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 (2811 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-345-5494, rosaliapizza.com) 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 drawing 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.”
Another impressive newcomer is ElMar’s New York Pizza (15725 37th Av. N., Plymouth, elmarsnypizza.com), where New York native Michael ElMaraghy, working with his wife, Nicole, is aiming to replicate 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.”
Also in the ’burbs
A new brewery already has the eternal beer-pizza partnership all figured out. At Bricksworth Beer Co. (12257B Nicollet Av. S., Burnsville, 952-657-5236, bricksworthbeer.co), 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.
One of the more fascinating newbies is Bombay Pizza Kitchen (16518 W. 78th St., Eden Prairie, 612-425-4205, bombaypizza.kitchen). 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). The cheery counter-service restaurant is not to be confused with Pizza Karma (8451 Joiner Way, Eden Prairie, 952-467-6100, pizzakarma.com), which showcases distinctive naan-style crusts baked in showy tandoor ovens.
At the Grocer’s Table (326 Broadway Av. S., Wayzata, 952-466-6100, thegrocerstablemn.com), 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.
And Margie’s Kitchen & Cocktails (13735 Round Lake Blvd., Andover, 763-205-4762, margies-kitchen.com) has carved out a portion of its menu 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.
At Woodfire at Eastside (305 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-208-1638, woodfireateastside.com), “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.
French Hen Cafe owners have added an evening pizza component to their breakfast-lunch schedule, a takeout setup that’s tucked back in the alley. At Moonflower Pizza (518 Selby Av., St. Paul, 612-222-6201, frenchhencafe.com), the skillfully prepared single-serving pizzas ($10-$14) boast pliable, blistered crusts and a creative, ever-changing assortment of toppings that don’t exclude vegetarians and vegans.
On Sunday nights, Bungalow Club (4300 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-866-3334, thebungalowclubmpls.com) chef/owner Andrew Kraft gets into pan pizza mode. The crust is a tweak of the kitchen’s longstanding (and awesome) focaccia recipe, the red sauce is Kraft’s wonderfully punchy pomodoro sauce, and there’s a long list of mix-and-match toppings, including basil pesto, Spanish anchovies and housemade sausage. Prices start at $13, and portions are more than generous.
On a final note, chef Arie Peisert has just opened Northern Fires Pizza (1839 E. 42nd St., Mpls., 612-424-1428, northernfirespizza.com), matriculating his thriving business — which serves farmers markets using a mobile wood-burning pizza oven — into a takeout-only brick-and-mortar establishment. The pizza, which relies on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, is sensational.
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib