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Eat & Drink » Restaurant Reviews

Personal Pizza

Rusted Sun is the pizza pub where everybody knows your name.


  • Alex Springer

Pizza has a well-earned reputation as a party food. It's often present at large gatherings, and most pizza parlors are designed to accommodate the large groups that want to share a pizza in a loud, extroverted environment. But what about those of us looking to enjoy some pizza in a quiet spot with just a few other lost souls? What if I'm looking to eat a calzone by myself while "I'm On Fire" by Bruce Springsteen plays in the background? If you're itching for pizza in a more intimate setting reminiscent of a neighborhood pub, then Rusted Sun (2010 S. State Street, 801-483-2120) is the place for you.

If you're a pizza fan living even remotely near Rusted Sun, you already know this place. It's been serving up pizza, calzones and salads in the Sugar House area since the mid-1990s, and was one of the first restaurants to put me on the path to becoming a huge dork about local food. Back when my wife and I were dating, Rusted Sun was on heavy rotation for any date that brought us downtown—something about its welcoming vibe, cozy interior and delicious thin-crust pizza always drew us in.

It's a vibe that owner Wally Stephens has cultivated since the origins of Rusted Sun, which was once part of the now-defunct pizza chain known as Delloretto's. After Stephens spent some time managing the location, Delloretto's started to fold, which gave him the opportunity to purchase the location and turn it into Rusted Sun. Taking what he knew about making pizza and renovating the space into more of a diner atmosphere, Rusted Sun soon gathered a loyal following. "A lot of building a regular clientele is about having a quality product that people want to come back for, and by being open and friendly to your customers," Stephens says.

That enthusiasm for making tasty Italian favorites was what initially got me hooked on Rusted Sun. During one of my first visits, I was craving buffalo wings, so I ordered up an appetizer of buffalo chicken ($7.25). To my surprise, Rusted Sun serves up a sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast slathered in Stephens' house made buffalo sauce. "I wanted to have buffalo wings on the menu, but I hate working with deep fryers," Stephens says. "I tried to bake buffalo wings, but nothing was working, so we decided to take some of the boneless chicken breast we used for pizzas and try it that way."

Regardless of whatever buffalo wing preparation camp you identify with, the buffalo chicken at Rusted Sun is killer. I personally will get boneless wings any time I can, so I completely fell in love with this oven-roasted presentation. "We don't add any butter to our sauce, and our chicken isn't fried, so it's ultimately healthier," Stephens says.

On the subject of pizza, it's hard to go wrong with any of Rusted Sun's signature dishes, all of which come in 12-inch, 16-inch or calzone varieties. Hardcore fans of the buffalo chicken can get it as a pizza ($9.50-$23), which isn't a bad way to experience how all that tasty sauce parties with melted cheese and green peppers. I'm a bit old-school with my pizza orders, so I leaned toward the combo ($10-$24.75) in a calzone.

Considering that the food is made to order, Rusted Sun consistently gets food out in a timely manner; it wasn't long until my plate of inverted pizza hit the table. For me, the debate between pizza and calzones is a non-issue—either way, I'm getting meats and cheeses delivered to my mouth. The combo hits all the right notes for those after a chunkily-topped adventure, and I appreciate the preference of sliced Italian sausage over the crumbly variety—it's much superior. I also picked up a margherita ($9-$21.75) calzone which was stuffed with fresh tomatoes and basil—excellent for those who like their cheesy-stuffed breads on the lighter side.

During my most recent visit, I couldn't help but think of the toll that COVID-19 had on Rusted Sun, who pivoted to takeout-only service during the pandemic's peak. "COVID came along and shut everything down, and we were making just enough to get by," Stephens says. Now that things have changed and more people are getting immunized, dining in at this welcoming pizza joint is back on the table. "We're to the point where we're doing as well as we were before COVID," Stephens says.

Though Stephens and I took a moment to acknowledge the impact COVID-19 had on so many local restaurants, it was nice to hear that Rusted Sun was on the mend. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Rusted Sun, as it fueled a good chunk of my college social life, so hearing that it's likely to stick around for the next generation of pizza-loving food enthusiasts is heartening to say the least.