The inaugural Las Vegas Pizza Festival hit Sin City on Saturday, November 16, 2019. Top Vegas Pizza was in attendance to get a taste of what was billed as some of the best pizza in town. About 20 different pizza makers were on hand with a wide assortment of pizza to try, and an estimated 1,500 people attended. Here’s our review of the first-ever Las Vegas Pizza Festival and the pizza we got to sample.
Location and Setup
The event took place at the Industrial Event Space on Industrial Road, just off The Strip. All of the vendors were located outside in a square lot adjacent to the building. With the lot being square, it allowed for vendors to be stationed around the outside perimeter of the lot along all four sides. Smack in the middle was a bar serving drinks, with a picnic-style seating area taking up some of the inner portion of the lot and high-top tables scattered elsewhere.
The area with the picnic tables was crowded, but that’s to be expected with a lot of people present and a lot of families there. There was almost always space to be found at a high-top table if you wanted to stand and eat, which was more than convenient. One suggestion here would be to have more high-top tables next time around. We’d anticipate more people would show up, so the additional high-top tables would be a nice addition.
Another drawback was the heat. Although it was held in the middle of November, the sun was out and if you know Vegas, you know it can get hot when it’s beating down on you for any length of time. Not that everyone was doing it, but a fair amount of people looked for shaded areas off to one of the sides to enjoy their food and drink and get a break from the sun.
Our suggestion for when the event took place would be to move the event to night time. It doesn’t have to start too late, so kids can still attend, but this would make for the perfect night out for pizza lovers of all ages. With its timing being in November, organizers could even schedule the event when the Vegas Golden Knights play an away game. There could be some screens set up showing the game and in-arena hosts Mark Shunock and Wayne “Big D” Danielson could be on hand. This might be a stretch to work out, but we’re well aware of how much the Golden Knights organization enjoys staying involved with the community.
How It Worked
When patrons arrived, it was a quick breeze through the line to get to the vendor area. The line looked quite long when we arrived, but it only took a couple of minutes to get through. The entrance process was very efficient.
Once out in the lot, we were instructed to grab a small pizza box from any of the vendor booths. The pizza box was a very fun idea. You grabbed one and it was your own box for the day to put sample slices in from the various vendors. It was much better than expecting people to grab one plate at a time or try and juggle multiple plates. You just grabbed a box, stuffed it full of as many slices as you wanted to fit, and then went off to eat.
Each vendor was nonstop preparing pizza, slicing up fresh pies, and dishing them out to those who approached. Nearly all of the vendors we experienced had hot and fresh pizza that was ready to go. Every now and then we had to wait for a new pie to finish baking, but that only meant you spent a few extra minutes waiting for what was a slice that came straight out of the oven.
The lines at the vendor booths were hit or miss. Sometimes you had to wait maybe 5-10 minutes in a line, while other times you could just walk right up. Much like getting in was an efficient process, so was grabbing pizza. Even if you didn’t want to wait for just a handful of minutes, there were plenty of vendors around that you could just find another.
One very cool element was that it was encouraged that each person attending take pizza home. We were told a few different times to make sure we stuff our boxes full before we leave so we could take home all of the different slices to have later. There was certainly an abundance of pizza around, but this felt like a very nice gesture.
Of course, everyone wants to know how the pizza was, right? First of all, there was an absolute ton of it! We had the $45 general admission tickets that got us in with access to all the free pizza we could stuff our bellies with. Between the two members of Top Vegas Pizza to attend, we consumed around 12 pieces of pizza each. The pizza was that good, there was a lot to offer that we wanted to sample, and, of course, we wanted to make sure we got our money’s worth.
There was a VIP ticket that got you access to the event an hour earlier, access to a VIP lounge, complimentary beer and wine, and additional culinary samples. These tickets were $85.
There were about 20 different pizza makers on site and plenty to offer. They had NY style pizza, pizza Napoletana, Sicilian pizza, Detroit style, and more. Heck, there was even gluten free pizza and zeppoles available.
Metro Pizza – 5-Day Rise Sicilian Pizza
Metro Pizza’s “5-Day Rise Sicilian Pizza” was both the first piece of pizza we tried at the festival and the last. We really enjoyed it. It’s a Sicilian-style pizza in a square shape. Although pretty thick, the crust and dough were not dense at all. In fact, the pizza was pretty light, which you could tell right away when you picked it up even before you took a bite.
Once you bit in, there was a distinct crunch throughout and you could further feel how light and airy the dough was. The slice we tried was simple pepperoni, featuring the old school cup-and-char pepperoni that we love so much. The sauce tasted great and the cheese did not overpower the slice.
With this being the first pizza we tried and it being so tasty, the bar was set high. If we came away from the festival and were only able to order one pizza, this would be it. It was really, really good.
We browsed Metro Pizza’s menu and didn’t find anything specifically named “5-Day Rise Sicilian Pizza,” but all signs point to this being the “86th Street Square Pie” on their menu. We’d suggest keeping it simple with just a cheese pie or adding the cup-and-char pepperoni, but we won’t fault you for loading it up with whatever toppings you may like.
Good Pie – Detroit-Style Gluten Free
The second pizza we tried was Good Pie’s “Detroit-Style Gluten Free.” The pizza was good, but not as good as the 5-Day Rise Sicilian Pizza from Metro Pizza that was tried right before it.
