Shortys Pizzeria wins ‘Best Pizza in the Midwest’

PARKERSBURG – A Parkersburg pizzeria has been recognized as “The Best Pizza in the Midwest” following a national food trade show held Sunday and Monday in Columbus.

Shortys Pizzeria, a wood-fired oven pizzeria, opened in November 2012 at 3601 Murdoch Ave. and is co-owned by the Dugan family: father Brien Dugan, son Shawn Dugan and Shawn’s wife Emily Dugan.

This past weekend was the second time the Dugans had attended the North American Pizza and Ice Cream Show in Columbus. The trade show is designed for owners and operators of pizzerias and frozen dessert shops in North America and is one of three such shows held each year around the country.

The NAPIC is the only pizza show in the Midwest, the largest ice cream show in the country and the only show featuring both pizza and ice cream, according to the event’s website.

Trade shows like NAPIC are an important tool for businesses like Shortys

“We got to meet pizza chefs from Florida, from Pennsylvania, from all over. We got to know them and see what they do and share recipes and ingredients,” Emily said of the Columbus event.

With support from Emily and Brien, Shawn has entered the trade show’s “Pizza Pizzazz Competition” for the past two years. The contest has two pizza categories – traditional and gourmet – and Shawn entered pizzas in both categories this weekend before earning first place for his traditional entry, a Shortys Pizzeria specialty called the Manzo Primo.

The pizza features cheese, pepperoni, house-made Italian sausage, capicola and house-made candied bacon, which also is smoked.

“It’s been our most popular pie since we opened up and that’s one of the reasons we decided to take it to the competition,” Shawn said of the Manzo Primo.

“It outsells everything that walks out of this building pizza-wise,” he said.

More than 60 pizza chefs competed in the NAPIC event, with a panel of judges choosing the top six for additional tasting and review to determine the winner.

The first prize was valued at $6,000 and “you get to call yourself the ‘Best Pizza in the Midwest,'” Emily said of the contest.

Shawn described winning the competition as “fantastic. It was amazing, a really, really neat experience.” He nearly reached the second round during the 2013 show, but finished seventh, one spot behind the final six, which makes this year’s win even better.

“The Olympics are going on right now and it felt like we were bringing the gold home for Parkersburg and for the state of West Virginia,” Emily said. “No one from West Virginia has ever placed in the top six, let alone won the competition.”

The NAPIC win is another positive step forward for Shortys. Emily said the pizzeria offers a range of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and other types of food. The food is available for take-out and delivery and there is an outdoor patio area for seating during the warm months of the year.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the community,” she said of Shortys, which celebrated its first anniversary in November and continues to do well.

Emily said the focus is on house-made products, with Shortys making as many of its ingredients and dishes by hand as it can, from breaking down vegetables to making sauces to making sausage.

“Everything has a personal, house-made touch on it,” she said.

Shortys has received positive reviews and comments on social media sites like Facebook and on review sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon.

“We have a strong group of regular customers that come back every week,” Emily said.

The Dugans are looking for potential sites where they can offer a full-service restaurant. Emily said the family is mainly interested in expanding Shortys into such a space instead of just moving the current restaurant. They want to create a full family experience and try new dishes and foods.

“We would like to expand and keep this here for the convenience of pick-up and delivery,” she said of the Murdoch Avenue location.

Shawn said Shortys is already making plans to attend next year’s NAPIC event and they also want to try attending the other two national trade shows. He hopes to chalk up another win, possibly two.

“I’d like to win both categories,” he said.