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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.

The Twin Cities' Best Pizza
Photo by Terry Brennan

(page 1 of 5)

12 BEST OLD SCHOOL PIZZERIAS

Classic // Red’s Savoy

May Red Schoenheider’s pizza empire remain forever untouched by the influence of Foodspotting and arugula. His signature square-cut pizzas—lumpy, oozing sauce, and crowned with well-browned cheese—arrive on cafeteria trays, and they taste exactly as terrific as they did back when you were in elementary school. Red’s secret weapon is sauerkraut, its acidic bite expertly cutting through the bland drifts of cheese. • Various locations, savoypizza.com

Leftovers // Old World Pizza

Bacon on pizza is a no-brainer, but Old World’s genius was to cover the salty meat bits in fresh diced tomatoes and crisp iceberg lettuce. This BLT ’za doesn’t reheat well, but is one of the rare pizzas that tastes just as good cold as it does straight from the oven. • 5816 Blaine Ave., Inver Grove Heights, 651-455-1551, oldworld-pizza.com

Hospitality // Mama’s

“My heart belongs to Mama’s,” reads the pizza box, which also lists the pizzeria’s phone number sans area code, an indication that Mama’s isn’t much frequented by anyone outside the 651. At this North End institution, regulars, as well as newcomers, are treated like family. (On my very first visit, to pick up a pie, co-owner Tony Mudzinski was already calling me “Rach.”) Mama’s warm hospitality remains its constant, even with the arrival of menu additions such as the “New” Flavor Explosion: a meatstravaganza of sausage, pepperoni, and bacon that’s enhanced with pineapple and banana peppers. • 961 Rice St., St. Paul, 651-489-2005, mamaspizzaparlor.com

Family Ties // Jakeeno’s

Founder-and-namesake Jake Keegan has since passed the family business on to his daughters, but his inventive spirit lives on in the form of Jakeeno’s Favorite: sweet onions, salty Canadian bacon, and ground beef. Father knows best. • 3555 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls., 612-825-6827, jakeenos.com

Clam Pizza // Fat Lorenzo’s

Fat Lorenzo’s reputation centers around its hearty, meaty pies and colorful murals of flying tomatoes and cherubs. It’s lesser known for being one of the few spots in town to find a New Haven–style clam pizza, which tastes as if it were FedExed from the coast. If seafood on pizza isn’t your thing, there’s always hazelnut gelato. • 5600 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-822-2040, fatlorenzos.com

Relaxing // Fireside Pizza

Between the life-size plastic trees canopied overhead, the curtained booths, and, of course, the fireplace, Fireside is one of the few pizzerias with a relaxing ambiance. The kitchen bakes its thin crusts with all the standard toppings, plus the likes of Buffalo Chicken Ranch and Bacon Cheeseburger. • 6736 Penn Ave. S., Richfield, 612-869-4040, firesidepizzausa.com

Bikers & Bluegrass // Dulono’s

The lovechild of a dive bar and your grandma’s house, Dulono’s worn carpet and knickknacks appear to have been collecting dust and powdered Parmesan since the place’s inception. (One patron aptly described the furnishings as “garage-sale rejects or stuff left on the side of the road.”) But as soon as the leather-clad bikers arrive, the bluegrass band starts tuning, and you dig into a Kurtz Special, all this will fade. My waitress explained that the sausage-and-mushroom-topped thin crust—it tastes almost like lasagna, due to a hefty ladle of extra sauce—was the creation of a long-time regular, though she wasn’t sure if he was still around: “We’ve been here since the ’50s, so a lot of the original customers are dead.” • 607 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-827-1726

Kid Pleasing // Broadway Pizza

At Broadway Pizza’s original northeast Minneapolis location, not only can you watch a model train chug through the bar, but you can dine inside an authentic caboose. These things should keep the kids captivated long enough for you to nurse a craft beer while you wait for your pie to arrive. • Various locations, broadwaypizza.com

