Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities
The Twin Cities is bursting with killer pizza. Some of the pizzerias on our Top 10 list are cultural institutions that staked out their place in the pizza hall of fame years ago. Others are newcomers, bursting onto the Twin Cities dining scene with all the fury of an 800-degree wood-fired oven. Limiting the list to 10 forced us to leave some favorites off, but they'll be included in a special mention at the end.
Eat your heart out, Dominos
1. Pizzeria Lola
Recently featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Pizzeria Lola is the hottest pizza joint in town. The best seats are at the bar, which offer a view into the fiery mouth of the restaurant's iconic, copper-clad oven. The space looks worthy of inclusion in a contemporary architecture magazine, with its wood-lined walls, tomato-can track lighting, and vintage soda bottles that double as tabletop flower vases. The vibe--and the nice beer and wine list--makes Lola date-worthy, but it's still a suitable, though spendy, place to take the kids. The pies are excellent: Neapolitan-style, wood-fired crusts covered in toppings that stray from typical Italian or Midwestern styles. The Xerxes, for example, includes rapini, feta, and olives; the Sunnyside combines leeks, pecorino, cured pork cheek, and a sunny-side up egg. Also good: the roasted vegetables, the beet salad, and the luscious, house-made soft serve.
5557 Xerxes Avenue South, Minneapolis
612.424.8338;Pizzeria Lola website
2. Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza
Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza (which has locations in both the North Loop of Minneapolis and St. Paul) puts a big premium on its crust. Its anthracite coal oven delivers a crust that is crisp but chewy, thin but not crackery, and just firm enough to hold a slice with one hand. Black Sheep has six pizzas to choose from (at 12 or 16 inches) and a full list of ingredients to design your own. Toppings include exotic departures such as fennel sausage and anchovies, in addition to more classic choices such as meatballs and garlic. Its four taps exclusively feature microbreweries, and the wine list is brief but sophisticated enough for a nice date. Two people can easily leave fed and happy for under $20.
600 Washington Ave N., Minneapolis. 612.342.2625
512 N. Robert St., St. Paul. 651.227.4337
Black Sheep Pizza website
3. Pizza Nea
Pizza Nea stands apart from the other wood-fired pizzerias in town because of the outstanding quality of its toppings: rich, rustic sausages, plush sweet fior di latte mozzarella, and deep green, roasted artichoke leaves. The artichoke ramekin (they call it carciofo), which looks for all the world like a plate of hot whipped cream, is not to be missed. For wine lovers, Pizza Nea is distinguished by its definitively pleasant pizza-shop wine list, full of country values. Its convenient location right across the river from downtown, and right across the street from Minneapolis wine-and-cheese institution Surdyk's, makes it a perfect launching pad for (or resting place during) an urban adventure.
306 East Hennepin, Minneapolis
Pizza Nea website
4. Punch Neopolitan Pizza
Named after the birthplace of pizza, Punch Neopolitan's secret lies in the wood-burning ovens super-heated to 800 degrees. A spirit of smoke dwells in the paper-crisp crust and tender, springy heat of every pie. Most popular is the the margherita extra, which includes fresh mozzarella, basil, and crushed San Marzano and Mt. Vesuvio tomatoes. Other varieties feature anchovies, salami, artichokes, ham, and goat cheese. Of course, you can build your own as well. Basic pizzas start around $6, with specialty combinations running about $8 to $12. Another benefit of the hot, hot oven: an individual pie can be done in 90 seconds. The salads are also good, and the wine list is a moderately priced, pizza-friendly dream come true. With seven locations throughout the metro area, your next Punch pizza feast is never more than a stone's throw away.
Punch Pizza website
5. Pizza Luce
All five Twin Cities Pizza Luce locations (and a sixth in Duluth) serve up a crisp crust, potent red sauce, and more toppings than you can shake an antipasto at: Calamata olives, roasted red peppers, barbecued chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and spicy mock duck, to name a very few. Definitely the most vegan- and vegetarian-friendly pizzeria on the list, with multiple fake meat and alternative protein sources on the menu, Pizza Luce is also a safe bet for people with gluten sensitivities, offering many menu items marked GFR (gluten-free upon request). The Lyn-Lake and St. Paul locations have a beer and wine license, and the other three TC locations (Hopkins, Seward, and the Warehouse District) all have a full bar. The Hopkins, St. Paul, and Warehouse District locations also offer a fantastic weekend brunch.
Pizza Luce website