The Takeout's fantasy food draft: Best pizza toppings

Photo: JulyProkopiv (iStock), Graphic: Natalie Peeples
Takeout DraftTakeout DraftFood. Fantasy sports. Debating over Slack. Welcome to The Takeout Draft.

Welcome, dear readers, to The Takeout Draft, our recurring feature that combines our love of food, fantasy sports, and arguing on Slack.

Every week, we will select a topic of conversation from the food and drink world. Takeout staffers will then field a team via the snake draft format. After five rounds, The Takeout commenteriat will vote on who they believe was victorious in that week’s draft. At the end of the year, the staffer with the most weekly victories will select a charity of his/her choice that The Takeout will make a donation towards.

Advertisement

The winner of last week’s Takeout Draft: Best Sandwiches, as voted by readers: Allison Shoemaker!

For week 6 of The Takeout’s draft, we’re tackling a topic that will surely create vociferous debate: pizza toppings. One ground rule we’ve established: We’re operating our draft with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce already off the board.

After inputting our names into a randomizer, the draft order (snake draft rules) has been determined as:

  1. Kate Bernot
  2. Kevin Pang
  3. Allison Shoemaker

Allison Shoemaker: Can I ask a quick question? The goal is to draft toppings individually, not as a unit, correct? We’re not creating a five-topping pizza?

Advertisement

These are great toppings that may or may not be great together?

Kevin Pang: Correct.

AS: Great, thank you.

KP: Kate, you are first up with our draft. You’re on the board with the number one overall pick.

Advertisement

Kate Bernot: Alright, lots of pressure, but there can only be one first-round pick for me, and that’s pepperoni.

Spicy, not too obtrusive, creating just the right amount of greasy sheen, they’re a thing of beauty.

Advertisement

AS: Pssh, take it

Do you require your pepperoni to be properly cupped?

Or whatever it’s called?

KB: I’ll take it in most forms, honestly.

Grease cups needn’t be present.

KP: I figured this was how it’d play out. I don’t think pepperoni is the consensus No. 1 pick—it’s not the Mike Trout of pizza toppings. I would’ve chosen this, and I’m glad it fell to the number two spot: sausage. 

Advertisement

Sausage has that textural variety that pepperoni, at least the flat commodity ones, doesn’t offer.

If you apply it on your pizza as dollops, they emerge from the oven as meaty gnarls, which is texturally interesting. I love the inclusion of fennel seeds, and of course, chili flakes.

Advertisement
Photo: bhofack2 (iStock)

KB: Well, those were clearly the one and two options. I find that sausage sometimes isn’t spicy enough for me, though. It can be just crumbly and sad, which is a travesty.

Advertisement

AS: I knew you’d snag that. Alas for me.

KP: So where does that leave you, Allison?

AS: I’m tempted to forgo proteins entirely, but I figure I can’t leave bacon floating in the wind.

Advertisement

KP: AN ALL-PORK FIRST ROUND

AS: Bacon is easy to screw up on pizza—too dry—but man, when it’s good, it’s good.

Advertisement

KB: I had bacon on a pizza last night.

KP: You’re right that it’s easy to screw up, because I’m not a fan of the crunchy bacon you find on most pizza.

Advertisement

Give me something a bit more chewy.

KB: It’s definitely a question of how that bacon is prepared, 100%.

KP: Allison, you get another pick.

AS: Okay, I’m going to go with a workmanlike pick here, but something that improves almost every pizza: onions.

Advertisement

I find there are few pizzas that will not be improved by some judiciously applied onions.

Sausage and onion? Bacon and onion? Pepperoni and onion? All great.

KB: Are we talking chopped raw white onions?

We all have a lot of onion questions.

AS: I don’t know, are they raw if they go in a pizza oven?

KP: Yes, because they’re not in there long enough for it to “cook”

AS: Not caramelized. (Those can be great, too, but not as versatile.)

Then yes, raw white onions.

KP: And one more question: Sliced or diced?

AS: THE HELL?

Okay, diced.

KP: (This was just for my edification!)

OK, my next pick: mushrooms.

AS: Nice.

KB: Ooooo, mushrooms. Divisive, but I like ‘em.

Photo: bohemia8 (iStock)
Advertisement

KP: As a kid, I was blown away the first time I had mushrooms on a Pizza Hut pizza.

It was meaty and chewy and stellar with cheese and pepperoni.

AS: True story: My fella once bought me an all-mushroom pizza as a testament of love. (He does not enjoy them.)

Advertisement

KP: Isn’t that just an open-faced mushroom sandwich?

AS: No, I mean, mushrooms and no other toppings.

KP: Welcome to The Takeout’s new feature: Is Tom’s All-Mushroom Pizza A Sandwich?

Advertisement

KB: Those mushrooms must have looked like little hearts, Allison.

AS: I don’t know, but my eyes looked like little hearts.

KP: 😍😍😍

KB: Okay, my next pick which I am so glad Allison didn’t take: caramelized onions. 

Advertisement

AS: Yeah, solid.

KB: They’re one of the few sweet-leaning pizza toppings, which I think are a necessary component to many ultra-savory pies.

Advertisement

Sometimes you just need that little nudge of sugariness to make everything else sing.

AS: Well you know how I feel about sweet-leaning pizzas.

KB: For my next pick, I choose: mascarpone

AS: WOW.

KP: WHOA

KB: Sometimes you need multiple kinds of cheese, man, and those gooey dollops of mascarpone are like little clouds from heaven.

Advertisement

Why settle for just one cheese, I ask you.

Mascarpone is mild and so creamy, a little textural break from the other toppings.

Advertisement

KP: That is unexpected and an inspired choice

AS: Agreed.

KB: Wow, I’m honored. Thank you.

