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Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Eat your heart out, Dominos
Eat your heart out, Dominos

The Twin Cities is bursting with killer pizza. Some of the pizzerias on our Top 10 list are cultural institutions that staked out their place in the pizza hall of fame years ago. Others are newcomers, bursting onto the Twin Cities dining scene with all the fury of an 800-degree wood-fired oven. Limiting the list to 10 forced us to leave some favorites off, but they'll be included in a special mention at the end.

1. Pizzeria Lola

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities
Emily Utne

Recently featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, Pizzeria Lola is the hottest pizza joint in town. The best seats are at the bar, which offer a view into the fiery mouth of the restaurant's iconic, copper-clad oven. The space looks worthy of inclusion in a contemporary architecture magazine, with its wood-lined walls, tomato-can track lighting, and vintage soda bottles that double as tabletop flower vases. The vibe--and the nice beer and wine list--makes Lola date-worthy, but it's still a suitable, though spendy, place to take the kids. The pies are excellent: Neapolitan-style, wood-fired crusts covered in toppings that stray from typical Italian or Midwestern styles. The Xerxes, for example, includes rapini, feta, and olives; the Sunnyside combines leeks, pecorino, cured pork cheek, and a sunny-side up egg. Also good: the roasted vegetables, the beet salad, and the luscious, house-made soft serve. 5557 Xerxes Avenue South, Minneapolis 612.424.8338;Pizzeria Lola website

2. Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza (which has locations in both the North Loop of Minneapolis and St. Paul) puts a big premium on its crust. Its anthracite coal oven delivers a crust that is crisp but chewy, thin but not crackery, and just firm enough to hold a slice with one hand. Black Sheep has six pizzas to choose from (at 12 or 16 inches) and a full list of ingredients to design your own. Toppings include exotic departures such as fennel sausage and anchovies, in addition to more classic choices such as meatballs and garlic. Its four taps exclusively feature microbreweries, and the wine list is brief but sophisticated enough for a nice date. Two people can easily leave fed and happy for under $20. 600 Washington Ave N., Minneapolis. 612.342.2625 512 N. Robert St., St. Paul. 651.227.4337 Black Sheep Pizza website

3. Pizza Nea

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Pizza Nea stands apart from the other wood-fired pizzerias in town because of the outstanding quality of its toppings: rich, rustic sausages, plush sweet fior di latte mozzarella, and deep green, roasted artichoke leaves. The artichoke ramekin (they call it carciofo), which looks for all the world like a plate of hot whipped cream, is not to be missed. For wine lovers, Pizza Nea is distinguished by its definitively pleasant pizza-shop wine list, full of country values. Its convenient location right across the river from downtown, and right across the street from Minneapolis wine-and-cheese institution Surdyk's, makes it a perfect launching pad for (or resting place during) an urban adventure. 306 East Hennepin, Minneapolis 612.331.9298 Pizza Nea website

4. Punch Neopolitan Pizza

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Named after the birthplace of pizza, Punch Neopolitan's secret lies in the wood-burning ovens super-heated to 800 degrees. A spirit of smoke dwells in the paper-crisp crust and tender, springy heat of every pie. Most popular is the the margherita extra, which includes fresh mozzarella, basil, and crushed San Marzano and Mt. Vesuvio tomatoes. Other varieties feature anchovies, salami, artichokes, ham, and goat cheese. Of course, you can build your own as well. Basic pizzas start around $6, with specialty combinations running about $8 to $12. Another benefit of the hot, hot oven: an individual pie can be done in 90 seconds. The salads are also good, and the wine list is a moderately priced, pizza-friendly dream come true. With seven locations throughout the metro area, your next Punch pizza feast is never more than a stone's throw away. Multiple locations Punch Pizza website

5. Pizza Luce

All five Twin Cities Pizza Luce locations (and a sixth in Duluth) serve up a crisp crust, potent red sauce, and more toppings than you can shake an antipasto at: Calamata olives, roasted red peppers, barbecued chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and spicy mock duck, to name a very few. Definitely the most vegan- and vegetarian-friendly pizzeria on the list, with multiple fake meat and alternative protein sources on the menu, Pizza Luce is also a safe bet for people with gluten sensitivities, offering many menu items marked GFR (gluten-free upon request). The Lyn-Lake and St. Paul locations have a beer and wine license, and the other three TC locations (Hopkins, Seward, and the Warehouse District) all have a full bar. The Hopkins, St. Paul, and Warehouse District locations also offer a fantastic weekend brunch. Multiple locations Pizza Luce website

 

