Rick's top six
Twenty-five years ago this month, co-owner John Soranno built a wood-burning oven in a St. Paul strip mall and forever changed the way Twin Citians look at pizza. The crust on this meticulously prepared Neapolitan-style pizza — wet on the bottom, bubbled and charred around the edges — is at its glorious best as soon as it leaves the oven. With takeout, consider ordering the parbaked version and completing the last crucial step at home.
Twelve Twin Cities locations (two are temporarily closed), punchpizza.com
Colita and Martina chef/owner Daniel del Prado has turned his considerable talents to pizza, with dazzling results. He's working in two styles, and both enchant. One goes the Neapolitan route, with a tangy, sourdough-based crust that gets dark and blistered, and the other is twice-baked (and sparingly topped) focaccia, an affectionate nod to the pizza that del Prado grew up eating in Argentina.
2811 W. 43rd St., Mpls., rosaliapizza.com
Another Argentine expat is making an outsized contribution to the local pizza landscape. He's Facundo Defraia, and he specializes in ovoid-shaped pizzas with chewy, puffed-up crusts that glisten with olive oil and twinkle with sea salt. Defraia makes a Margherita for the ages (ditto his spin on pepperoni), and his blend of Gorgonzola, pine nuts, dill and pears surely ranks as one of the great vegetarian pizza triumphs of all time.
3749 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. and 530 S. 4th St., Mpls., boludo.com
Northern Fires Pizza
After forging a fiercely loyal following at farmers markets — where he would source fresh, seasonal ingredients from his fellow vendors — chef/owner Arie Peisert and his crew are now working out of a permanent home, happily expanding access to their blistered, beautifully composed pizzas.
1839 E. 42nd St., Mpls., northernfirespizza.com
Pizzeria Lola/Young Joni/Kyndred Hearth
Chef/co-owner Ann Kim has set a new pizza standard — making magic in French-made, copper-clad, wood-burning ovens — and she has the James Beard award to prove it.
Pig Ate My Pizza Kitchen + Brewery
Expect impressive outcomes when the talented, innovation-minded chefs from top-rated Travail Kitchen and Amusements take on the serious fun of pizzamaking.
4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, pigatemypizza.com
Sharyn's top six
Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza
I'm a pizza purist. Give me a Margherita if we're talking Neapolitan-style. Plain cheese by the slice. But I'm the opposite at Jordan and Colleen Smith's Black Sheep, the state's first coal-burning pizzeria. That's because each of the menu's topping combinations is balanced in beautiful harmony. Favorites? The classic meatball, ricotta and garlic, followed by the kicky Persian beef with tomato, feta and harissa.
600 Washington Av. N., Mpls.; 2550 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.; 512 N. Robert St., St. Paul, blacksheeppizza.com
Nearly a year after most downtown workers departed, Andrea's skyway outlet at Capella Tower is still up and running, with at least a half-dozen varieties of their enormous slices just waiting to be chosen for a bottom-crisping stint in the oven. The Gambino family has been making pizza almost 50 years, and they've got the flavor and the mechanics down: saucy, foldable, greasy enough to dab with a napkin, and ready when you are.
1235 SE. 4th St., Mpls. and 225 S. 6th St., Mpls., 811 LaSalle Av., Mpls., 330 2nd Av. S., Mpls., andreapizza.com
Broders' Cucina Italiana
Whenever I stop by the market and casual eatery, I usually wind up adding a plain piece of cheese pizza to my order for a wildly indulgent appetizer. Broders' solid slices are irresistible to this native New Jerseyan. The cheese-to-sauce ratio, the crust-to-hand ratio — it's all on point.
2308 W. 50th St., Mpls., broders.com
Blue Fire Pizza / Fire & Nice Alehouse
Find Aaron Hargrave's Blue Fire Pizza in food truck form at breweries around town, or in a new iteration at Fire & Nice Alehouse. The brick-and-mortar operation offers an essential upgrade: Thin, Neapolitan pies to-go can be tough to keep pliable as they cool; get them parbaked and finish in your oven at home. Combos are inventive, but the Margherita lets the simple crushed tomato sauce sing.
Red Wagon Pizza Co.
The south Minneapolis pizzeria is known for its Carl the Cuban pie. Topped with pork, shaved ham, dill pickles and mayo, it was featured on the Food Network and is even available to ship nationally. But don't overlook the one-of-a-kind Margherita, thanks to the zesty red sauce and a heavy sprinkling of toasted black pepper.
5416 Penn Av. S., Mpls., redwagon-mpls.com
You could pick up a frozen Mucci's pizza at the grocery store and stop there. But visit either of the two locales and you have options (like fried chicken and garlic butter) and dough styles for anyone's taste: the Montanara fried crust in St. Paul was groundbreaking when Tim Niver, Chris Uhrich and Heather Mady opened the place in 2016. The newer Minneapolis restaurant has Roman-style, hand-stretched and gluten-free pies coming out of its woodfire oven.
901 W. Lake St., Mpls., and 786 Randolph Av., St. Paul, muccisitalian.com
Four on pie-atus
These would land on our lists, if they were available right now.
Bungalow Club: Rectangular Sicilian pies are on break until spring arrives (4300 E. Lake St., Mpls., thebungalowclubmpls.com)
Handsome Hog: Chef/owner Justin Sutherland is reviving his fabulous Chicago-style deep dish when patio season resumes, hurrah (173 Western Av. N., St. Paul, handsomehog.com).
Snack Bar: This Isaac Becker restaurant excels at pizza — and sells it by the slice — but has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic (800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., snackbarmpls.com).
A to Z Produce & Bakery: The ultimate pizza farm experience sat out 2020 due to the pandemic; please let 2021 be its comeback year (N2956 Anker Lane, Stockholm, Wis., atozproduceandbakery.com).
And keep in mind ...
These other pizza sources are worthy of attention.
Element Pizza: First-rate wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas (96 NE. Broadway, Mpls., elementpizza.com).
Giulia: The creative force behind this crave-inducing pizza is Tilia chef Steven Brown (215 S. 4th St., Mpls, dinegiulia.com).
The Grocer's Table: Chef Craig Johnson is making the most of his wood-burning oven (326 S. Broadway, Wayzata, thegrocerstablemn.com).
Olive's Fresh Pizza Bar: Lake Minnetonka's pizza oasis (287 Water St., Excelsior, olivesfresh.com).
Pizza Luce: A local chain that really does it right (eight Twin Cities locations, pizzaluce.com).
Pizza Karma: Naan crusts baked in tandoor ovens, with globally inspired toppings (8451 Joyner Way, Eden Prairie and 11611 Fountains Drive, Maple Grove, pizzakarma.com).
Pizzeria 201: A pizza destination in the southern exurbs (201 S. 1st St., Montgomery, Minn. pizzeria201.com).
Woodfire at Eastside:Comforting takeout from James Beard-nominee Jamie Malone. (305 S. Washington Av., Mpls.,woodfireateastside.com)