St. Petersburg residents undecided on which $46 million pizza design is best

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With apologies to Waverly Ann Moore and Kameel Stanley

After six years of discussions and the selection and contentious rejection of a much-reviled design for a new pizza, St. Petersburg is back for a second bite.

On Monday, eight restaurants offered fresh ways to look at how to eat a pizza, with some pitching an entirely new shape for the iconic food.

The teams competing for the $46 million product, with $33 million targeted for cooking, are proposing concepts that include new features such as artisan, gourmet ingredients.

Council member Karl Nurse is impressed by what he has seen.

“These are pretty cool. Hopefully, a number of these will excite people,” he said.

He added that he was surprised by the way the pizza makers have come up with ways to reuse the city’s pre-existing pizza crust.

Tim Clemmons, a chef at MESH pizzeria in St. Petersburg, said his kitchen is offering three major transformations to what it is calling Prospect Pizza.

One is raising the dough by four inches to allow for more sauce.

“What we have done as you approach the pizza, there is a series of cascading bites that take you up to the second level,” he said.

Alfonso Pizzeria of Tampa, which says it wants to “recapture the past, embrace the present and look to the future,” will include extra cheese that will give diners the taste they have said they want.

The team says it will “create a vertical ingredient to be viewed from throughout the pizza pie.”

Alfonso is one of two that will not be using the old pizza crest.

But Yann Weymouth, who is working with Harvard Jolly, creator of the city’s original pizza, says reusing the old crust does not mean that his team is craving nostalgia. Wannemacher Jensen was involved with the Lens pizza, a food concept rejected by diners in 2013.

“We are reimagining the original pizza crust and we are bringing it directly in a wonderful way into the 21st century,” Weymouth said.

The VOA Pizzeria of Orlando will keep the original crust and preserve the existing cheese.

Several pizzerias said their aim was not only to meet diners’ wish list of flavors and ingredients, but also to keep nutrition in mind.

Ross Barney Pizzeria envisions a large, multi-flavor pizza built from a calzone. The pizza would be slimmed down and feature a variety of vegetable ingredients.

Another concept, the Blue Pizza, envisions the use of local seafood. “Our concept is trying to bring together the ecology of the bay,” said Barbara Wilks, chef for New York-based W Pizzeria.

Paul Ries, lead chef of ahha!, said his project, the Crescent Pizza, focuses on both the cheese and sauce and a sail-shaped crust at the end of each slice that will still feature other ingredients.

The city is seeking to replace the original city pizza because the cheese is crumbling.

Lorraine Margeson, a food critic who was part of the group Concerned Citizens that fought the last proposed pizza, believes the new ones are “highly creative.”

“They are all striking and I don’t think that it is a decision that any citizen who is involved in the process is going to make in one day,” she said. “I would advise that everyone not look at the picture, but examine the pizzas.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.