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PIZZA SCORES A test panel of basketball players grades the pies

In its 10 1/2 years of publication, NeXt had yet to ever feature an entire article dedicated to reviewing pizza, a favorite food of teens. Five players from the No. 1 boys varsity basketball team in Western New York, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, were assigned the difficult job of acting as a blind pizza taste panel following a tough practice.

Many who move away from Buffalo often report missing the unique taste of a succulent slice of Buffalo pizza, which is often compared as a cross between New York- and Chicago-style pizza.

Indeed, with more pizzerias than there are politicians in Western New York, it was hard to narrow down the pizzas to be reviewed. The panel sampled cheese and pepperoni pizza from La Nova Pizzeria, Just Pizza, Dino's Bocce Club, and Bob and John's La Hacienda. A fifth pizza, which received unanimous abysmal reviews, shall remain anonymous. Keep in mind, these guys were the Simon Cowells of pizza judges, true connoisseurs in their field, and very critical of every pizza pie that came their way. Here is their report:

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*BOB AND JOHN'S LA HACIENDA

Location delivered from: 1545 Hertel Ave., Buffalo

>HISTORY: Brothers Bob and John Hazelet first opened the pizzeria on Hertel in 1971, which has been diligently serving North Buffalo ever since.

>TASTY FACT: The Goo Goo Dolls make a point of eating at Bob and John's whenever they return to Buffalo.

>PRICES: A small cheese pizza (6 slices) is $9.25, while a large (8 slices) is $10.75. Additional toppings cost $1.75 for a small pizza, and $1.95 for a large.

>TASTE:

Brian Webb: 8 7/1 00

Mark Hirschauer: 8 0/1 00

Namaan Roosevelt: 8 0/1 00

Nick Butterini: 8 0/1 00

Domonic Cook: 8 0/1 00

>COMMENTS:

Brian Webb generally enjoyed this pizza. "This pizza had some of the best pepperoni I have ever had. The crust was almost perfect but a little too soft for my liking. I would put the same amount of cheese on my own pizza pie." Nick Butterini also enjoyed the crust, but would fine-tune some other aspects. "The crust was perfect. It wasn't too crisp, but wasn't too doughy either. But there was too much cheese without enough sauce."

>NUMBER OF NAPKINS NEEDED BEFORE TYPING ON A KEYBOARD:

Brian Webb: 2

Mark Hirschauer: 1

Namaan Roosevelt: 1

Nick Butterini: 3

Domonic Cook: 2

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*DINO'S BOCCE CLUB PIZZA

Location delivered from: 4174 N. Bailey Ave., Amherst

>HISTORY: World War II Veteran Dino Pacciotti and brother-in-law Mike Sacco bought a bar on Hickory Street on Buffalo's East Side known as Bocce Club in 1946, and began serving pizza snacks soon thereafter. Since then, Bocce's has become an integral part of the Western New York pizza experience.

>TASTY FACT: Partially baked Bocce Club Pizza can be Federal Expressed anywhere in the continental United States overnight.

>PRICES:

Whole 18-inch, 12-slice cheese pizza is $11.59, cheese and pepperoni is $13.26, and each additional item is $1.66.

A half 9-inch, six-slice cheese pizza is $6.51, cheese and pepperoni is $7.44, and each additional item is 92 cents.

A quarter individual 4-slice cheese pizza is $3.65, cheese and pepperoni is $4.34. Each additional topping is 55 cents.

>TASTE:

Brian Webb: 9 0/1 00

Mark Hirschauer: 9 0/1 00

Namaan Roosevelt: 9 5/1 00

Nick Butterini: 8 7/1 00

Domonic Cook: 9 5/1 00

>COMMENTS:

This pizza received the best average score. "The pepperoni on this pizza was phenomenal; the herbs were a nice little add-on as well. The crust was perfect-o, and the cheese was not too greasy but greasy enough. There was too much sauce though, I didn't want spaghetti!" stated Brian Webb. "The pizza was very cheesy and had a lot of sauce. The pepperoni was very good as well," added Domonic Cook.

>NUMBER OF NAPKINS NEEDED BEFORE TYPING ON A KEYBOARD:

Brian Webb: 4

Mark Hirschauer: 3

Namaan Roosevelt: 1

Nick Butterini: 2

Domonic Cook: 3

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*LA NOVA PIZZERIA

Location delivered from: 371 West Ferry St., Buffalo

>HISTORY: Now in its 49th year of operation, the third generation of the Todaro family continues to own and operate this world-renowned pizza and wing company. La Nova was voted No. 1 independent pizzeria in the United States by Pizza and Pasta Magazine.

