This is a tale of two pizzerias, set in the northwestern suburb of Plymouth. One is the newly opened branch of Solos Pizza Cafe. The other, Latuff's Pizzeria, has been operating since 1971. Driving to Solos' well-signed location towering over Highway 55, you might catch a glimpse of Latuff's out of the corner of your eye: a small, old-fashioned storefront that could be mistaken for derelict if not for the steady stream of customers rolling through its door.
Solos' visual dominance continues inside. Colors and images in the sleekly modern Solos pop off the walls, mirroring the restaurant's elegant and eminently usable website. Latuff's is firmly mired somewhere around 1986: a collection of washed-out Italy-themed prints, comfortably worn-out booths, and no web presence at all.
Things get far more interesting when the restaurants face off pizza-to-pizza.
Solos offers a pie with a crust that's chewy and relatively thin, with just a hint of dough flavor in each piece's soft but well-browned edge. Garlic white sauce packs a hearty garlic flavor; a well-balanced but otherwise unremarkable marinara is applied with admirable restraint. Pizzas are "individual" sized, which means a 10-inch pizza split into six small pieces for $7.25. (For the record: a 10-inch pizza is not actually "individual" for much of the population...or at least it shouldn't be.)
Latuff's takes a different approach, serving "medium" (10-inch) or "large" (12-inch) pizzas intended for sharing. It piles on more (and slightly sweeter) red sauce and a more luxurious (and slightly greasier) layer of cheese. A medium one-topping pizza starts at $8.80; a topping-packed 12-inch tops out at around $18.
Latuff's pizza has a thin, crunchy, practically cracker-like crust, which is an austere and perfectly balanced counterweight to the gooey, indulgent topping. In theory, it's a rendition of pizza that's equally as valid as Solos'. In practice, however, Latuff's pizza was more compelling. It may have been the drama of the crunchy, cracker-like crust versus the gooey topping, or it may have been the atmosphere, which encourages lingering, chatting, and—pizzeria or not—civilized dining.
By dint of comfortable (if dated) fixtures, old-school booth seating, and a staff that has a clear grasp of what it means to make customers feel welcome, Latuff's, well...it feels like home.
Solos Pizza Cafe featured squabbling families in a hurry, self-bused trays of food, a Quiznos-like assembly line of teenaged, rubber-glove-wearing "pizza artists," a counter-based ordering system, rampant PDAs and cell phones—modern chaos in a cold, modern, airport-restaurant-style eatery.
In a nutshell, you can walk into either Solos or Latuff's and exit having tasted a good slice of pizza. Solos will get you in and out in a matter of minutes; at Latuff's, you may linger for an hour or more. If you feel like pizza and you're near Plymouth, the choice is pretty simple: You can eat somewhere that's Midwestern in the best possible sense of the word, or somewhere that feels like everywhere and nowhere, all at once.
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