St. Paul has top-notch burger joints, excellent fine dining, but not much of a pizza scene. Kind of weird, right? St. Paul is a working-class town, a red-sauce Italian town. It should be a pizza town, too…?
Top Chef alum Justin Sutherland is hoping to make it so with the Fitz on Cathedral Hill. The highlight here is a deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza: A focaccia-style dough gets crispy on the bottom and thick enough to support the cheese, sauce, and toppings, but it’s still spongy and soft in the middle. We did the South Side, with fennel sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, and olives—and really enjoyed the flavor.
When we visited in June, it was $29. The current price is $32. That’s an investment for a pizza, but it does give you eight slices, and if you can do more than one slice of deep-dish pizza, you have my admiration. It takes 45 minutes to bake, so you’ll want to order it right away when you sit down.
The rest of the menu is designed to appeal to the neighborhood: 12-inch, hand-stretched pizzas, cooked in a wood-fire oven. The toppings are globally inspired and a whole lot of fun. Yes, you can get a solid pep (we did; I have a 12-year-old son who insisted), but why not a chipotle chicken with Cotija cheese on the Puebla? Or the Athens, with harissa, feta, mint, and preserved lemon?
The crust here is solid, and prices are in the $15-$17 range. The New Orleans was nice—with mortadella, salami, and giardiniera.
Sadly, the appetizers were forgettable, including a bland meatball dish (how did that marinara not have more punch?) and a pedestrian Caesar salad reminiscent of the bagged salad I get at Costco. That was unfortunately coupled with a strange atmosphere; the Fitz is divided into two sides, the bar and the restaurant.
Our party of two adults and three kids was seated at a high-top in the bar, a room featuring a big-screen TV on the wall where you’d expect maybe a lovely photo of our Capitol City. On that vertically-mounted TV was the current tap beer list, in type so small there’s no way anyone could see it.
But while I wouldn’t recommend driving from Blaine or Maple Grove to check out the Fitz, those pizzas are worth keeping an eye on. Plus, a rare feature in St. Paul: They have a late-night menu from 10 p.m. to close, and a daily happy hour, too.
If it can become a reliable hang in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood, the Fitz will succeed where so many other restaurants have failed at the corner of Western and Selby.
173 Western Ave. N., St. Paul