Meeting Minnesota Pizza
By Tom // Posted 29 June, 2009 in: Pizza, Restaurants
As far as trendy foodie obsessions go, I am more of a pizza guy than a hamburger guy. I’m not as die-hard as some, but I have observed a number of the pizza-nerd pieties: I’ve eaten D.O.C. Pizza Margherita at Antica Pizzeria dell’Arte. I’ve waited two hours in line to try Roman pizza at Da Baffetto. During a short trip to New Haven, I ate at both Frank Pepe and Modern Apizza. I once walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in 100° weather and spent all the cash in my wallet to eat at Grimaldi’s. I have also spent a significant amount of time trying to perfect Neapolitan pizza in my home oven; some of these efforts are documented on this very blog.
Minneapolis, my home of one and a half years, is not known as a pizza city, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the pizza available here. First and foremost there is Punch Pizza, which makes the best pizza I have ever had outside of Italy—possibly even inside of Italy. I have eaten at Punch more times than anywhere else;we are very lucky in the Twin Cities to have not just one great Neapolitan pizzeria, but a whole chain of them. I have also tried and enjoyed Galactic Pizza, which has the advantage of being close to my house and delivered in electric cars by superheroes.
My preferences in pizza run strongly Italian, but I’m definitely not one of those jerks who doesn’t consider deep-dish to be real pizza (in fact I strongly recommend the deep dish from Little Star in San Francisco). I like to keep an open mind; Dara’s pizza personality test classified me as ANCS-The Different Drummer. Apparently my ideal Twin Cities pizza comes from Crescent Moon. I have yet to take the Afghan pizza plunge, I do like to try as many different kinds of pizza as I can. With that attitude of openness and thirst for discovery, this afternoon I tried for the first time what I have heard referred to as “Minnesota-style” pizza, courtesy of Red’s Savoy Pizza.
I’ll admit that my decision to try Red’s was largely a matter of convenience; I had been somewhat intrigued by the restaurant after reading a review on Slice, but it was not until they opened a location in the Golooney’s space only a few blocks from my apartment that I decided I would go and try it. I walked there, ordered a sausage pie (for control purposes, when tasting a new non-Neapolitan pizza I order sausage or pepproni, for Neapolitan pizzas Margherita) and after waiting a while I eagerly walked home with a piping hot pie.
Opening the box, I made two observations: one, this pizza was cut into squares. Apparently, that is a Minnesota thing—maybe they wanted make pizza more like bars. The problem with cutting a pizza into squares is that it creates awkward little corner pieces and a number of pieces that don’t have any crust to serve as a handle, necessitating the use of a fork. I was also surprised to see the giant brown spots in the center of the pizza; at first I thought they were some unrequested topping but then realized it was just huge swaths browned cheese.
Crust. If I had to compare the crust of Red’s Savoy’s pizza to any, I’d say it reminded me most of cheap frozen pizza crust. That is not a bad thing; I like cheap frozen pizza. And I’m not saying that it was actually frozen: I saw them tossing the fresh dough. Whatever is in that dough, it produces no puffy cornicione; rather, the crust is cracker thin and quite crispy and burnt on the edge. As one approaches the center, the crust becomes soggier, chewier and more cardboard-like. Charring was limited to the edge, with the rest of the crust a pale brown. The crust was more of a vehicle for the toppings than an end in itself, but I did really enjoy the crispiness of the edges. I also thought it was overfloured, but I can forgive that because I am myself often guilty of using ample flour to ensure smooth separation of the dough from the peel. Still, raw flour isn’t especially tasty.
Sauce. This pizza is heavily sauced, so much so that great pools of the stuff are visible on the edges and spill onto the pizza box. That’s okay since the sauce is delicious; very thick and meaty, like a red sauce you would eat on spaghetti rather than a pizza sauce. Its texture at times was almost squishy. It had good flavor: a little cooked-tasting but pleasantly spicy.
Cheese. The first thing to be said about cheese on this pizza is that there is a lot of it. I mean a lot of it. There is so much cheese that it bonds with the box and slips off of the crust as you try to pull a piece a way. There is so much cheese that it forms its own super-layer that is independent of the rest of the pizza. In fact, if there is one thing that seemed to distinguish this style of pizza it is the amount of cheese. As long as the cheese remained warm and gooey it was good and comforting but it became a bit disconcerting as it started to congeal. Must eat faster!
Sausage. The sausage was spicy and had the right amount of grease, which is to say plenty of grease. Red’s puts toppings on top of the sauce and covers the whole thing with cheese, rather than putting toppings on top of the cheese. I favor the latter approach since I think it actually binds the toppings in better (the cheese bubbles up around them). As it was, it was hard to keep the toppings and cheese on top of the crust without using a fork.
From the breakdown above you might get the idea that I didn’t like Red’s Savoy pizza, but actually I thought it was pretty good; definitely a case where the experience of eating it makes it more than the sum of its parts. Red’s Savoy probably won’t unseat Punch in terms of my favorite pizza in the Twin Cities, but I would eat it again. Particularly if I had been drinking. Based on this experience, my overall impression of ‘Minnesota’ pizza is: cracker thin crust, lots of sauce and even more cheese, and squares.