Pizza has been called the “perfect food” for many reasons: it represents several food groups, it’s portable, versatile, easy to find, adored by all and just plain delicious. The world of pizza cuisine has evolved from the standard red-sauce-gooey-cheese configuration to embrace all sorts of creative and often outlandish possibilities. Rumor has it there’s even a “sushi pizza” out there, although we couldn’t find such travesty in our ’hood. But we did find seven yummy, made-with-love versions in the lake area; whether for a party, a picnic or eaten cold at breakfast, our humble pies hit the spot.
Roma Restaurant, Bar and Market
Roma Market cooks their pizza in a super-hot wood-fired oven, which makes a beautifully blistered, thin and crispy crust. A pizza Margherita is a simple, can’t-miss triangulation of tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella, and Roma’s version is right on target. Large pieces of torn basil leaves add maximum herbal pop and the fresh cheese nearly vibrates with clean, milky flavor. Crushed plum-tomato sauce and extra-virgin olive oil embrace the whole shebang. You could get it to go, but we advise you to pull up to the charming wine bar, inhale the divine smells and enjoy a glass of vino with that pie. 10-inch, $12. 460 Stillwater Road, Willernie; 651.653.4733.
Step into Pino’s little pizza shop and be prepared to grab for the counter as you swoon from the heady aroma of pizzas in progress. No doubt you will also be wooed by the charming Italian accent of the pizzaiolo. We could smell our Palermo pizza (named after the capital of Sicily) as soon as we walked in, and it was even more seductive once in-hand, laden as it was with shrimp, tomato, cheese and pesto. The pesto asserted a righteous garlic kick, with cute little rock shrimp curled up under the cheese blanket. If only we could bottle that heavenly smell. $14.99 for a medium, $18.95 for a large. 2018 E. County Road F, White Bear Lake; 651.407.8432.
This pizza creation is a bit outrageous—picture a taco salad, complete with crushed tortilla chips, and dump it on top of a thin-crust pizza and ¡ay, caramba¡ Yep, it’s got everything a taco has: fresh iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, black olives, seasoned beef, onions, cheddar and mozzarella. It comes with a side of sour cream and taco sauce. Strange, perhaps, but strangely addictive. Personal size, $9.99. 2692 E. County Road E, White Bear Lake, 651.777.9199;.
ZEEK’S GREAT WHITE GREEK PIZZA
Wildwood Pizza Bowl and Eatery
Wildwood calls itself the “home of over 40 toppings” which can be overwhelming, to say the least (Spam and dill pickle, anyone?). Luckily you can choose from some of the eatery’s own artful combinations. We choose Zeek’s great white Greek pizza. We’re not sure who Zeek is, but he’s definitely onto something with this powerful combination of onions, black olives, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme, bacon bits, diced tomato and a ranch parmesan sauce. This grocery list of ingredients is finely chopped together to create a united flavor front that’s vaguely Greek in tone. If you’re feeling voracious, get double dough—two layers of crust, with cheese in the middle—for a nominal extra charge. 10-inch small, $15.10. 468 Stillwater Road, Willernie, 651.429.1141.
SLICE OF PEPPERONI
Roadside Pizza and Wings
Sometimes you just want a simple slice to tide you over until dinner, make a quick lunch on the run, or something to nosh on late at night. When that’s the case, scoot over to Roadside Pizza and ask them what’s fresh. We got a slice of hot-from-the-oven pepperoni pizza that was just the ticket: sturdy crust, slightly sweet tomato sauce, a respectable amount of mozzarella cheese and peppery pepperoni. $2.13, with tax. 1971 Whitaker St., White Bear Lake, 651.426.2268.
The secret to Pizza Man’s tasty pie is its high-quality ingredients. Not one to sacrifice quality for price, owner Farrell Tuohy defied us to find a better cheese pizza in town. Although you can choose from a gajillion toppings here—sausage, pepperoni, bacon, chicken, shrimp, jalapeño and sauerkraut, of all things—we decided to test Tuohy’s claim with a pure, unadulterated cheese pizza. We must admit, he knows what he’s talking about: This simple cheese pizza is bursting with sweet, ripe tomato and fresh milky cheese with an honest, yeasty crust that lets the flavors sing. $8.95. 4687 Bald Eagle Ave., White Bear Lake; 651.653.9845.
Sprung from Alfonso and Nana’s Italian grocery store in St. Paul in the 1920s, Carbone’s is now a Minnesota, Wisconsin and Montana chain. But this self-labeled “neighborhood pizza joint” keeps it real with classic pies like the house special, a combination of sausage and pepperoni with a generous mélange of mushroom, onion and green peppers. It’s a fun place to watch the game, too. 7-inch small, $7.95. 960 Mahtomedi Ave., Mahtomedi; 651.426.5222.