The Twin Cities' Best Pizza
We came. We saw. We conquered the entire pizza landscape, from gourmet to greaseball, in the name of research. You’re welcome.
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Star pizzaiole and pizzaioli share their secrets
By Zoë Francois
Mike Sherwood, Pizza Nea
Mike Sherwood developed his pizza dough recipe while at his St. Paul Bagelry before opening Pizza Nea in 2002. He says low-protein flour—less protein than all-purpose flour, but more than cake flour—makes the crust soft and delicate, as does fresh cake yeast and a three-day refrigerated rise. Nea’s oven dome heats about 70 degrees warmer than its deck, so the pizzaiolo lifts the pie up to finish the crust with flavorful bits of char.
Jordan Smith, Black Sheep Pizza
Coal-fired pizza ovens are common on the East Coast, putting an American spin on Neapolitan tradition. Jordan Smith’s oven at Black Sheep Pizza uses Anthracite coal that’s low in moisture and burns cleanly at temps that can reach 1,500 degrees. Smith says his dough’s high-hydration level and flour combo creates a complex air-pocket structure and flavor, given an additional boost by a 36-hour ferment.
John Soranno, Punch Pizza
As the legend goes, Punch Pizza founder John Soranno spent three years working on his dough before narrowing it to two recipes. He taste-tested both with a group of family and friends—and then went against their unanimous recommendation. The dough he selected was fussy and complicated, but he believed it made the better crust. Soranno is such a stickler about his dough that, early on, he would close the restaurant when he didn’t like the way a batch turned out.
Ann Kim, Pizzeria Lola
Ann Kim, co-owner of Pizzeria Lola, found inspiration for her dough recipe from the crisp, slightly charred, coal-fired crusts of New Haven, Connecticut. Starting as a wet mix of flour, yeast, and water, the dough is allowed to ferment to improve its life and flavor. The sticky dough can be difficult to work with, Kim says, but it responds better to the hot, wood-fired oven.
Carrie Nielsen, Mozza Mia
Mozza Mia’s dough contains the standard elements—Caputo 00 flour, fresh yeast, Sicilian salt—and one special flavor-boosting ingredient: Surly beer. After a three-day ferment, the dough is cooked in an oven that burns oak and cherry wood.
Ismail Karagoez, Element Wood Fired Pizza
The type of flour used in pizza crust, says Ismail Karagoez, isn’t as important as knowing how to handle the dough. (He uses high-gluten Pillsbury flour, for the record.) A wood-burning oven made with Italian firebricks cooks the pizzas in less than two minutes.
Flatbread is a catch-all term for any thin, flat bread with toppings, and several metro restaurants top these pizza-like creatures with creative flavor combinations.
Red-wine poached pear with prosciutto, spinach, caramelized onion, and chevre. • 125 SE Main St., Mpls., 612-379-3138, aster-cafe.com
Sliced apples, dried-cherry relish, and candied walnuts. • Various metro locations, craveamerica.com
Bacon, apple, walnut, and blue cheese • 318 Water St., Excelsior, 952-401-7902, three-eighteen.com
Café Maude at Loring
North African spiced lamb and beef with onion, Aleppo, halloumi, parsley, and walnut yogurt. • 1612 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-767-9080, cafemaudeatloring.com
A tarte flambé (a.k.a. Alsatian pizza) of the day is offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. • 4552 Grand Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3257, patisserie46.com
Shrimp and chorizo with onions, peppers, ricotta, and baby arugula. • 215 S. Fourth St., Mpls., 612-340-0303, therestaurantmax.com
Fire Lake Restaurant
Rotisserie duck and fig with caramelized onions and Amablu cheese. • 31 S. Seventh St., Mpls., 612-216-3473, firelakerestaurant.com