PITTSBURGH -- I'm a pizza snob.
I'm a pizza snob because I'm from northern New Jersey and there are at least eight pizzerias in my hometown, one better than the next. I also work in New York City, where the slice is king.
So forgive me if I was a tad skeptical (OK, incredibly skeptical) when my Pittsburgh-native colleague and friend, Sergei Feldman, the content manager for NHL.com International, told me that I had to go to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood here, where he grew up and his parents still live, to try his two favorite pizza places.
"You have to go to Mineo's and Aiello's on Murray Ave.," Feldman said, screaming at me after the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators 6-0 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final here on Thursday.
"Pfft, Pittsburgh pizza," I said. "Come on. You can't be serious."
He was serious. For some reason this felt like a challenge.
So since I had some time Friday (I'm staying in town to cover the Penguins' practice Saturday before flying to Nashville) I figured I would head out with some colleagues to Mineo's Pizza House and Aiello's Pizza, two joints with front doors literally 56 steps apart from each other, to see why Sergei was so bullheaded about these places.
Mineo's was established in 1958 and Aiello's came along in 1978.
Paul, our Uber driver back downtown, told us that Giuseppe Aiello used to work for John Mineo until one day he saw a storefront open down the street and, unbeknownst to Mineo, took it on and created his own pizza place.
They are rivals. The boys at Aiello's told us that families in the neighborhood are split. They may all love the Penguins here, but it doesn't seem like you're allowed to like Aiello's if you're a Mineo's fan, and vice versa.
But I wasn't playing favorites, so out I went with NHL.com Editor in Chief Bill Price, Director of NHL International Matt Cubeta and our former colleague, Tal Pinchevsky, who has been offering his reporting and writing skills to ESPN.com for the Stanley Cup Final.
I was expecting to hate both places and come back laughing in Sergei's face.
I didn't. The Pittsburgh kid was spot on.
We went to Mineo's first. This was a classic, no fuss pizzeria complete with walls covered by pictures and awards for being voted the best pizza place in Pittsburgh lord knows how many times.
The slices were a little on the smaller side, but that was perfect because we still had to grab two more at Aiello's. The pepperoni hit the spot. Thick, round slices of pepperoni atop a cheesy and saucy slice with a medium to thin crust. I also had a meatball slice.
Bill got a soda and they gave him a frosted mug. Nice touch.
The only complaint is they give you a fork and knife when you order a slice. That's grounds for a fine. Pizza is meant to be eaten with your hands. Do you hear me, Chicago?!
We paid up. Cash only. Time to move on.
So we walked the 56 steps up the block. Aiello's is smaller than Mineo's. You walk in and right away you're in line. The boys behind the counter are fans of NHL.com. Plus for them.
We all got two slices again. This time I got a cheese slice with another meatball slice. I had to judge the meatball slices. Bill and Tal got the same. Matt went with two plain. He's boring.
The slices came out piping hot, like burn-the-top-of-your mouth hot if you don't wait. That's how a real slice should come out.
We gave the Mineo's sauce the nod over Aiello's. Bill and Matt said the Mineo's plain slice was better too. However, the Aiello's meatball slice, with big chunks of meatball, was a winner. The Mineo's meatball slice had crumbled up pieces of meatball atop the cheese.
Aiello's also wins for its beer selection. We didn't partake, but they have a tremendous selection of bottles, including many craft selections, local, national and foreign. And they even had 40s of Olde English and Mickey's in the fridge. Brilliant.
We told the boys at Aiello's we'd be back for round two when the series returns for Game 7. I don't think they liked that too much.