6. Galactic Pizza

Galactic Pizza, with its pizza-tossing Buddha logo, is what lifelong Minnesotans call "different." Located in Uptown, Galactic is hard to miss, with its brilliant yellow-and-blue paint job, red awning, and checkerboard floor. It's also hard to miss the delivery people. When the weather is right, they arrive by electric car, dressed as superheroes. These heroes dedicate themselves to running their shop with renewable energy, use 100 percent biodegradable packaging, and donate 5 percent of their pre-tax profits to charity. They offer unique concoctions, such as the Thailander, a pizza that mimics pad Thai with a spicy peanut sauce, free-range chicken, mozzarella cheese, and a smattering of fresh accoutrements (green onion, sprouts, carrots). Traditionalists can always opt for the Old School, with the classic combination of tomato sauce, cheese, sausage, pepperoni, and veggies. Prices range from around $12 to $20, and gluten-free crust is available on request. 2917 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis 612.824.9100; Website

7. Leaning Tower of Pizza

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities
https://www.facebook.com/HappyTower

A South Minneapolis institution that has seemingly existed forever, Leaning Tower is a classic Uptown destination. The vibe is familiar and chill, maybe not the highest on the atmosphere scale, but still a perfect place to have a sip and a snack. The University Avenue location is a bit more spacious, and the clientele skews a bit more to the college kids at the nearby University of Minnesota, but the energy is similarly relaxed. The appetizer list at both locations is extensive and inexpensive, including baskets of fried cauliflower, mushrooms, and onion rings--the classics. Cheap beer, fried food, cheese bread, a good jukebox, and a comfortable atmosphere make this a pizza joint that leaves no room for complaint. 2324 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. 612.377.3532 2501 University Ave SE, Minneapolis. 612.331.7474 Leaning Tower website

8. Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

A tiki bar and pizza joint with style to burn, Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge puts the va-va-voom back into eating pizza. Its new location has expanded the size of Northeast's most popular watering hole with an enormous riverfront patio with funky fountains and panoramic river views, and three second-floor bars open only on weekends. The dark, red-lit ground floor is a favorite of everyone, from the young hipster set to the vaguely punk to urban 9-to-5ers. The menu is full of appetizers straight out of a church potluck (like deviled eggs and pickle roll-ups), tiki concoctions that will put hair on your chest, and some darn good pizza. Our favorite is the Sunny Buick--fresh basil, pine nuts, roasted garlic, provolone, mozzarella, and their garlicky white-wine sauce. Choose from standard or deep dish crusts, and make sure anyone you're kissing in the near future eats some too. 1900 Marshall St. NE, Minneapolis 612.788.9069; Psycho Suzi's website

9. Element Wood Fire Pizza

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities
Emily Utne

Element Wood Fire Pizza distinguishes itself with well-made pies boasting a clean and simple red sauce, a crispy, chewy, and substantial crust, and cheese that goes beyond the usual fresh mozzarella to make liberal use of feta, Gorgonzola, and Parmesan. Located in a former dentist's office, Element is humble in size, with only a few tables for small groups and some two-tops along the V-shaped perimeter. The interior is like a pine haven, with very literal decor based on each of the four elements. Menu boards hang above a beautiful open kitchen, announcing daily pizza specials (such as a spicy Cajun pizza with chicken and jalapeños). Even though it's a counter-service place and much of Element's business is takeout, the staff is warm and attentive. Prices are moderate, with a basic cheese pizza starting at $6.50, and no pie on the list topping $12. 96 Broadway St. NE, Minneapolis 612.379.3028; Element Pizza website

10. Cossetta's Italian Market and Pizzeria

Top 10 pizzerias in the Twin Cities

Cossetta's Italian Market and Pizzeria is a boisterous cafeteria-style restaurant: a big space serving big portions, easily accommodating large groups and large appetites. As a spot that caters to sports fan and science museum visitors, Cossetta does the trick: diners can get in and out in a matter of minutes, free to enjoy their downtown entertainment without paying the prices demanded at stadium concession stands or the museum cafeteria. The pizza is hand-tossed in a spectacle for diners to enjoy, and the slices offered at the counter are plate-filling and robust. The fair prices, famous pizza, and central location make Cosetta's a popular, always bustling spot, but it's worth queuing up to see what all the fuss is about. 211 Seventh St. W., St. Paul 651.222.3476; Cossetta's Facebook page

Honorable Mention: Mesa Pizza, Broadway Pizza, Dulano's Pizza, Fat Lorenzo's, and Red's Savoy Pizza

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All of these lists are available on City Pages' new Best of the Twin Cities app. Click here to see it in action.

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