You know you’re in the right restaurant when you run into another food critic. On the day after Christmas I was at Pizzeria Lola, the newest addition to Minneapolis’ Armatage neighborhood. I had a feeling it would be packed, as any much-needed neighborhood restaurant usually is, but by 6 o’clock (on a Sunday night) the place was teeming with puffer-clad urbanites and families. The draw is obvious and powerful: A modish yet cozy eatery serving just-inventive-enough brick oven pizza, a handful of fresh salads and comforting appetizers, and an accessibly priced wine and beer list. Sometimes I wonder why this equation isn’t applied more often.
Oh wait . . . See: Punch, Pizza Nea, and now Mozza Mia. But Lola is different, too. It feels like an upscale bistro, along the lines of 112 and Bar La Grassa, minus the flash (there’s a free photo booth in back!). Out of the gorgeous copper pizza oven in the middle of the dining room comes classic combinations with thoughtful ingredients and flavorful twists. The Sweet Italian combines piquant peppers with salty sausage for unexpected complexity. The Hawaiian Pie-O harnesses the slightly sweet, buttery richness of Berkshire bacon—and skips the sauce to keep the flavors clean. Obviously my party had a thing for pork, but there are plenty of veg options, too— like The Forager, a delicate rendition of roasted mushrooms, truffle cheese, and truffle salt.
More than an artisan pizzieria, Lola is one of those success stories that some of us only daydream about: Girl quits day job, opens pizza place, names it after her Weimaranar, draws a crowd night after night. Which leads me to my one complaint. Lola doesn’t take reservations unless you’re a party of eight or more. I can’t help comparing it to Broder’s: I could eat here every week. I’d love to make it my “local.” But I’ll never be able to as long as I can’t pop in at a reasonable hour and grab a quick bite.
5557 Xerxes Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55410