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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 3 of 5)

Upper Crust

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. 

About Flatbread

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.

Aster Café

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

318 Café

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

Patisserie 46

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

Restaurant Max

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

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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