>TASTY FACT: President Bill Clinton had La Nova pizza and wings delivered to Air Force One during a visit to Buffalo in 1999.

>PRICES: A small, six-slice cheese pizza is $9.14, and a large eight-slice cheese pizza is $12.78. Extra toppings are $1.50 each on a small, $1.80 each on a large.

>TASTE:

Brian Webb: 7 0/1 00

Mark Hirschauer: 7 5/1 00

Namaan Roosevelt: 9 0/1 00

Nick Butterini: 9 0/1 00

Domonic Cook: 8 5/1 00

>COMMENTS:

Nick Butterini was enthralled with this pizza. "There was plenty of pepperoni, which was excellent. The sauce had a good taste, and the cheese was well-cooked." Mark Hirschauer commented, "The pepperoni was too spicy for my liking. There may have been too much sauce, but the crust was nice and crunchy, maybe the best part of the pizza."

>NUMBER OF NAPKINS NEEDED BEFORE TYPING ON A KEYBOARD:

Brian Webb: "Go to the corner store and buy a pack of napkins."

Mark Hirschauer: "I would need to buy a towel."

Namaan Roosevelt: 1

Nick Butterini: 1

Domonic Cook: 2

***

JUST PIZZA:

Location delivered from: 2350 Delaware Ave., Buffalo (takeout only)

>HISTORY: Since first opening in 1992, Just Pizza has grown to six pizzerias and one express location throughout Erie County. Two more locations are slated to open this summer, including one in Niagara Falls.

>TASTY FACT: Just Pizza has more than 75 varieties of pizza to choose from! Claiming to be the "originator of the world famous three-cheese steak pizza," all of Just Pizza's sauce is made from 100 percent fresh tomatoes.

>PRICES: A large pizza here is cut into 16 slices or 12 party squares; a medium is eight slices or 12 squares. A large pizza is $10.50, and a medium is $9.10. The first topping costs $1.50 on a large and $1.55 on a medium, and after the first topping, each additional topping costs $1.60 for a large and $1.30 for a medium.

>TASTE:

Brian Webb: 7 0/1 00

Mark Hirschauer: 8 5/1 00

Namaan Roosevelt: 8 5/1 00

Nick Butterini: 7 0/1 00

Domonic Cook: 9 0/1 00

>COMMENTS: "There's a lot of sauce on the pizza, but I like that," stated Domonic Cook, who rated both the pepperoni and cheese as "very good." While Namaan Roosevelt enjoyed the sauce, he thought the crust was only "OK," and that the cheese "was too thick."

>NUMBER OF NAPKINS NEEDED BEFORE TYPING ON A KEYBOARD:

Brian Webb: "lots"

Mark Hirschauer: 5

Namaan Roosevelt: 2

Nick Butterini: "There are not enough napkins in the world."

Domonic Cook: 2

******

>BEST CRUST:

1. Bob and John's La Hacienda (Four votes)

2. La Nova Pizzeria (One vote)

>BEST CHEESE:

1. (A tie) La Nova Pizzeria (Two votes), Dino's Bocce Club (Two votes)

2. Just Pizza (one vote)

>BEST PEPPERONI:

1. Dino's Bocce Club (unanimous)

>BEST SAUCE:

1. La Nova Pizzeria (two votes)

2. Just Pizza (one vote) Bob and John's La Hacienda (one vote) Dino's Bocce Club (one vote)

>BEST OVERALL PIZZA:

1. Dino's Bocce Club (three votes)

2. La Nova Pizzeria (two votes)

******

>MEET THE PANEL

*Name: Domonic cook

Grade: 11

Position on team: Point Guard

My ideal pizza: "The crust is full of cheese, and there is a lot of sauce on the inside. The toppings are olives and chicken."

*Name: Nick Butterini

Grade: 12

Position on Team: Center

My ideal pizza: "The crust must be crispy but not too crispy, and there can't be too much cheese."

*Name: Namaan Roosevelt

Grade: 12

Position on team: small forward

My ideal pizza: "Lots of sauce with chicken"

*Name: Brian Webb

Grade: 11

Position on Team: Forward

My Ideal Pizza: "A nice thin crust with barely any sauce and cooked well-done."

*Name: Mark Hirschauer

Grade: 11

Position on team: Center

My Ideal Pizza: "Cheesy, with not too much sauce, and a crunchy crust."

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