Pepperoni is in the air. To wit, City Weekly will be unveiling our first-ever Pizza Issue next week. If that weren't enough, we'll be hosting our second annual Pizza Party on Saturday, April 23 at the Hellenic Cultural Center (279 S. 300 West). It goes without saying that if you love pizza, you don't want to miss this bodacious bash. Unfortunately, there are some excellent pizza places around our state—ones very worthy of your petro-dollar—that might not be able to represent. But take it from a guy who is nothing if not passionate about pizza: These far-flung pizza emporiums are bucket-list items for serious pizza lovers and well worthy of a detour.
With new, interesting, independent restaurants popping up now with frequency, Provo/Orem isn't the culinary desert it once was. One of the pioneers of the burgeoning dining scene there was Pizzeria 712 (320 S. State St., Orem, 801-623-6712, Pizzeria712.com), which co-owners Colton Soelberg and Joseph McRae opened in 2009. Their Heirloom Restaurant Group also operates Heirloom Catering, Communal, Mountain West Burrito and Heirloom Cafeteria Co. Way before it was de rigueur, Pizzeria 712 was putting toppings like speck, Yukon gold potatoes, white anchovies and Clifford Farm eggs on their wood-fired pizzas, not to mention accoutrements such as poblano crème fraîche, arugula, housemade chorizo and heavenly Gran Biscotto ham. They were one of the first "artisanal" pizza joints in the state and are still among of the best.
If the name Tony's Pizza makes you shudder and think of frozen supermarket pizza pies, it shouldn't. For over 50 years, Tony's Pizza (403 39th St., Ogden, 801-393-1985) has been delivering Ogdenites pizza perfection that has outlasted all the others. The term "hole in the wall" might have been coined to describe Tony's, which doesn't look like it's been updated since it opened in the 1960s. But that's OK because once the pizza arrives, any décor foibles are forgiven. The founder, Tony, is still around, and his grandkids mostly run the restaurant, providing the kind of family-style friendly service that is all too rare nowadays. Like the décor, the menu is sparse: There are a few pasta dishes, garlic bread, sandwiches, salads and pizza. Pizza toppings are traditional; don't come looking for artichoke hearts, shiitakes or truffles. But a classic ground beef or pepperoni pizza at Tony's is a blast from the past—the honest, delicious pizza I remember from childhood.
I've always found it difficult to find places to eat in Cedar City, but now I just set my GPS to Centro Woodfired Pizzeria (50 W. Center St., Cedar City, 435-867-8123). Centro features 12-inch Neapolitan-style pizzas such as the Margherita, with hand-crushed tomatoes, fresh basil and fior di latte mozzarella, and more elaborate ones like the pollo rustico: wood-roasted chicken, crème fraîche, roasted garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano and oregano. Centro also offers terrific salads, rustic breads, bruschetta and a charcuterie board. The beer and wine selection makes this the must-visit Cedar City eatery.
It was fairly recently that I discovered the sublime pizzas at Eden's North Fork Table & Tavern (3900 N. Wolf Creek Drive, Eden, 801-648-7173, NorthForkTableAndTavern.com). The vision for NFT&T revolves around a custom-made, 2,000-pound, Valoriani wood-fired oven from Italy. Chef Jeff Sanich says that "we played with dough and technique for literally months before finding the process that was satisfactory to us." He says he now has a "love/hate" relationship (although mostly love) with "her"—the Valoriani oven, which is named Donna. Using nothing more than Lehi Roller Mills' all-purpose flour, kosher salt, yeast, water and extra-virgin olive oil, Sanich and his crew turn out hand-stretched pizza crusts that Napolitanos would kill for.
There is no shortage of pizza styles in America and elsewhere. Most of us are familiar with the basics, like deep-dish Chicago pizza, New York City by-the-slice pizza, Neapolitan, etc. But there's an East Coast-style of pizza that can be found from New Haven to the Jersey Shore, that's hard to put a finger on. You just know it when you eat it. Maxwell's Fat Kid Pizza (1456 Newpark Blvd., Park City, 435-647-0304; 357 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-328-0304, MaxwellsECE.com) is that kind of pizza. You can get Maxwell's pizza by the slice, or as a whopping 20-inch pie. My favorite is the one topped with perfectly seasoned homemade meatball slices. These pizzas are hearty (but with relatively thin crust) pies made with high-quality cheeses and a light touch of perfect tomato sauce—not too acidic and not too sweet. Steven Maxwell, owner of Maxwell's East Coast Eatery, is of Italian descent and hails originally from New Jersey. "Somewhere between Penns Grove, N.J., and South Philly," he says, he learned how to make a truly bodacious pizza pie. Thank goodness he decided to move West.
I've saved my newest pizza find for last. If shopping mall pizza has you thinking Sbarro, think again. For I have found New York-style pizza perfection at the Layton Hills Mall. Located in the mall's food court—right next to an exit to the parking lot, which makes it convenient for takeout—is Tossed Pizzeria (1201 N. Hill Field Road, Layton Hills Mall, 801-546-3558, TossedPizzeria.com). This is a family-run pizzeria, owned by affable pizza maker Charlie Wallwork. He says he's hoping to open up a location in Salt Lake City, but until then, you'll have to find an excuse to visit Layton to enjoy his remarkable pizzas. The "New York-style" is exactly that: hand-tossed dough topped with homemade tomato sauce, Grande mozzarella (the best shredding cheese) and whatever additional toppings you'd like. It's divine, but so are the excellent handmade salads at Tossed Pizzeria. Every topping and items such as the buffalo chicken and addictive spicy ranch salad dressing is made from scratch. I am happy to report that there is now no longer a need to fear mall pizza. What's you favorite off-the-beaten-path pie?