This slice from Good Pie was topped with sausage, but the biggest difference between this and the one from Metro Pizza was the thickness of the dough. Being Detroit style, this one was definitely more dense, but still packed a lot of punch when it came to the flavor. Many of us at Top Vegas Pizza don’t always go for sausage as a topping, but this sausage certainly stood out. It wasn’t overpowering at all but at the same time it added the right burst of flavor.
Carmine’s Pizza Kitchen – Sicilian Pizza
If we were giving out awards based on the individual ingredients of a pizza found at the festival, the sauce used by Carmine’s Pizza Kitchen would likely be the winner in this category.
This Sicilian-style pizza used very little cheese but an abundance of sauce. It was on the thinner side for most of the Sicilian-style pizzas we’ve tried, but the sauce was magnificent. Whereas the dough was dense, the sauce complemented it well by being nice and light. The lightness of the sauce certainly didn’t remove any flavor, though, and it really made this pizza stand out.
Dom DeMarco’s – Di Fara Special
We left the festival very much remembering the Di Fara Special from Dom DeMarco’s. The flavors were very good. It was hard not to continually compare things to the 5-Day Rise Sicilian Pizza from Metro Pizza, but we did. You could especially tell the distinction between the two with the crusts and dough. The Di Fara Special wasn’t as thick from a size standpoint, but it was more dense and not as crunchy.
Much like the sauce on Carmine’s Sicilian pizza stood out, so did the sauce from the Di Fara Special. It popped the moment you took a bite and you could really tell how fresh the tomatoes were that were used to make it.
Old School Pizzeria – “New World” Pepperoni
If you’re interested in a more classic pepperoni pie, the “‘New World’ Pepperoni” from Old School Pizzeria should be right up your alley. A traditional NY-style slice, this pizza was very solid all around. It wasn’t the absolute best we had, but it was certainly above average from the dough and crust to the sauce to the cheese and pepperoni.
It was interesting that this pizza was suggested to be paired with a special ranch sauce that was made available. We had to try it and it was a nice addition, although the pizza tasted very well on its own.
Brooklyn’s Best – Grandma’s Pizza
Some of us at Top Vegas Pizza grew up with our parents and grandparents making grandma-style pizza at home, so we were looking forward to trying out the options of this style at the festival. Brooklyn’s Best was the first and it was pretty good. It was square with a thinner deep-dish body and it reminded us of some of the homemade pizzas we had while we were growing up, only better and more flavorful. We’re fans.
Good Pie – The Good Good
The second grandma-style pizza we tried was “The Good Good” from Good Pie. The first thing that stood out to us was how differently it was topped as compared to Brooklyn’s Best. The pan-baked grandma-style of pizza was very much evident, just as it was with Brooklyn’s best. Whereas Brooklyn’s Best was a very simple pizza, The Good Good had a plethora of toppings.
Although we’re not huge into loading our pies up with toppings, we were pleased with what this one delivered. It had fresh mozzarella, sausage, and artichokes. Honestly, it made us want to start including artichokes on every pizza we order with toppings. Much like we were fans of the Brooklyn’s Best Grandma’s Pizza, we’re fans of The Good Good from Good Pie, too.
Flour & Barley – Gluten Free Big Apple
Another gluten free option at the festival was Flour & Barley’s “Gluten Free Big Apple.” We were anxious to try this one, as this chef’s gluten free dough has won awards before. It was a pretty simple pan pizza, but we love simplicity at Top Vegas Pizza. There were cheese and pepperoni slices available. We opted for the cheese because it was fresher at the time.
The pizza had good flavor and the crust was pretty good. It would only be natural to compare it to Good Pie’s Detroit-Style Gluten Free. Flour & Barley’s pizza was less dense and all around better, in our opinion. The dough and crust were better, and the sauce had more flavor to it.
Those Guys Pies – White Pie
For a white pizza, the “White Pie” from Those Guys Pies rated pretty well with us. The pizza was a more traditional, East Coast style of pie and the White Pie was made with ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and garlic – sounds good, right?
The flavors were abundant, but there was a tad too much ricotta that seemed to overpower the other flavors. Maybe this was meant by design, maybe it wasn’t, but it was noticeable, although not to the extent that we wouldn’t turn down ordering a White Pie from Those Guys Pies.
In addition to the abundant flavors that complemented each other well, the crust was another element of this pizza that stood out. The inner body of the dough was thin but supportive and cooked very well. The outer rim was the right amount of corresponding thickness, had some nice char to it, and crunched when we bit in.
Naked City Pizza Shop – Buffalo 22
Described as “Buffalo-style pizza,” Naked City Pizza Shop gets a lot of good reviews in Las Vegas. If you’re wondering what Buffalo-style pizza, think about the location of Buffalo, NY, because that’s how we can best describe what it is.
Buffalo is located between Chicago, Detroit, and New York City, and we’d best describe Buffalo-style pizza as a combination of those styles of pizza. It’s different, but in a good way. We wouldn’t order it as our go-to every single time, but this pizza is certainly in the rotation. We especially love the cup-and-char pepperoni that Naked City uses, and the pieces with crust have a really nice crunch to them. One issue there is that not all pieces come with crust, as the pieces in the middle of the square would be without the firm, crunchy edges we love so much.
The “Buffalo 22” that was at the festival was pretty good, and it featured two of the things we enjoy most about Naked City’s pizza. One, it had the cup-and-char pepperoni. Two, it had Naked City’s distinct crust. The crust on this pizza packed solid crunch with a nice garlic flavor.
Unlike New York-style pizza, you can’t get Buffalo-style pizza everywhere. Well, other than in Buffalo. We’d recommend giving Naked City a try for something different. It’s good.