Nearly a dozen pizza-focused restaurants have materialized in the Twin Cities metro area in the past few months, and the timing couldn't be better, since "pizza" and "takeout" are nearly synonymous.
Although Rosalia has been up and running only since late September, it already feels as if it's on track to becoming one of the Twin Cities' great pizzerias.
Chef/owner Daniel del Prado has converted a former bakery behind his Martina into a takeout/dine-in hybrid, anchoring the stylish space with a white-tiled pizza oven that looks like it was plucked off architect Frank Gehry's drafting table.
Del Prado is using that oven's intense heat to transform a slightly tangy, sourdough-starter-enriched dough into remarkable Neapolitan-style pizzas, the kind he fell in love with during visits to Naples. The toppings, selected with discernment, are applied with a spare touch. That keeps them from overpowering that pitch-perfect crust, which is dotted with more blackened blisters ("the leopard print," said del Prado) than the average wood-fired pizza.
"I like the crust on the darker side," said del Prado. "That bitterness adds another layer of flavor."
It's the kind of pizza ($9-$15) that, while it's no slouch after traveling a short distance, is ideally consumed on site, moments after it exits that oven. Not to worry, del Prado also has a takeout-friendly alternative ($4-$6) that's first-rate: the fugazza that he grew up eating in his native Argentina.
Sold by the slice, it's basically a twice-baked focaccia, a spongy, olive-oil-rich dough that's nicely crisped on the bottom. Again, toppings are simplicity itself (ribbons of prosciutto, blackened onions with pops of oregano), and del Prado goes all in — and then some — on the mozzarella, ricotta and provolone.
"Because Argentina is a dairy country, it's all about the cheese," said del Prado. "People rate their pizza by how much cheese you put on it."
2811 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-345-5494, rosaliapizza.com
ElMar's New York Pizza
New York native Michael ElMaraghy, working with his wife, Nicole, replicates the details of the classic New York City slice shop, right down to using a filtration system that mimics the chemical compounds found in Big Apple water.
"It's the best water for baking, and that's why New York is home to the best bagels, the best bread and the best pizza," he said. "For pizza, water is critical, because it can make up to 70 percent of the dough ball. The crust is airy but it's dense, and it's chewy but it's soft, and that texture comes from the water."
The couple have certainly earned an A in both effort and execution, because this pizza is terrific. Buy it by the (gigantic) slice — there are usually 10 varieties ($4.95-$5.95) — or in 18-inch pies ($19.95-$28.95) in build-your-own options or a dozen house specialties. The top seller? The garlic-forward extravaganza of meatballs, pepperoni, sausage and ricotta. As with all of the shop's pizzas (and calzones), it makes for most-excellent leftovers.
"We like to tell people to leave it on the counter," said ElMaraghy. "It's next-day friendly."
15725 37th Av. N., Plymouth, elmarsnypizza.com
Bricksworth Beer Co.
The newish brewery already has the eternal beer-pizza partnership all figured out. Chef Angelo Pennacchio — he made the now-closed Bar Luchador a Stadium Village destination — is borrowing appealing elements from Chicago deep-dish and Detroit-style pizzas ($12.50-$16.50), with winning results. The rectangular pizzas have thick, crusty-on-the-edges crusts, and after Pennacchio piles on the cheese, he has fun with the rest of the toppings (try the Korean-style chicken or the roasted pineapple-pepperoni-Sriracha versions), all the while paying careful attention to the basics, like creating a spirited red sauce.
12257B Nicollet Av. S., Burnsville, 952-657-5236, bricksworthbeer.co
Bombay Pizza Kitchen
One of the more fascinating entries into the pizza scene. Although the crusts are fairly standard, the lively, nontraditional toppings stand out. The premise is all about applying classic Indian flavors — curry seasonings, yogurt, paneer, lamb and tandoor-baked chicken — to the pizza format ($10.99-$23.99), and it's an intriguing detour off the usual pepperoni tour (for the less adventurous there's a small selection of familiar sausage/veggie/Canadian bacon options).
16518 W. 78th St., Eden Prairie, 612-425-4205, bombaypizza.kitchen
Chef Craig Johnson and his crew are coaxing beautiful pizzas ($15-$18) out of their hardworking wood-burning oven. The golden, sturdy crusts are a fine foundation for imaginative combinations of toppings: a sweet-salty mash-up of figs, honey and ham; an out-of the-ordinary Margherita, thanks to squeaky-fresh mozzarella and intensely flavorful cured tomatoes; and a glorious breakfast combination (Johnson wisely serves it all day) that places bacon, potatoes and a runny egg in the spotlight.
326 Broadway Av. S., Wayzata, 952-466-6100, thegrocerstablemn.com
Margie's Kitchen + Cocktails
A portion of Margie's menu has been carved out for pizza. With puffed-up, slightly charred crusts, the plate-size pizzas ($9-$15) fly beyond a basic Margherita to far more ambitious flights of fancy, toppings-wise, including pulled pork with cabbage slaw, and roasted butternut squash with candied pecans and honey-infused ricotta.
13735 Round Lake Blvd., Andover, 763-205-4762, margies-kitchen.com
Woodfire at Eastside
"We're trying to leave ourselves room to be adaptive to what people want and how to get them comfort and happiness," said chef/owner Jamie Malone. Naturally, that definition includes pizza ($13-$18). Taking advantage of his kitchen's wood-burning oven, chef Ryan Cook is transforming his focaccia formula into a half-dozen pizzas and following a keep-it-uncomplicated approach to toppings. "It's kind of lowbrow," Malone said with a laugh. "It's trashy, cheesy, greasy, chewy pizza. It's delicious." It sure is.
305 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-208-1638, woodfireateastside.com
Chef Arie Peisert has matriculated his thriving business — which serves farmers markets using a mobile wood-burning pizza oven — into a takeout-only brick-and-mortar establishment. The pizza ($15-$19), which relies on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, is sensational.
1839 E. 42nd St., Mpls., 612-424-1428, northernfirespizza.com
Fire & Nice Alehouse
As the owner of the first-rate Blue Fire Pizza food truck, chef Aaron Hargrave has perfected the use of a wood-burning pizza oven, and he's channeled that valuable experience into this operation, which is located in the former Heyday. There's a long list of build-you-own options, and Hargrave has a knack for devising his own instant-classic combos, including figs-Gorgonzola-prosciutto-arugula, roasted garlic-wild mushrooms-basil and shallots-bacon-Brussels sprouts. Here's a helpful tip: Order the pizzas ($10-$20) parbaked, then finish them in your oven.
2700 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-259-8060, fireandnicemn.com
Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks
Maplewood residents know to come to Tono for Sicilian-style pies ($10-$15) and Philly-style cheesesteaks. Now folks in the St. Paul's Highland and Mac-Groveland neighborhoods can follow suit, in this cheery spot that was once the longtime home of the St. Clair Broiler.
1580 St. Clair Av., St. Paul, 651-243-1978, tonomn.com
Those who have patiently waited in line for the opportunity to experience chef /owner Facundo Defraia's considerable pizzamaking skills (the version with pears, pine nuts creamed leeks and Gorgonzola is not to be missed) will be delighted to learn that there's now a second location. The takeout-only operation (pizzas run $14-$18) occupies a portion of the former (and vast) McKinney Roe near U.S. Bank Stadium.
530 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-965-2858, boludo.com