OCEAN CITY — Three people sat on their heels on the Boardwalk on Saturday morning outside Three Brothers Pizza, clutching a silver platter that held an oven-fresh pizza while Sara Cornelius stood above them on a chair to snap the perfect picture.
Once the pizza was set on the table, over a dozen hands came to grab a slice. Between bites, they shared their opinion on the pizza — “a classic Boardwalk slice,” “really good,” “missing sauce, a crispy body” and “kind of beautiful.”
It was the second stop during the Feast of St. Pizza, a 12-hour annual pizza binge. The dedicated disciples, many from Pennsylvania but others from as far as Nashville, Tennessee, traveled to experience 10 of the city’s highest-rated, most beloved pizza spots.
“Go big or go home,” Cornelius, 29, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, said. “But it’s important to pace yourself because you start the day so hungry and ready to eat, and then it can get tough in the middle of the day.”
Cornelius and Laura Gingerich, 28, of Lancaster, started the event five years ago after they were inspired by a New York City crawl of the same name. This year, they plotted the spots they wanted to hit — including Manco & Manco, Prep’s and Randazzo’s — and planned to stop and have at least one slice at each.
“It’s more about an adventure,” Gingerich said. “You get to learn about the place through food and walking the city.”
The pair also record a podcast together, “Passports and Pizza.”
To say these women are pizza pros is a gross understatement. But their comrades are as passionate about pizza as they are, wearing matching custom T-shirts and snapping photos.
Charlotte Crater, 30, of Lebanon, is a veteran of the feast, having participated since the very beginning.
“We’re big on the feel in your mouth,” she explained when asked what’s going through her mind as she bites into a slice. “How crunchy is it? How doughy? How does the cheese pull off? There’s a lot going on.”
It was too early in the day to rank the pizza they’d already eaten, Cornelius said. There were still too many places to try.
First-time feaster Ciaran Carmichael, 30, flew in from Nashville after years of keeping up with the crawl on social media. Originally from Pennsylvania, he said he had “total pizza envy.”
“In Nashville, you can’t access northeastern-style pizza,” he said. “I’m chasing the pizza of my youth. I had to come back.”
Carmichael said he didn’t have a strategy but was told to not eat a lot at each stop.
“I’m at the whim of my stomach,” he said. “If I feel awful at the end of it, that’s my fault.”
After Three Brother’s, the group walked to Manco & Manco, but it was closed, so the group pivoted and went to Tony P’s House of Pie. They ordered two pizzas, one plain and one that was half “The Jersey Shore” and half the “Tony P’s Special.”
Tony Polcini, the owner, said the crawl was an “awesome idea” and added that they were hitting good spots in the city.
“There’s enough on this Boardwalk for everybody to do well,” he said. “You guys are going to be able to taste it for yourselves, and I want your honest opinion.”
Cornelius’ husband, Robert, described the plain pizza as “buttery” with a crispy crust, adding that he prefers his crust like a bread stick.
After pulling a slice, Sara Cornelius made her way to the front of the restaurant to grab a photo before eating and setting out for the next stop.
“We realize at the end of the day, you’re not sick of pizza,” she said. “This is our love story with pizza.”