BEST PIZZA - 2002
A lot of people around here seem to think that a pizza crust is to pizza cheese as a loafer is to Rush Limbaugh. Not true! A pizza is a complex, multimodal, biodynamic system wherein components of crust, cheese, sauce, and topping interact toward the creation of a sum greater than the parts. Moreover, wherein each element both stands on its own and embellishes and complements the other ingredients. There is no "I" in pizza! Okay, well, there's one. But there certainly aren't two. And the point is that at Punch they really make the best pizza in town, and they do it by having a wood-fire-baked, super-delicious crust that just lies down there and supports a round, robust San Marzano crushed-tomato sauce, sweet, fresh mozzarella, and your pick of ultra-plain (basil) or ultra-fancy (Saracene olives, prosciutto) toppings. Mostly for under $10 a throw, and accompanied by very nice salads and a good, inexpensive wine list. Which isn't news, because you can hardly get into the place on weekends, and Punch has to be the most universally well-regarded spot in the state. But you asked us what the best pizza was, so we ran around and ate way, way too much cheese and gained three pounds, and returned with the not-shocking truth. Maybe late 2002 will see some upheaval in this category, as Punch spawns a new branch in the western suburbs and other worthy imitators, like St. Paul Bagelry and Pizza Napoletana (planning a major remodel), get up to speed. Well, we'll see. Has Punch's constant excellence doomed the future of Rush Limbaugh loafer pizza? Please, let's hope so.