Who in their right mind would drive 90 miles for a pizza? The expense! The time! The carbon emissions! There's probably a pizza joint two blocks from your house! And yet, right-minded people seem willing to drive to Stockholm, Wisconsin, from all over the Midwest, just to have a pizza at A to Z Produce and Bakery. What is so all-fired special about this place?
A to Z's nickname is the "pizza farm." It's a working farm outside of Stockholm, a tiny town on the Mississippi southeast of the Twin Cities.
On Tuesdays, and only Tuesdays, proprietors Robbi Bannen and Ted Fisher put farming on hold and cook up a swath of imaginative, wholesome, riotously delicious pizzas, mostly from ingredients they grow themselves. Recent selections included cilantro/pistachio pesto with roasted tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions, and fresh mozzarella; sauteed kale with roasted tomatoes and Kalamata olives; and lamb sausage with garlic chives and spinach. Yes, the lamb sausage comes from their farm, too, as does the grain for the flour used in the pizza dough.
On a balmy spring evening, the place is heartbreakingly gorgeous: the kind of countryside that city-dwellers long for in their secret agrarian heart of hearts. It's not a restaurant, per se. You bring your own plates, drinks, forks, tables, and chairs. You set up camp in the yard and place your order (prices range from $23 to $28 for a large pizza), wander around looking at the cows and sheep while your pizza bakes in the wood-fired oven, and then you open the wine that you brought and kick back with your homegrown pizza pie.
Some of the regulars go all out with their table settings, bringing fancy tablecloths, candelabras, crystal wine glasses. Others just sit in the grass and chow down.
A few simple rules for your visit to A to Z. You should not bring your dog. You should not park your car like an idiot. You should wear shoes. You should leave the place as clean as or cleaner than you found it. And you should keep in mind that this lovely, scenic venue is somebody's home.
Why do the unassuming proprietors, who raised their three children here and clearly love the place, open their doors to the pizza-mad hoi polloi? "I do this so I can keep doing what I love to do the other six days of the week: grow vegetables," says Bannen. "It's all about the farming."
For directions, visit the A to Z website, which is as graceful and low-key as the farm itself.
A to Z Produce and Bakery N2956 Anker Lane Stockholm, WI Open Tuesdays, 4:30 - 8:00 p.m.