A look at three very different approaches to pizza, all impressive.
An affection — and a longing — for East Coast slice shops encouraged Ann Kim, the force behind Pizzeria Lola, to open Hello Pizza.
Her instincts proved right. Here’s hoping that Hello Pizzas will proliferate across the Twin Cities. Why can’t the shop’s droll logo — a clever play on those awful “Hello, My Name Is” name tags — be as ubiquitous as Domino’s or Papa John’s? We would all be the better for it.
Rather than attempting to impersonate a Manhattan slice shop — a losing proposition — Kim borrows many of the genre’s key elements and filters them through her own spot-on sensibilities. A practiced doughmeister, she has come up with a doozy for Hello Pizza: a thin, chewy, crisp-on-the-bottom beauty that bubbles up nicely on the edges and holds its shape; no greasy-sliced droop here.
She also takes pains to top her pizzas with both decent ingredients and admirable restraint, two traits that rarely reside in the slice-shop world. The tomato sauce, nicely lumpy, exudes a bright, clean taste. The house-made pork sausage has a feisty fennel zing, and the excellent natural-casing pepperoni curls up just as it should, the oven’s heat burnishing its edges into a bacon-like crispiness.
The rich mozzarella boasts a fine melting character, olive oil is tantalizingly fruity and dried oregano is intensely flavorful. Olives are legions above the dreary canned variety that plagues so many in-and-out pizza joints, the anchovies sport a clean, delightfully salty bite, and the kitchen has a free hand with garlic and other seasonings.
There are a half-dozen by-the-slice options always at the ready — which can be fortified with a long list of add-on toppings — all landing in the $3.25 to $4.50 range, a tad higher than Kim’s competitors, but true to that whole you-get-what-you-pay-for adage. Whole pies are available, too, and trust me: As leftovers go, this is a pizza you’ll want to encounter in the refrigerator on a drowsy morning.
Non-pizza items include a pair of addictive meatball sandwiches, including a marvelous banh mi-esque version with tender orbs of ginger- and soy-accented pork and beef. One Pizzeria Lola carryover is the divine house-made soft-serve ice cream; get it drizzled with a buttery caramel sauce and flecks of sea salt.
The cheery, stylish setting is a (highly) idealized New York City subway station, the all-smiles counter staff works fast, and aside from a lousy fountain-style iced tea, the soft drink and beer and wine lists show imagination and effort. Now, if only a Hello Pizza would land in my neighborhood.
3904 Sunnyside Rd., Edina, 952-303-4514, www.hellopizza.com. Open 11 am.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m. -11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
There are few certainties in life, but this surely is one: Pig Ate My Pizza is the only pizzeria — certainly in the Twin Cities, but possibly anywhere on Earth — where spritzer-brandishing servers appear tableside for a dramatic finishing touch, releasing a gentle mist over a hot-from-the-oven pizza.
It’s a hoot, and the nose-tickling theatrics are just one of the many ways in which the maverick crew at Travail Kitchen and Amusements has enthusiastically hurled headlong into the pizza-making process.
The results remain recognizably pizza-like, yet also manage to reflect the Travail formula of nuance, razzle-dazzle, innovation, painstaking attention to detail and a commitment to unabashed excess. Yes, all that, with pizza.
The menu’s signature item, “Cider Ham Rules,” is a triumph, a rapturous array of interlocking flavors and textures, all lavishly laid out on the kitchen’s slightly chewy and beautifully browned crust.
A rich mushroom purée stands in for marinara, and it’s covered in a molten mozzarella-fontina-asiago cheese blend. That’s sprinkled with chunks of ham braised in apple cider and garlic-kissed pan-seared oyster mushrooms.
Drops of a black garlic purée, tiny nasturtium leaves, vinegar-salt potato chips, a swirl of rosemary-garlic oil and a parchment-thin dried apple slice — oh, and that honey-vinegar spritz, a lingering but low-key sweet-bitter finish — complete the picture. It’s spectacular.
“Less is more” is so obviously — some might say gleefully — not the mantra here. The “Piggy Pie” lives up to its name, and then some. It’s a play on deep-dish pizza, and it starts with a crisp brioche-style crust (turns out the pan is greased with bacon fat) and a generous sweep of an herb-packed marinara sauce.
It’s a total pigfest, literally. Out comes the pork — pulled pork shoulder, pork belly, bacon crumbles and pepperoni two ways — and some of that robust cheese sauce, followed by two palate-cleansing grace notes: rosemary-infused olive oil and an out-of-the-oven sprinkle of fresh oregano. That it’s cut into smallish slices indicates that the kitchen possesses a modicum of self-awareness.