DeRushaEats: Pizza For Winter Break

This is my last DeRushaEats blog entry for 2011—Minnesota Monthly shuts down next week, and so does much of Minnesota, since all the kids are off school. I’ll have family in town from Chicago over New Year’s Eve, so we’ll be hanging out in a group of about 15. Most of our meals will be at home. But a lot of us will be looking for family-friendly places to eat next week. You can’t go wrong with pizza, and for all the griping about the lack of decent pizza in this town, well, look around. We have decent pizza in this town!

Here are a few you may have not considered lately:

Element Pizza
Element wood-burning stoveI’ve been driving by Element Pizza for the five months it’s been open in Northeast Minneapolis, and finally stopped in last week. The pie is quite good, and the service is excellent. It’s cooked Neapolitan style in a gorgeous oven with temperatures around 1000 degrees, according to the owner, Daniel, who used to run Istanbul in Plymouth. I liked the sauce, the crust (although it could use a tiny bit more salt), and the homemade fennel sausage. We also enjoyed the Earth pizza ($9.50) with artichokes, salami, garlic and basil, pictured above. Abundant toppings, friendly service, worth a visit. Broadway St. NE, Mpls., 612-379-3028,

Pizza Nea
Can you believe Pizza Nea has been open for 10 years? Crazy. It’s also wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, and I think it’s some of the most underrated pizza in the Twin Cities. It’s also super kid-friendly. We went after the Holidazzle parade with a group of eight, and walked right in. You shouldn’t miss the Polpette Napoletana meatballs appetizer, they’re loaded with tomatoes and cheese and spice! The verdure salad is fun too—no greens, all vegetables in a really peppy balsamic vinaigrette. And the Spinaci pizza is one of my favorites in town: Spinach, olives, pine nuts, parmigiano-reggiano cheese along with fresh mozzarella and crushed tomatoes. The wine list is nice, the service is friendly: I love this place, and so do my kids. 306 E. Hennepin, Minneapolis,

Pizzaria Lola
I’ve written before about Pizzeria Lola, on the south Minneapolis border near Edina. It’s open for lunch on the weekends, and dinner Monday through Friday. The ingredients here are phenomenal: How about The Sunnyside with La Quercia (Iowa) guanciale, pecorino, cream, leeks, and egg! Or my favorite, the Lady ZaZa with house-made Korean sausage and house-made kimchi. It’s spicy, rich, creative, and delicious. The kids love this place because of the photo booth! For $3 you buy a ticket to the booth, and in our iPhone society, there’s something absolutely charming about the old fashioned photo booth that spits out a strip of three pictures. 5557 Xerxes Ave., S. Mpls.,

On a personal note, I just want to thank all of the loyal Dara & Co. visitors who have read these blog entries, commented, questioned, criticized, and praised. It’s been a great pleasure to chat with you weekly online, monthly in the magazine, and Saturday mornings on WCCO-TV about great food and drink in these great towns. Cheers to a fantastic 2012!