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.