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STL Square Off Pizza Festival: Cusanelli’s crowned as new champions

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St. Louis, MO –– Say what you want, but no matter the circumstances – nothing brings people together quite like a good, old-fashioned pizza!

Photo by Mikala McGhee

The second annual St. Louis Square Off Pizza Festival was in full effect recently in The Hill of St. Louis, Missouri. Around 3,000 people gathered in Berra Park to sample some of the most delicious and unique pizza the city has to offer.

The STL Square Off highlighted eight local pizzerias battling to win the title of “Best St. Louis Style Pizza” and bragging rights for the year! For only $25, festival-goers were able to taste a slice of pizza from all eight establishments and cast their vote for which pizza they felt deserved to win. This year’s contestants included: Nana Mama’s Pizza, Cusanelli’s Restaurant, FlementCo’s The Place STL, Dog House, St. Louis Pizza & Wings, J. Smugs GastroPit/Carnivore STL/Smugala’s, Firecracker Pizza & Beer, and DeRienzo’s Pizza.
Photo by Mikala McGhee
Nearly 2,500 votes were submitted throughout the day, and although it was a very close call, Cusanelli’s showed up and showed out stealing the win by 49 votes over last year’s winner, DeRienzo’s Pizza. Cusanelli’s accepted their pizza paddle trophy with pride. The entire attending staff ran up to the stage, jumping for joy when they were announced as the first-place winner.
“It is the handmade sausage; the hand cut mushrooms; the creamy provel cheese that makes it ooey, gooey yummy on a day like this,” said Amanda Koss (Cusanelli’s personnel) as she described what it is that makes their pizza different from the rest.
In fact, St. Louis pizza is notoriously known for their crispy, thin crust, square cut pizza and their incorporation of Provel cheese. Cusanelli’s was the first pizza stand we stopped to taste during the festival – and trust me – the love and energy they shared with their customers were reflected in each slice of pizza that was passed out that day. It appears the voters agreed!
Pizza was not the only thing on the menu during the St. Louis Square Off, though. There was also live music, drinks and vendor tents selling everything from artistically carved concrete to handmade jewelry. There was also a small petting zoo, face painting stations and a playground to make it fun for the kids! The event catered to the needs of both children and adults, making it a very family friendly outing.
Photo by Mikala McGhee
Although this is only the second year the pizza festival has taken place, Michael Powers, the lead organizer of the St. Louis Square Off, was impressed with the event’s success.
“I felt a certain magic this year,” Powers exclaimed. “I was extremely happy with our on-stage performances, our home chef competition, and Tony Gemignani was an all-star with his pizza tossing performance. I think we learned a lot, just like we expect to every year. But we went above and beyond to make sure everyone had an enjoyable experience and a lot of great food!”
The St. Louis Square Off was created based off a concept that Powers’ partner, Matthew Mourning, came up with. They wanted to celebrate St. Louis’ culture – particularly its square-shaped pizza. The event was originally launched as a block party at 4 Hands Brewery last year.
This year Powers decided to expand the event, partnering with Jim Barnthouse of Hill 2000 – a nonprofit organization and beneficiary of The Square Off – who took on a co-organizing role. Their team did not end there. Rick Ruderer of the Fifty Roses Foundation handled fundraising while Angelo Olegna handled vendor relationships, volunteer coordination, and assisted with social media.
We cannot forget to mention the dedicated volunteers who made this event such a success!
Powers emphasized the fact that the St. Louis Square off is bigger than just pizza.
“When we ask you to come ‘pledge allegiance to provel’ — we’re doing so much more than hosting a food festival. We’re asking you to become civically engaged. We’re asking you to take pride in our city, our history, our food, and culture. We’re asking you to celebrate St. Louis.”
“St. Louis has been down on itself for too long and while many of the critiques highlight glaring issues that need immediate attention, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be defined by our shortcomings. There’s A LOT of good here. That’s what I try to highlight at Square Off and our other events,” Powers continued.
For anyone living in or planning to travel to St. Louis, make sure to go show your respect to the winners of the STL Square Off Pizza Festival 2018: Cusanelli’s Restaurant. The establishment is located at 705 Lemay Ferry Rd, St. Louis, MO 63125. They will welcome you in with a warm smile and a hot and ready slice of award-winning pizza!
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