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Photographs courtesy of Chewhound

Gathering of Strangers (by letsgoing)

In the early minutes of the party, before the place got packed. Courtesy of Letsgoing

So last night's Gothamist-Slice Pizza Party at Fornino was pretty damn awesome if I do say so myself. It was nice to see some familiar friends, great to finally put some faces to email addresses and screen names, and a pleasure to meet altogether-new pizza freaks. (If you attended and didn't figure it out, I was the guy checking names against the list as you came in. If I didn't get to chat with you, sorry; next time!)

We had about 120 total people this year, and Michael Ayoub and his Fornino crew made and served several different kinds of pizza, from a basic Margherita to pizzas as wild as pesto-and-shrimp pies to the over-the-top blockbuster Tartufo pie, a pizza topped with shaved black truffles. I'm afraid that by the time it came out, I was only able to consume two small slices of this pièce de résistance.

The pies were remarkably consistent and up to the usual Fornino quality, which is to say excellent. And that's amazing, considering the pace at which they were being made. At one point, I remember looking in the oven and seeing six or more pies going at once. Though 17 pies are listed on the evening's menu at right (several of which were created specifically for the event), Ayoub added an 18th pie. People keep asking me what my favorite was. I love sausage pies, so my favorite was anything with sausage on it, particularly the patate e salsiccia, with fennel sausage and fingerling potatoes. I didn't think I'd be into it, but the gamberi e pesto, (rock shrimp and pesto) was unexpectedly good. And I've heard from a number of folks that it was up there among their favorites.

At intervals, servers came out with trays of spoons filled with different tasty goodies, including my favorite "composed spoon," the first round filled with white truffle cream topped by shaved black truffles.

mozz demo (by chewhound)

Courtesy of Chewhound

After 18 pizzas down the hatches, Ayoub and company brought out a gigantic bowl of curds and a large pot of steaming water. It was time for the mozzarella-making demo. Pouring hot water over the curds, Ayoub then pulled the mozzarella into (large) bite-sized chunks that attendees could dip into a plate of Hawaiian sea salt (right), which was a perfect contrast both in texture and flavor to the warm, creamy, sweet cheese.

As if we could take any more to the skully, the servers appeared with trays full of house-made gelato. My word.

Seemed to me like everyone there had fun, even though the crowd started to thin out a bit earlier than it did at 2006's event. (Maybe they were rushing out to watch the NCAA men's final?)

I'd like to thank Michael Ayoub and the staff at Fornino for a great party. The pizzas were perfect, and the servers were amazingly patient and awesome in dealing with a huge crowd. Thank you!

Images and reports are starting to roll in today from bloggers and Flickr users in attendance. If you have photos or a report, let us know either in the comments here or via email (adam@sliceny.com). If you use Flickr and have photos to share, why don't you tag them "gothamistslice2008"? So far, the following intel has appeared:

Thanks for Attending the Gothamist-Slice Party [Gothamist]
Gothamist-Slice Pizza Party [GaryWong.org]
Chewhound's Flickr
Dan Dickinson's Flickr
Letsgoing's Flickr


ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK, KU!

And as if the night wasn't already awesome enough, I got home for the last minutes of the game:

Link: Super Mario's Last-Minute Game-Tying 3-Pointer [YouTube]

Link: Jayhawk Celebration [YouTube]

w00t! I've been waiting for a national championship for years!

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