For the second year in a row, the Bayonne Community News, the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce, and BCB Bank have teamed up to hold an annual Bayonne’s Best Pizza Challenge, trying to give local business people something to brag about the upcoming year.
This year’s participating establishments included Pompeii Pizza, Mona Liza, Enricos, Goodfella's, Big Apple, La Guardiola, Naples, Joe’s Pizzeria, and Joseph’s Deli.
The contest had five categories, with a first, second and third place winner in each. Customers could cast their votes in various locations or on line. The general public – inspired by a business’s ability to market itself – cast votes for their favorite.
In cities throughout Hudson County, quality pizza is a staple of many establishments, and though several eateries have local followings, this contest is a way to reach out to the community and allow people who might not be familiar with the quality of a restaurant’s offerings to try them.
This chamber event allows the public to choose which restaurants have the best offerings in each category. The categories include Best Regular Pizza, Best Sicilian Deep Dish Pizza, Best Thin Crust Pizza, Best Unique Pizza Topping, and Best White Pizza.
This year, Pompeii repeated its success from last year by winning first place for Best Regular Pizza. Goodfella’s won second place and Enrico’s third.
In the Best Sicilian category, Goodfella’s won first, Pompeii second, and Mona Lisa, third. In Best Thin Crust, Naples won first, Big Apple second and Goodfella’s third. In Best Unique Pizza, Mona Liza won first prize, Goodfella’s second and Enrico’s, third. In Best White Pizza, Goodfella’s won first, Mona Lisa second and Enrico’s third.
This year’s contest, however, was topped off with a new feature, a blind taste test that awarded a top prize to one winner.
Each participating pizzeria brought a few plain pizzas the night of the event that were judged by a panel of three judges that included Sal Monte, Dina Santarelli of Sonic, and Councilwoman Debra Czerwienski who took on the task of judging the “Top Dough” portion.
With much fanfare, orchestrated by the comic efforts of Mickey McCabe, the evening’s MC, Goodfella’s was named “Top Dough” for 2013.
Although the event was filled with laughter and good eats, the contest had a very serious purpose, said Vincent Virga, president of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce.
“This was about businesses learning how to promote themselves,” he said.
This was also one more vehicle for the Chamber to bring businesses together and to give them incentive.
“We’re trying to build a synergy with the city, and teach everybody that we are all part of the same team,” Virga said.
He said part of the Chamber’s role in the community is to help shape some of the goals and objectives for the business community, and change some of the mentality as to how business was done in the past in order to meet some of the challenges of the future.
“We need to force businesses out of their comfort zone,” he said.
Contests such as the pizza contest, he said, push business owners to look more closely at strategies for promoting themselves, especially because this contest requires patrons and the public to vote on their favorite pizza. Business owners have to pay attention to how they get customers to access the ballots in order to vote.
The Chamber itself is trying to use public sessions such as these to increase public awareness of it and to expand its membership. But more important, Virga said, he sees the Chamber as a tool businesses can use to grow and to acquire knowledge. Some future events will likely include “A day at the races” in July or August, an education forum in the fall, a State of the City Address, and its annual Chamber to Charity event. He said he would like to bring in some people involved with various ongoing transportation projects as an information session on the impact of the raising of the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge, the expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike and other ongoing projects.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.