On tonight’s episode of Top Chef Duels, airing at 10 ET on Bravo, Antonia Lofaso and Mike Isabella are going to duke it out to see who can prepare the best Italian meal. So for this week’s food duel, we’re taking on one of the most easily identified Italian dishes: pizza.
Declaring the best pizza is a debate that usually breaks down along state lines, i.e., any New Yorkers declaring themselves for deep dish will be immediately shipped to the Midwest in the wintertime. So we’re taking on a pizza debate where difference of opinion is a bit more tolerated, but no less fierce: square or round pie. On Team Grandma Slice: Justine Sterling. Noah Kaufman will be defending round.
JS: If you’ve ever had to slice a round pizza into equal, triangular slices, you know what a grueling task it can be. A square pizza, on the other hand, is literally as easy at tic-tac-toe. When it comes to actually eating it, there’s nothing better than chowing down on a square—no sad, droopy, drippy triangles here. Just sturdy squares. Plus, we all know that the little tip on the triangular slice is the best part of the pizza. Square slices have two (or four, if you get a center piece). And crust lovers can max out on caramelized edges via corner slices. Bonus!
NK: It should be axiomatic that the fold is the best way to eat a pizza. This time-tested method allows you to cleanly eat it under any circumstance—standing up at a party, at the dining room table with your family or while waiting in line at the pizza place to buy another slice of round pizza. Yes, a droopy end can make the first bite a bit challenging, but each piece becomes more stable and easier to eat as you continue through the slice, so it’s like an edible adventure.
JS: If you haven’t seen square pizza around, you may have just missed it hiding under a pseudonym on menus. It goes by a few names: square, rectangular, Sicilian and grandma. Even Domino’s offers rectangular pizza, so don’t tell me you can’t find it.
NK: Maybe the naming variations imply that square isn’t an easy sell? Justine, you admitted that you’ve never ordered a square pie for delivery. How common could it possibly be? The default option on every menu from the most elite pizzerias to the lowliest chains is round.
JS: No heavy, expensive pizza stones needed to make square pizza at home. All you need is a baking pan. It’s homemade pizza for the everyman.
NK: You don’t need a pizza stone to make round pizza. You don’t even need a kitchen. Plus stretching your dough over a baking pan is not nearly as much fun as tossing it into a perfect circle.
JS: You will find square pizza on the street in Rome. Square pizza is what the real Italians eat. Eat like a real Italian. Eat square pizza.
NK: Do you know what else you’ll find on the street in Rome? Mopeds. Mopeds everywhere. You’re saying square is the moped of pizza shapes: Fun to cover in cheese until your friends find out. And as far as prestige goes, I hate to break it to you, but there is a pizza world championship held every year, and year after year, winners lack corners and sides.
Crust to Pizza Ratio
JS: Square pizza is a dream for crust lovers, crust haters and those in between. For those who like a little bit of crust there are the side pieces, which have the same crust to pizza ratio as your basic round pizza slice. For those who hate crust, there are the middle pieces—not a crispy crust in sight! Just pure, unadulterated cheese and sauce. And for crust lovers there are the corner pizzas with double crust. What you want? Square pizza’s got it. So show it a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
NK: Consistency should be prized above all else when it comes to the crust to pizza ratio. When you go from one slice to another you will have the same wonderful eating experience. What happens when you’ve eaten the entire perimeter of your square pizza because you’re a grown man and you can eat that much pizza if you want to?! Sorry. I got carried away. The point is you’re left with nothing but the unholdable middle pieces. What are those middle pieces doing there anyway?
JS: As a wise man named Huey Lewis once said, it’s hip to be square. Angles. Clean lines. Sharp corners. That’s style. If pizza were art, square pizza would be a Mondrian painting hung in MOMA, and round pizza would be a happy face drawn by a child, put up on the fridge just to be nice.
NK: Since the invention of geometry, mathematicians, scientists and hungry people have thought of the circle as the perfect shape. Greek mathematician and possible pizza lover* Pythagoras described circles as divine. It’s hard to get more appealing than that.
* More research must be done to confirm.
Well, great, now we’re hungry. Good thing we can push a button and get a pizza.
Let us know who you think won in the comments below, or tweet us with #FWxDuels on Twitter.