Competitive Eating // Randy’s Premier Pizza

Randy’s Premier Pizza scarcely looks large enough to contain the shop’s famous four-foot-diameter pie, whose 12.5-square-foot surface stretches well beyond most tabletops—and the bounds of good taste. The pie makes a mockery of the USDA’s portion-control suggestion; it looks more suited for parasailing than dinner. But if nine people can put the thing away within 30 minutes, the pizza is free. (If three people miraculously accomplish the same feat, Randy will cut the team a check for $1,000.) For mortal appetites, go with the deep dish, which is one of the best in the metro, sporting a robust, buttery crust and thick layer of gooey cheese that’s topped, Chicago-style, with tomato chunks. • 6030 N. 50th St., Oakdale, 651-777-1400, premierpizza.com

A Taste of Minnesota // John’s Pizza Cafe

John’s Pizza Café should be as famous for its Hog in the Bog as its pie-shaped dining room. The pizza tastes like Minnesota—or at least more so than either lutefisk or SPAM—with a spongy layer of mushrooms, wild rice, and cheese, studded with bratwurst sausage and fragrant with garlic sauce. • 616 Como Ave., St. Paul, 651-488-1922, johnspizzacafe.com

Cheeza // DiNoko’s

DiNoko’s deep dish arrives at the pickup counter in one uncut round, looking like a 12-inch kiddie pool of red sauce, and weighing as much as a baby. When sliced to reveal its geologic strata, a solid inch of mozzarella slumps out and pools onto the plate. Herein lies the controversy of DiNoko’s pizza, er, cheeza: if you believe there is such a thing as too much cheese, then this may turn your stomach; but if you love cheese the way dogs love bones and kids love candy, then there’s absolutely no better pie. • 5501 34th Ave. S., Mpls., 612-727-2424, dinokos.com

Deep Dish // Tommy Chicago’s

Tommy Chicago’s deep dish is good enough to forgo a 400-mile jaunt to the Windy City. The bowl-shaped crust is crispy on the bottom and chewy on top, covered in mozzarella cheese and a bright, chunky tomato sauce. (If you really want to stuff yourself, try the double-dough version.) • 730 Main St., Mendota Heights, 651-209-7701, tommychicagos.com
 


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

Old to new | New to old
Feb 18, 2013 06:53 pm
 Posted by  Donut Lover

The original Broadway Pizza is in North Minneapolis, not NE Minneapolis. You have to cross the river to be in NE Mpls.

Mar 5, 2013 02:30 am
 Posted by  rukiddinme

I can't believe there was no mention of Gina Maria's Pizza in your article. Our family agrees hands down that Gina Maria's is THE BEST! We've been ordering pizza from their Minnetonka & Eden Prairie locations for over 15 years. Whenever we have company over & order their pizza, our guests always ask where the pizza was from and say it's the best pizza they've ever had. We constantly get requests for it when we have out of town guests. Their "thin crust" is anything but thin and has that perfect combination of amazing sauce and a generous amount of REAL cheese. Their 3 meat pizza is our favorite (sausage, pepperoni & canadian bacon).

Mar 14, 2013 12:10 pm
 Posted by  MSPPizzalover!

Pizzeria Lola??? Really??? It is the most overpriced, overhyped, pizza in the cities. Plus, I hear they're having regulation issues. Wow, I'm shocked by this cover. I've been there twice now and have been very disappointed both times. Will not go back.

Mar 21, 2013 01:21 pm
 Posted by  MplsGuy

Wow, way to be late. Pizzeria Lola is old news and was the most over rated place around. Expensive and not good at all!

Mar 27, 2014 04:40 pm
 Posted by  Coach

Excuse me.....But as a former 54+ yr Chicago resident I think I can make this statement with some degree of expertise. CHICAGO pizza is THIN. Back years ago, two thick pizza joints opened in downtown near all the business hotels. Gino's and Uno's. The traveling conventioneers could walk to these joints and they did....then traveling hime telling their friends about this new type of "Chicago pizza". Nonsense. Go to the neighborhoods and all the pizza is THIN. Every bar makes thin, the great legendary joints of Chicago make thin (Nick and Vito's; Beggars; Rinaldi's etc). THIN.

Ask anyone from the neighborhoods....they'll tell you thin pizza is for real Chicagoans ....leave the thick stuff for the transferees in Naperville and the tourists !!

In Minnesota there is not much ....but one solid "za" is at Dukes in Oakdale. Great owner, providing great service.

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