KP: But you’re also going to LOSE, BERNOT

Because I’m going for a wildcard selection here

KB:

Advertisement

KP: For my next pick: ’Nduja.

OK, you’re probably thinking, what the hell?

It’s spreadable spicy salami

AS: Oh, I love it so much.

What a good, weird choice.

KB: That is a good choice. I just don’t see it as an option often enough.

KP: It brings a completely different pizza experience.

It’s creamy and porky and spicy.

I understand I may lose votes based on its lack of ubiquity, but I don’t remember a pizza topping that wowed me as much as ‘nduja

Advertisement

I had it at a Roman-style pizzeria and, against that crackly crust, it was out-of-this-world.

Allison, the next two picks are yours.

AS: Okay, well Kate is right, why only have one cheese? So I’m going with goat cheese, a titan among cheeses.

Advertisement

That earthy tartness is so good with so many things.

KB: Soft cheeses + salty prosciutto is pretty magical.

AS: Yep, also good with a sweet-leaning pizza

KB: We have got to stop doing these drafts at lunch times.

AS: Okay, I’m really going back and forth on some things here. This is tough. Do I go with a classic, or a personal favorite?

Advertisement

KP: This is the beauty of The Takeout Draft—you get to decide which is the best course of action.

AS: My god, the pressure.

Okay, one further question:

Must the toppings go on the pizza before going into the oven?

KP: I think it can be either.

AS: Okay, then dammit, hot sauce.

KP:

Advertisement

KB: That’s an interesting one. I have many thoughts!

AS: I was leaning a couple different ways, but every time we order pizza, out comes the sriracha.

Advertisement

Every. Time.

I am fully prepared to lose, but I am right on this one. Hot sauce is an indispensable pizza topping.

Advertisement

Like Beyoncé, I’ve got some in my bag.

KB: My core question, the heart of this doctoral paper I’ve just now imagined, is whether sriracha is there to correct a pizza whose toppings aren’t flavorful enough? Or whether a perfect pizza would still benefit from sriracha?

Advertisement

The mind reels.

AS: Well, it’s a condiment, and is thus applied to taste. I don’t want to drown the pizza in another flavor, but the odd dot here and there really does it for me.

Advertisement

KP: I feel like I must ask for specificity again—Sriracha is a wholly different experience from, say, a Frank’s Red Hot. Are you picking specifically, sriracha?

AS: For me, yes, but come on, is anyone else going to take a hot sauce?

KP: For my next pick, I need to preface that it is NOT MY FAVORITE.

AS: Oh no.

KP: However, if the goal is to build the strongest team possible, I must choose the one obvious topping that remains on the board.

Advertisement

Olives. 

AS: Phew.

Good choice, I dig them.

KP: Everyone in my household loves them, except me. My wife loves it. My toddler’s favorite food is an olive pizza.

Advertisement

KB: I love black olives on pizza but my significant other can’t stand them.

Somehow our relationship has persevered. I’m not saying it’s easy.

Just want to let people know there’s hope, you know?

KP: This must be like James Carville and Mary Matalin’s marriage (I’m sure 5% of you get that reference)

Advertisement

AS: Cajun-style.

Advertisement

KP: Kate you’re up with your last two picks

KB: I’m going: pesto.

How is that still on the board?

Pesto is nutty and bright and fresh and cheesy and plays well with many other toppings.

Advertisement

I would also say that too many people think red sauce or pesto is an either/or choice, but you can add dollops of pesto to red sauce pizzas! Why not.

KP: When I go to a Vegas buffet and I’m at the pasta station I always ask for one ladle each of red sauce, Alfredo, and pesto

Advertisement

KB: I like that you’ve gone to Vegas buffets enough to have an MO, Kevin. Respect.

KP: I can write Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but about buffets

Photo: msqrd2 (iStock)
Advertisement

KB: Alright, for my final topping—dun dun dun dun—I choose spinach.

Hate all you want, it’s great.

AS: Not my leafy green of choice, but I respect it.

KB: A necessary earthy/leafy component to all the ham we’ve stacked our pizzas with.

Advertisement

Plus I swear olives taste better on a pizza in conjunction with spinach. I’m not sure how.

KP: For my final pick I choose *garlic*. Minced and raw. I win.

KB: Raw is a lot. Roasted would be my choice.

But garlic is really never a bad idea.

AS: I’m with Kate.

KP: I thought long and hard about this. Roasted garlic is nice, but it adds a creamy sweetness that never works well on my pizza.

Advertisement

If I’m going garlic, I want the full-frontal assault of garlic.

I’m not suggesting whole cloves, but minced and added judiciously to a pizza is a beautiful thing.

Advertisement

AS: Judiciously is the word of the day, key to a lot of stuff we’ve picked.

Okay, here goes, with my final pick.

This is my honest response, but it is also essentially the Rickroll of the pizza toppings draft:

Advertisement

KB: I KNEW IT

KP: I knew it

WE knew it

AS: NEVER GONNA GIVE IT UP

NEVER GONNA LET IT DOWN

I will, still, gladly die on that hill.

KB: This is your hill! The hill is made of pineapple.

AS: It is, and it is delicious.

Photo: GANCINO (iStock)
Advertisement

That Washington Post article from last month was right: Good pineapple, roasted, is transcendent. But hell, as long as it’s applied judiciously and not totally overcooked, it’s good right from a can.

There’s something about the little juice explosion that I love so much.

With onions? Shut the front door, perfect.

BRING IT HATERS

HAPPY TO LOSE

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE COMMENTS

FIND ME ON TWITTER


Advertisement

Who won this week’s draft? Please vote now!

Advertisement

Share This Story

About the author

Kevin Pang

Kevin Pang was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace on Netflix.

Allison Shoemaker

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.

Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.