Search “Quad City–style pizza” on Wikipedia, and 28 results will come up. There were 27—and not a single one near Minnesota—until one day in June, that changed. Mahtomedi made the list and Quad Cities native and QC (“Quad Cities”) Pizza owner Dennis Schneekloth rejoiced.
“QC was always an idea in my mind … something scribbled on a napkin,” he says. “Then things just fell into place.” He can’t talk about his brand without gushing a bit about other beloved QC flavors. For Schneekloth all worthwhile culinary roads lead home.
“Whitey’s [Ice Cream, in Davenport, Iowa] invented the blizzard—they were putting candy in shakes and malts before DQ ever did. Taco pizza? That’s all Quad Cities,” he says. He describes in detail the types of cheeses on his pizzas, and the special malt syrup added to the dough for the crust--there’s no sugar in the dough, or in the sauce. The pizzas are topped with special, ground-up sausage that’s spicier than what most people expect. And perhaps most noticeably, Quad Cities–style pizza is always cut in easy-to-grab strips instead of triangles or squares. “When people come in, I tell them to think of what they know about pizza—and throw it out the window,” he says.
Schneekloth hasn’t always been in the restaurant business. But when he got burnt out in his job in the steel industry, the self-proclaimed foodie turned first to the napkin idea he’d always had floating around in his mind. “I just said ‘you know, I’m going to go for it and do something different.’ Gosh, I should have done this 20 years ago. I’d be retired by now!” he says.
Schneekloth has family in the Quad Cities pizza business, but his signature recipe is a closely guarded secret. It has the perfect ratio of crust to cheese to sausage, flavorful and not greasy. Though there are only a handful of tables in the tiny spot, QC Pizza won’t be adding delivery any time soon. And while offering delivery might bring in more sales, that’s an intentional move to ensure pizza quality.
“Pizza is just best piping hot and fresh, with a perfect crunch in each bite. People eat with their eyes—and you can tell when you look at it that it’s going to be amazing,” says Schneekloth. “But if you do carry-out, that smell is going to drive you nuts the whole way home.”
He says that once people try his pizza, they’re hooked—and though the company has been open less than a year, nestled in a tiny strip mall, there are already regulars who come every week or more. One man called Schneekloth and screamed “thank you” over the phone after waiting 27 years for Quad City–style pizza in Minnesota.
Some of the cult followers are Quad Cities–style pizza newbies and recent converts from thin-crust, Chicago deep-dish or Detroit-style. But there’s also a huge population of Quad Cities expats in the Twin Cities, and they instantly connect over familiar favorites. Schneekloth stops our conversation for a minute and tells me, “Whitey’s is available at Hy-Vee. Did you know that?” before continuing, sighing a bit. “The Quad Cities are blue-collar, but people there are totally passionate about food. It’s something that draws people in and draws them together.
I hope it can do that here, too.”
The Quad Cities consist of five neighboring cities flanking the Mississippi River: Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa; and East Moline, Moline and Rock Island, Ill.. They have a combined population of about 475,000—a little more than Minneapolis.