As the clock ticked down in the Pizza Madness championship, Grandma Tony’s tracked the vote totals with a custom-made whiteboard. Every hour, the east-side restaurant’s staff updated the numbers.
And they worried.
At 11 p.m. on Saturday, the restaurant was virtually tied with Frog and Firkin at about 1,000 votes each. With three hours left on Sunday, the vote difference was only 20.
But by late Sunday night, Grandma Tony’s, hosting a “Pizza Blast Vote-a-Thon” in the Gaslight Theatre, had pulled ahead, leaving the Frog in the dust with a final vote tally of 1,736 to 1,624.
With it, Grandma Tony’s won the Star’s first Pizza Madness bracket. The restaurant can now brag that it’s the best — or at least the most-loved — pie shop in Southern Arizona. The bracket began in June with 32 restaurants, two of which were identified by Star voters as No. 1 seeds.
Grandma Tony’s wasn’t one of them; in fact, the small, family-owned restaurant was considered an underdog.
To advance, Grandma Tony’s had to first take the east-side title. Grandma Tony’s started the first round with a 255-133 win over Tino’s Pizza, then it beat Dry River Company Pizza & Coffee 379-236. It faced off with Vail-favorite Argenziano’s in the El-Eat Eight and won in the last hour by 20 votes. In the Final Four-maggio showdown with Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria, Grandma Tony’s took the win in a squeaker, 869-858.
The championship matchup was, for most of the weekend, too close to call.
In a way, that’s the point. We’ve been asking: “Who has the best pizza” but your comments make it clear that the bracket is about more than that. People love these restaurants because of the service, the Tucson connections, the history, the crowd and the atmosphere.