Pizzeria Del-Dio takes first place in our search for the Best Pizza in Central Florida

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Pizzeria Del-Dio has won the first Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide search for the Best Pizza in Central pizzaFlorida. With nearly 7,000 votes in the poll, Del-Dio garnered just over 3,000. Pizza Fusion and N.Y.P.D. Pizzeria and Delicatessen took second and third place respectively.

The contest was operated as a poll, with flog readers choosing from among a list of 12 nominees chosen by me. When voting began in late July, Del-Dio was not on the list. Following some campaigning by D-D fans, I dropped the lowest vote getter from the list and added Del Dio.

The contest quickly became a three-way race, with Del-Dio, NYPD and Fusion trading off the lead, hundreds of votes ahead of the fourth-place contender and often separated by fewer than 20 votes. But in the end, Del-Dio pulled out and could not be caught.

The results are not without controversy. Although safeguards are in place to prevent multiple votes, some readers complained about the numbers. And there apparently was some confusion among voters who may have thought they were placing their support with Casa Del-Dio in Fern Park. I could see why there might be confusion.

Before I instituted the Foodie Awards in Florida magazine, I would occasionally conduct “best of” searches as part of my Chow Hound column in the Sentinel’s Calendar section. In 1995, my pizza search featured Casa Del-Dio -- the one in Fern Park -- as one of the best pizzerias in the area. (It actually tied for first place with Boardwalk Pizza in Winter Park).

About five years ago, the original owner of Casa Del-Dio, John Delgardio, sold the business to pursue other ventures, but in early 2008 he returned to pie making, this time  in a small storefront of a strip mall near the corner of Colonial Drive and Maguire Avenue and taking the slightly altered name Pizzeria Del-Dio. (Casa Del-Dio continues to operate in Fern Park under different owners.)

Delgardio’s pizzas are influenced from his roots in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, where his family owned a place called Del-Dio (no Casa, no Pizzeria, just Del-Dio). The crust is thin but not too, and there’s a wonderfully slight greasiness to the sauce. Toppings could not be called ample, but they are of good quality. Even with a questionably lopsided vote, I have no qualms with Pizzeria Del-Dio being recognized for its good pies.

I must say I’m surprised that some of the other nominees did not fare better than they did. Brick & Fire, with its new second location in Casselberry, is turning out its consistently good pizzas and garnering more fans. Carlucci’s, a former Foodie Award winner, barely made a blip on the results graph; neither did Alfonso’s in College Park, another multiple Foodie winner.

And perhaps Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza was just too new to the local scene to grab more votes, although it did respectably in fifth place despite its newcomer status.
And in fact, I feel that Anthony’s is so worthy of your attention that I’m awarding it the Critic’s Choice. I’m certain it will do better next time.

Congratulations to both Pizzeria Del-Dio and Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza -- and to all the other contenders. Because, frankly, there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch, which bodes well for the state of the pizza pie in Central Florida.