By all rights, my car's rear bumper should have a sticker that reads, "Will brake for pizza."
But it doesn't, so apologies to the Honda that I nearly cut off as I dashed into the parking lot at Element Pizza. It's a blink-or-you'll-miss-it setup, a former dentist's office that has been cutely converted -- with plenty of knotty pine -- into a cozy neighborhood pizzeria.
Co-owners Ismail and Sue Karagoez -- their last gig was the former Istanbul Bistro in Wayzata -- do not appear to be adhering to any particular pizza-making hierarchy, but instead are borrowing some, well, elements, from several sources.
"Semi-Neapolitan" might be the best way to describe the plate-size pizzas. The crusts are coaxed out of a wood-burning oven looking pale and gently mottled, with crispy outer edges that give way to a soft, chewy interior.
Toppings include pepperoni, Canadian bacon and other familiar standbys, but they're joined by roasted eggplant, arugula, artichokes, chèvre and other anti-Pizza Hut tastes. Build-your-own pizzas start at $6.50, and the top price for a house special -- a flavorful blend of spinach, feta, pungent sun-dried tomatoes, fruity kalamata olives, red onion and oregano -- is $11.75.
Salads are abundant (but those cottony tomatoes stick out like a fast-food sore thumb) and generously dressed, and the few appetizers are summed up in a heaping assortment platter that's just $10.75. Dessert, highly skippable, means brownies made elsewhere. There's a short list of moderately priced beers and wines.
It's a counter-service setup, and the folks working behind the cash register are bend-over-backwards nice.