Update, Oct. 28: Vote for the Ultimate Pittsburgh Pizza bracket champion
From first dates to engagements to weddings, pizza has delivered an extra slice of sweetness for these Pittsburgh couples. Read their stories, and then show your love by voting for your favorite pizza spots in our quest to find Pittsburgh’s Ultimate Pizza.
The groom-to-be snuck out … to get pizza
The couple: Sara Blankenship and Tate Barrett
The venue: Downtown
The pizza: Pizza Parma
During an engagement photo session in Downtown Pittsburgh, photographer Kat Akers of Requiem Images glanced down at her camera for a second to check her image’s focus.
She looked up and realized the groom-to-be had crossed the street to sneak away to Pizza Parma for a snack. With less than a half-hour of daylight left and many photos to still take, for a split second, Akers thought, “Are you kidding me?”
But then, she embraced it and ended up capturing beautiful, real-life candids of a very hungry and very sweet guy who bolted to order pizza for himself and his soon-to-be wife (and the photographer, too) the second he got a chance.
“They were hungry, and they love pizza. He just couldn’t resist it,” Akers said with a laugh.
She snapped photos of the couple, bedecked in their photoshoot finery, with grease running down their hands.
Another photo shows the groom-to-be spotting a stain on his white shirt — “it was funny because it’s so real.”
For another snap, Akers took a funny spin on the close-up ring shot by sticking bride’s Tiffany engagement ring into a slice of pizza. “It’s this big gorgeous diamond, and it’s sitting in a piece of greasy pizza,” Akers said.
Akers, of Avalon, and Blankenship are long-time friends, and the photographer will be a bridesmaid in Blankenship’s November wedding in Georgia. And yes, she said, the couple might just order pizza at the end of the night.
The yinzer Montagues and Capulets
The couple: Laura and Matt McDermit
The venue: Point Breezeway (Point Breeze)
The pizza: Mineo’s and Aiello’s
The bride loved Aiello’s. The groom loved Mineo’s. It’s like the yinzer Montagues and the Capulets.
So for their rehearsal dinner, the Lawrenceville couple decided to put their pizza allegiances to the test, serving a bunch of pizzas from each Squirrel Hill shop and letting their families weigh in.
“It was a pizza battle at our rehearsal,” Laura McDermit said, reflecting back on her casual June 2015 rehearsal dinner at Point Breezeway. “It was very informal, people telling what they liked, but Aiello’s won.”
After two years of marriage, she has lured her beloved to “come to the dark side” and stand for Aiello’s now. They both do appreciate Mineo’s, though, especially for ordering by the slice.
“Marriage is all about compromise,” McDermit said, laughing.
From first date to first kiss
The couple: Annie Ranttila and Zavo Gabriel
The venue: Point Breezeway (Point Breeze)
The pizza: Driftwood Oven
On their first date, this Regent Square couple got to know each other over slices at Mineo’s. So it only made sense that they’d serve pizza on their wedding day, too.
“Pizza is not an insignificant type of food. There’s so much bonding that happens over pizza,” Annie Ranttila said.
For their June 2016 wedding, the couple wed in a Quaker ceremony with Rick Sebak serving as emcee and mobile pizza makers Driftwood Oven serving as a unique caterer in a “cozy, lowkey atmosphere.”
“We wanted to stay under a specific budget that I think was much lower that a lot of people spend on a wedding, but at the same time, we’re foodies,” Ranttila said, and that made gourmet pizza a great option.
As Driftwood Oven cranked out pizzas all night long, family members from both sides of the aisle brought pies over to sample together.
“It was the best type of family-style dining,” she said.
It was a “very different vibe than most people would think of at a wedding,” Ranttila said. But pizza “doesn’t have to be a lowbrow dining activity. It brings people together. It really ended up being the perfect thing.”
Pizza means you know it’s real
The couple: Samantha and Kyle Thauvette
The venue: Five Pines Barn (North Huntingdon)
The pizza: Wood Fired Flatbreads
Samantha Thauvette knew her relationship with Kyle was going somewhere when he invited her to his friends’ weekly pizza night at the now-closed Lucci’s in Squirrel Hill.
“We love pizza. We would go weekly with a group of friends, so it was something that became part of the culture of our relationship,” she said. “Pizza was the first detail that we picked. … When we got engaged, the one thing we wanted to do was have a pizza wedding.”
The Moon Township couple chose a barn venue for a casual vibe at their May 2016 wedding, where the mobile brick oven Wood Fired Flatbreads served up wood fired appetizers and hot pizza.
“They fired it up in front of everybody, so it sort of also created this spectacle. You have the folks that are more traditional, and these people want their chicken, their steak, their starch, their salad. And we were like, ‘If we just get them to eat it, they will lose all stereotypes and expectations that they have.’ I think food can be one of the forgettable things about a wedding, but people still talk about it,” she said. “Our dance floor was packed the whole night, so it might have something do with our carbo loading our guests.”
From Roundabout pizza pop-up days, coming full circle
The couple: Margaret and Paul Schappell
The venue: The bride’s father’s front yard in Fox Chapel
The pizza: Driftwood Oven
On Sundays when they lived in Lawrenceville, this couple would head over to Roundabout Brewery to pair slices of Driftwood Oven pizza with a few beers. Even after a move to Dormont, their love for the mobile pizza pop-up remained steadfast. So much so that Driftwood was the choice for their wedding fare as the main course between appetizers from Big Burrito and dessert from Leona’s Ice Cream sandwiches.
“Our whole goal was to make it not like every other wedding we’ve been to,” Margaret Schappell said, of the couple’s elegant-yet-casual front yard wedding reception this June.
“We have heard so many times from our family members, from our friends, from our parents’ friends, they feel like they will never enjoy another wedding as much as that one because of the elements like Driftwood,” she said. “You could grab food whenever you wanted.”
Driftwood served up slices all night long, including a Margherita pizza, a veggie pizza and one topped with spicy sausage.
“Pizza,” she said, “is absolutely our favorite food.”
A sweet slice for a sweet day
The couple: Stephanie and Bradley Baker
The venue: A private barn (Belle Vernon)
The pizza: Jioio’s Pizza
As longtime family friends with the crew at Jioio’s Pizza, it was a natural fit to serve the slices known for their sweet sauce, Stephanie Baker said.
“Pizza was the hit of the night,” she said, even with all of the other food on the buffet. “It worked out great because kids love pizza, and it was very casual and laid-back. It’s not as expensive.”
When her dad suggested pizza at the wedding, Baker knew it would fit in well with her practical persona. Baker, an Export native, and her husband now live in North Carolina after their August wedding.
She didn’t end up with pizza sauce on her dress — just wedding cake icing.
“After you go to so many (weddings) you realize what is important, and why do I need to have all this hullabaloo?,” she said. “Everybody was shocked and amazing and happy about it. There was not one negative comment about the pizza.”
Show your love: Which pizza will make the championship?
After advancing to the Elite Eight by just six votes, Slice on Broadway was again in the tightest race of the round. But again, Slice won, upsetting Mineo’s by 53 percent to 47 percent.
In the first two rounds, Mineo’s got more votes than any other parlor, but in the Elite Eight, Vincent’s Pizza Park got the most votes and topped Caliente Pizza with 60 percent.
On the other side of the bracket, Beto’s advanced over Pasquarelli’s with 55 percent of the vote. Fiori’s also won with 66 percent — the highest percentage of the round — over Proper Brick Oven.
So who will face off in the championship ? Vote below or here by 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26. The winners will be announced Saturday, Oct. 28.