Hong Kong’s leading pizza critic returns for the 4th edition of the Prof. Dr. Pizza Awards. Read why this year is more important than ever

Hong Kong’s professional arbiter for the standard of great pizza in our city, the legendary Prof. Dr. Pizza returns this December for the thrilling fourth edition of the Prof. Dr. Pizza Awards.

Providing clarity and guidance to Hong Kongers seeking a great slice or pie, Prof. Dr. Pizza has reviewed more than 590 pizzas (at the time of writing), aiming to “visit almost every pizzeria in Hong Kong” and “fighting for better pizza quality worldwide”.

The 2023 Prof. Dr. Pizza Awards aims to judge pizzas in nine categories: Best Newcomer, Best Taste, Best Looks, Best Value, Best Toppings, Best Dough, So Special, People’s Choice, and Best Pizza.

Feeling the pulse of the tomatoey and cheesy space in Hong Kong, Foodie caught up with the pizza professor to hear his outlook on Hong Kong pizza ahead of the awards ceremony.

Prof. Dr. Pizza
Photo credit: Prof. Dr. Pizza

Nearly 600 pizzas deep in Hong Kong, can you define what makes a pizza great?

Pizza is not just a science, but also an art, because pizza always comes with a feeling. When you go on a first date with somebody, you can sometimes not clearly define what makes you like or dislike the person sitting across from you – it’s just a feeling, or what they call “chemistry”. The same applies to pizza in my opinion. 

Nevertheless, I am trying to quantify the “greatness” of every reviewed pie, which reflects in my scores. On my website, I published a section called “What are the elements for a 10/10 score?”. The most important elements are the dough, toppings, taste, authenticity, specialness, and personal favourability.

Since your first rated pizza in Cheung Chau in 2018 at the beginning of your pizza adventures, have you noticed any changes in Hong Kong’s pizza space? Have there been any major Improvements?

The changes since 2018 are significant and positive, both in terms of choice and quality. Interestingly, in 2020 and 2021, despite or because of COVID, a lot of the leading places on Hong Kong’s current pizza scene had opened their doors. Pizzerias like Gustaci, Fiata, Little Napoli, La Camionetta, and The Pizza Project have all opened within the same two years! 

During the first years of my Hong Kong life, the places that would achieve a 10/10 score were easy to count (Motorino, the former Ciao Chow at LKF, and the former Kytaly). In the years after, the number of top-notch pizzerias really exploded. Competition has increased in this city, and pizzerias are under more pressure to deliver quality.

With the fourth edition of your annual Prof. Dr. Pizza Awards landing this December, what do the accolades mean for pizza lovers and pizza-makers?

What differentiates the Prof. Dr. Pizza Awards from the awards by some big organisations and media is the total independence of my profile. I have no ties with any businesses, sponsors, or collaborators that would affect my judgement. 

The major focus of my awards in each of the nine categories is on the pizza itself, rather than the pizza-makers or marketing concepts. I aim to be transparent on what my criteria are and why I give the respective rating. I think many pizza lovers and pizza-makers appreciate that. 

The pizza lovers in Hong Kong know that I am just one of them, diligently documenting my observations. The pizza-makers on the other side take my observations as feedback for their work. 

What do you look for when grading the best and worst pizza in Hong Kong?

Since the greatness of a pizza cannot be determined only with mathematical calculations, [to judge a] 10/10 score, I have to admit that in each pizza review I also have an inner debate. It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and I collect all the positive and negative inputs from both sides.

Coming up with a fair score is not always easy, because sometimes there is a conflict of opinions between the pizza itself and the general approach to pizza that the restaurant is taking. 

Sometimes you can appreciate the effort of a pizza-maker and you can tell they run the business with heart and passion, but maybe they slightly overburnt the pizza on the day I dined in. I need to force myself to stay firm in factoring in the execution errors into the pizza score, but explain my rating clearly.

Do you think you will ever have a 1/10 pizza in Hong Kong?

There is only one single pizza that has gotten a 1/10 score on my journey so far. You can check the place where I had this traumatising experience via the Pizza Finder tool on my website. I am happy to say it was not in Hong Kong. 

Will I ever have a 1/10 pizza in Hong Kong? It is possible, but the chance is not very high. This score is exclusively given to pizzas that are so bad that I cannot even finish them. If a pizza performs terribly on all the different dimensions, but I still manage to eat it, the resulting score would be a 2/10, which I’ve handed out 12 times in Hong Kong so far. I wouldn’t wish this type of pizza on my worst enemy.

Follow Prof. Dr. Pizza’s tomatoey and cheesy adventures and the fourth edition of the Prof. Dr. Pizza Awards on Instagram now!

Rubin Verebes is the Managing Editor of Foodie, a culinary connoisseur, and guiding force behind the magazine's delectable stories. With a knack for cooking up mouthwatering profiles, crafting immersive restaurant reviews, and dishing out tasty features, Rubin tells the great stories of Hong Kong's dining scene.

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