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Pizza Perfect

Thick or thin? Wedges or squares? Marinara or tzatziki? The question isn’t who has the best pizza—it’s who has the pizza that best fits your personality.

Pizza Perfect
Photo by Terry Brennan

Are you sick of trying to pick a pizza place—and having the nine people you’re hanging out with offer nine different favorites?

Of course you are. You’re a Minnesotan.

Some think Minnesota Nice is the quality of helpfulness that arose from people living together through unforgiving winters, but we all know it’s really the frosty détente that has evolved from 4 million people stuck together around some lakes trying not to tell one another: “Your favorite pizza is beneath contempt.”

It’s true. I know this because I spent the best years of my life trying to figure out what’s the best pizza in the Twin Cities.

It all started when I was a cub reporter, fresh out of college, sitting in on my first big newsroom meeting. It was for our “Best of the Twin Cities” issue, and the crucial question was this: Who would write the blurb for “best pizza”? Certainly not the young cub reporter fresh out of college. I listened to the editors debate—not just the choices for pizza but the choices for writer—with a seriousness they usually reserved for discussions of state politics or police brutality. After all, anyone could write about the best lesbian bar—that was elementary journalism. You found five lesbians with active nightlives, asked them what they thought, and typed up the answer. But best pizza? For that you needed judgment, taste, maturity, and a thick skin. It was that serious!

When I became the paper’s regular restaurant critic, the awesome responsibility of finding the best pizza fell to me—and I, too, took it that seriously. I’d spend weeks visiting potential winners, eating with great attention, taking careful notes, and meditating in a dark room while I waited for the finger of divine inspiration to guide my pen. I took enormous satisfaction from finding the “right” answer every year, from seeing the prize logo reproduced in the winner’s advertising or on their menus. All those deliberations and research had paid off! The right and true winner had won! On its merits!

That lasted about five years. Visiting the usual suspects time after time—Pizza Lucé, Punch, Fat Lorenzo’s, Red’s Savoy, Broders’, Pizza Nea, and Cossetta—I eventually found the certainty of youth replaced by the equanimity of experience. Over the years, I built such a sense of what these pizzas were that I began to recognize them in both their good and bad forms. There were times when the pizza from Pizza Nea was dry, and other times it was exquisite. There were times when Cossetta veered into too much cheese, and other times when they too were exceptional. I soon concluded I might as well have been picking best religion. While some like the Russian Orthodox Church and others will always prefer being Jewish, this year I’m giving the prize for best religion to…the Anglicans! Congratulations, Anglicans, here’s your plaque. Buddhists, Hindus, and Catholics, good luck next year!

Partly it seemed to me that picking the best pizza was like picking the best religion because readers took it that seriously. The Neapolitan purists, for instance, find all pizzas that are not Punch, Arezzo, or Pizza Nea to be beneath contempt, while the New York–pizza stalwarts believe Broders’, the new Black Sheep, and Soho are the one true path. Then there are the partisans of the Minnesota classic pizza—the devotees of Red’s Savoy, the Fireside, Beek’s, and so on—who often believe that the Neapolitan purists and New York–pizza folks are effete, noxious snobs and should be run out of town on a pole.

The great pizza schisms don’t end with those groups. There are also those committed to the insane smorgasbord pizzas epitomized by Dinkytown’s Mesa and our homegrown mini-chain, Umbria. There are those who know and love the Cities’ secret great pizzas, those at Zelo, Bacio, and Ciao Bella, which have crisp crusts and premium ingredients, but also have the benefit of being served at establishments with great wine lists, nice salads, steaks, and a reservation policy. And if we’re talking about restaurants, why not consider Al Vento and Rinata? Why not choose pizzas at chef-driven independent restaurants? For that matter, why not pick the pizza from wind-powered, superhero costumed, hemp-loving Galactic Pizza?

All of these are defensible choices. Any could be your favorite if it aligned with what was in your heart, whether it be an attachment to your childhood, a love for the environment, an appreciation for great service, a zest for adventure, or an intellectual commitment to European essentialism. In fact, it’s not the pizzas that are so different, really—it’s that the people eating them are.


And that, more or less, is how the world’s first Pizza Personality Type Indicator™ was born.


Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Old to new | New to old
Jun 18, 2009 11:59 am
 Posted by  MS

Hi Dara.
Great article! Thank you for the kind words! Love the quiz, and I could not agree with you more. One's favorite pizza place may be to another a waste of time and money but every place has it's loyal following and I thank my lucky stars for that every time a customer walks through our doors.

Jun 18, 2009 08:43 pm
 Posted by  pinecone

Dara - this is a masterpiece!!! Even better when the read is prefaced with your editor's comments in the magazine. Hi-larious!

(But... no mention of our very own Davanni's?? dissed by Umbria and Green Mill?)

Jun 19, 2009 08:32 pm
 Posted by  aishannons

Somewhere between travesty and blasphemy lies the omission of Cosetta's from this list! As a "Good Egg" I was not surprised to find Red's Savoy as my iconic pizza--I love the joint, but truly Cosetta's is a one of a kind gem and St. Paul institution worthy of mention in a list that includes the Green Mill and D'Amico and Sons for goodness sake. No other place I know has a dedicated pizza-by-the-slice line that can line them up out the door on any given night. This is a major oversight in my book.

Jun 23, 2009 04:06 pm
 Posted by  PizzaFan

While I applaude the creativity used, the article was boring bringing in religion and lesbians. It also appeared that the awards in past years might have been based on advertising by her comments, "from seeing the prize logo reproduced in the winner’s advertising or on their menus". Lastly, the questions asked were really stupid. The only reason I took the quiz was I was stuck in a 2 hour drive back to the Twin Cities with nothing else better to do (then listneing to CDs). Another reason why the advertising in this issue was non-existent and subscribers continue to fall off at record paces. Hopefully with the editor leaving, things will change for the better. But who knows cause I did not renew.

Jun 25, 2009 11:28 am
 Posted by  TraveLibrarian

Loved the article! Had not noticed your magazine in some time and was pleasantly surprised. You might just have a new subscriber...
Also, I have to mention Toast Wine Bar & Cafe on 1st Street in the Heritage Landing Building, Minneapolis. They have wonderful cracker thin crust with tasty toppings. Delish!

Jun 28, 2009 10:05 pm
 Posted by  Jenji

Great article and great catch finding in your article; Tino's in Minnetonka.

This is the best pizza we've found in MN. It's as good or better than any Za parlor anyplace else for that matter.

And as someone else noted pizza by the slice, they serve slices too for newbies wishing to sample their artisan pies.

Jun 30, 2009 09:25 am
 Posted by  caron

Fantastic article, I'll have to pass it around the office, we're always debating on a pizza place.

Have you tried John's Pizza Cafe on Dale & Front Ave in Saint Paul? I think it's the best... but I have some new places to try!

Jul 6, 2009 09:52 am
 Posted by  Moline

That test was pretty amazing! Although I thought a lot of the questions had answers that were not mutually exclusive, it produced an interesting, and arguably valid, result. I\'m sure on another day, I would answer some questions differently, for instance that a world with windowsill pies never existed, and that Pierre Whoever\\\'s molecular whatsit was disgusting, and that I would be classified differently. But I can\'t deny that generally I prefer making my own pizza, or anything else, to going out, and that thus, my ATCL score is \"correct.\" E=mmmmmc2.

Oct 11, 2009 03:58 pm
 Posted by  btkennett

Tried Leonardo's in Mahtomedi last night, as we were looking for gluten free options. TERRIBLE experience. There were 3 adults and 1 3 year old. It took over 45 minutes to get "a whole pound of wings" which in reality were 5 undercooked and flavorless chicken wings for $7. We were never asked if we needed refills. When they finally took our order, they said that there was "no way" one gluten free pizza would be enough for 3 of us ($24.95 btw) so we ordered 2. It took nearly an hour for the pizza to come. Again, no one asking for refills. I asked for forks, and she brought one....for 3 adults and a 3 y/o. Then, went away never to be seen again. The pizza was TERRIBLE. That's the only way to describe it. Tasted like day-old over cooked cardboard with some medicore toppings....WAY overpriced cardboard.

Bottom line. There are better places around. Don't eat here. If we support terrible service and generally bad food in the name of gluten free, we only encourage more idiots to offer bad food in the hopes of guaranteed business.

Run, don't walk.

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