SLICE (S) OF LIFE
By Megan Malugani
SLICE (S) OF LIFE
Our readers pick eight of the city's best pizza places
MR. PIZZA NORTH
4040 28th St. NW, 507-252-9400, www.northmrpizza.com
Mr. Pizza North’s predecessor (Mr. Pizza) started back in 1963 when the only other option for pizza in town was Bilotti’s. The old recipes still work great (try the Mr. Pizza Special), but Mr. Pizza North’s new location means a new slant, including a wine bar, more vegetarian options, pastas, and desserts.
Try the mashed potato pizza (roasted garlic base, baby red mashed potatoes, breakfast bacon).
“There are no child labor laws in family businesses,” says Heather Fulton. She and her brother Rick (children of owner Mark Fulton) went to culinary school together and have been working as co-managers ever since.
Bilotti’s Italian Village
304 First Avenue SW, 507-282-8668, www.bilottispizza.com
The brick building in downtown Rochester hasn’t changed much in 60 years—for good reason. “We have elderly people who come in who say it tastes just the same as they remember it,” says Jake Sperry, co-manager and son of owner Karla Sperry.
Where’s the cheese?:
“We probably ship in more pounds of cheese than any pizza restaurant in Rochester,” says Sperry. The restaurant uses about a quarter-inch (vertical) of mozzarella on each pizza.
Where pizza was made to be eaten:
Red-and-white checkered tablecloths, outdoor patio, and original brick walls; Bilotti’s feels like an authentic Italian pizzeria, with a Minnesota Nice twist.
3456 E Circle Dr NE, 507-424-3366, www.bbspizzaria.com
After decades in the Rochester pizza scene, Jason Brehmer and Tom Boxrud opened their own shop. “We’re just celebrating our five-year anniversary,” says Brehmer, co-owner of BB’s Pizzaria. It’s nothing fancy at BB’s. Just pizza done the traditional way. After the shop’s signature “BB’s Special,” Brehmer says plain-old pepperoni is the next top-seller.
Both Brehmer and Boxrud grew up in Rochester. “We know the area and think there’s a lot of potential.”
Get the BB’s Special:
Brehmer is hesitant to box in a style for BB’s. “We’re sort of a place for pizza lovers.” But, BB’s Special is a crowd-pleaser (pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, and green peppers).
111 South Broadway, 507-424-0440, stores.zpizza.com/rochester
It opened four years ago in Rochester with the same mission as its sister stores: to make “pure pizza.” The franchise started in Laguna Beach catering to the health-conscious, organic-food-savvy eater. “A lot of people love pizza, but they can’t have it because they don’t eat meat, or they watch their calories,” says Chris Beighley, manager. All pizzas are made with “pure,” natural ingredients. During lunch try a slice of the Thai pizza, which comes with a peanut sauce, mozzarella, spicy chicken, bean sprouts, carrots, and Serrano chilies.
Hey, New Jersey!:
ZPizza serves us large, east-coast slices that you “can fold in six ways.”
ZZzzzPizza: A French woman involved in the store-branding early on kept referring to “ze pizza” place. The name stuck.
O’Neill’s Pizza Pub
1201 South Broadway, 507-529-1200, www.oneillspizzapub.com
Co-owner Shannon O’Neill admits “Irish Pub” and “pizza” are not exactly common bedfellows. “Oh we joke we should’ve called it something else,” she laughs. But, regardless of its ethnic authenticity, O’Neill’s makes fabulous pizza that would make Italians blush. All in-house recipes, O’Neill’s pizza comes on its signature cracker crust. The top-seller is the Fab Five, with mushrooms, Greek peppers, double cheese, sausage, and Canadian bacon.
Real Irish pub:
The bar features drinks that certify its Irish roots (Guinness on tap and a great selection of Irish whiskey). But, perhaps most noteworthy, real Irish “sessions” (folk music ala The Chieftains) are held every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m.
14 17th Avenue NW, 507-287-8700, www.paradisepetes.com
Manager Josh Barthel doesn’t remember the story behind the tropical theme. “My dad’s name (owner Mike) isn’t even Pete. I think it was more like, here we are in Minnesota and you want people to forget about the weather.” The heat-wave advertising worked. Or maybe it’s just the pizza (try the Hawaiian, featuring Canadian bacon and pineapple).
Too big a challenge?:
The Big Kahuna Challenge is a 23-inch, 13-pound, monster pizza served up on traditional crust. If two people can devour it within 45 minutes, they win a $25 gift certificate, a free meal, and get their picture on the wall. So far, no one’s won. “We might have to make it a thin crust,” Barthel says.
Pi Wood- Fired Pizza
3932 Marketplace Dr NW 507-424-3885, www.live4pi.com
Linda Becher, owner of Pi Pizza, laughs when a recent ad campaign for “artisan pizzas” by a popular pizza franchise is brought up. “It makes me so mad! There’s nothing artisan about it,” she says. “And it’s hard for us who are truly passionate about cooking to sit back and take it.” Becher went to school in San Francisco to become certified in Italian and Neapolitan pizza style and open up her own shop.
That’s one hot oven!:
Every pizza at Pi is baked in a wood oven with a stone dome. Temperatures rise to over 900 degrees, and pizzas only need 90 seconds. “It’s called flash cooking,”Becher says. “And it seals in all the flavor so you taste every ingredient.”
A four-year-old gouda:
Becher says she knows of no other pizza joint that serves up a four-year Gouda, as Pi does on its Applewood Pizza. It takes a few seconds, but after biting in, you’ll taste a saltiness and then a caramel-flavor.
Broadway Bar & Pizza
4144 US 52, 507-208-4111, www.broadwaypizzarochester.com
General manager Kelly Navitsky doesn’t take long to sum up what makes Broadway Bar & Pizza (of Rochester) stand out on the local pizza scene. “They haven’t changed the secret recipe since 1953 when the first Broadway Pizza opened up in Minneapolis. Duh!” She says the Minnesota pizza franchise is happy to find a home in Rochester. “It’s crazy! It’s a very competitive pizza industry here in town,” she says.
What’s with the train theme?:
The original location in Northeast Minneapolis (on Broadway) is located right off the old rail line.
Deep dish … dessert?:
Broadway serves an award-winning deep dish, but insiders ask for the deep dish chocolate chip cookie topped off with a scoop of ice cream.