Piece meal

Our ears perked up when the young clerk behind the counter at Eat This pizzeria (212 E. Hennepin Ave., 612-623-7999) addressed a female customer on a recent visit: After extolling the daily specials and chit-chatting briefly, the employee turned to the women and asked, "Are you a friend of Ellen?"

Now that's gay friendly, we thought--until it became clear that DeGeneres was not the acquaintance in question. Still, any disappointment was quickly dispelled by the pungent aromas of melted Parmesan and baked garlic. Newly opened last month, Eat This serves up piping-hot panfuls of vegetarian pizza, as well as green salads, sodas, and Sonny's ice cream. Owner Renee Holoien and her staff hand-shear each slice to their customers' likings and sell it by the pound--a quaint concept that ensures you'll always get enough and, if you're really picky, you'll never have to chew on crusts.

Holoien, who left a 7-year career as a project manager at Northwest Airlines to open the northeast Minneapolis eatery, says the idea of selling pizza by the pound is an Old World one. In many Italian towns, streetside pizza vendors snip off slices and price the pies with a small scale. "Of course," notes Holoien, "it's by the kilo there."

Meanwhile, diners dropping by the lipstick-red-and-mustard-yellow cafe can expect to gain a kilo or two of their own. The fresh ingredients include such healthy choices as artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, Portobello mushrooms, and pepperoncini, but there's also heaping helpfuls of such sinful indulgences as gorgonzola, smoked mozzarella, fontina, and sharp cheddar. The selections change daily, but the house special is a tangy tomato-less number with tender spuds and a sprinkling of fresh rosemary. Think hot-dish comfort food without the mushroom soup.

Inventive combos and the eatery's sun-strewn patio make Eat This a worthwhile destination on a lunchtime dash from downtown. But Holoien also sells wine and beer in an effort to attract evening and weekend patrons. In fact, the owner says she won't rest until the crowds are clamoring at the door. When will Eat This be a success? "When I have people waiting in line outside," the owner answers.

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