used phrase was an expression of complete certainty, as in "without a doubt, " "beyond doubt, " "hands down, " "by far, " "bar none, " "clearly, " "no debate" and "first and only choice." Clearly, people tended to feel there was no contest.

*Yet, we received more than 12,000 votes in just the two first rounds.

*Most passionately supported place that did not make the tournament: Angela's (9705 Mintworth Ave., 704-573-2737). I told its fans, as I told fans of other "teams, " that - just as in the NCAA tournament - anyone can have an off-day. I'll be back to try places where I didn't get a stellar pizza the first time, and Angela's is on my short list.

*The two teams that were voted in by readers were the Pizza Peel and Fuel.

The real point of this tournament was to find some good places (hopefully turning up a few you didn't know about), share some information, and start some conversations. We all know the "best" pizza is the one you love most.

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