Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Uptown's Pizza Landscape

Pizza. It’s not really appropriate to say it’s the glue that holds a neighborhood together, but I don’t think I’d be too far off to say that a community’s quality of life is directly related at least in part to the number of quality pizza joints available to its residents. Proximity to a good pizza place is a neighborhood essential for me. Better yet is being within close walking distance of several places, and having yet more options within delivery distance. Luckily for me and my fellow pizza connoisseurs, Uptown is bursting at the seams with pizza options.

My all-time favorite place, Davanni’s has become a local powerhouse, a local chain known for both its pizza and its hoagies. The first location opened at Grand and Cleveland in St. Paul, and was initially known as Pontillo’s Pizzeria. According to Davanni’s Uptown general manager Phil Martin, the Uptown story began on January 16, 1981 with the opening of a Pontillo’s Hot Hoagies store. Although the customers presumably loved the hoagies, they also wanted their pizza; pizza was soon added to the Uptown menu. In 1983 the company, by then a thriving local chain, changed its name to Davanni’s Pizza and Hot Hoagies, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So what’s to love about Davanni’s? I’m not a food critic; I’ll leave the culinary reviews to the experts. Still, I get hungry just thinking about a Davanni’s deep-dish pizza (introduced in 1986) or one of their hot hoagies. Although food is obviously the core function of any restaurant, there’s other, less edible factors that make a place a beloved part of a community. Customers have enjoyed sitting in Davanni’s for more than 25 years now, watching the street activity along Lake Street through each dining area’s huge glass windows. Many of the employees seem to have been there for years, as do plenty of the customers. Finally, Davanni’s has a long history of local involvement and socially responsible corporate decisions. The company has always supported local suppliers, has implemented energy saving measures in its restaurants, and in general tries to combine good business practices with good environmental policies. They also are active in the community, and frequently provide pizza and food to fundraising efforts. I don’t know what they’re like as an employer, but given the long tenure of many of its employees I’m guessing it’s a pretty good place to work.

Galactic Pizza is in Lyn-Lake (2917 Lyndale), so admittedly not as central Uptown as Davanni’s. A relative newcomer to the local pizza scene, Galactic Pizza also offers local residents a chance to pump their money back into the local economy. They very consciously make every attempt to be socially and environmentally responsible. Some of my personal favorites from their long list of “values-led activities” include the sale of the “Second Harvest Heartland Pizza” (one dollar donated to Second Harvest Heartland with every pizza sold), their composting program, the fact that they contribute five percent of their pre-tax profits to charity, and that they run their restaurant with wind energy.

Galactic Pizza’s menu is more gimmicky than the more traditional old-school local pizza places – they even offer a pizza named the “Hipster,” for example – but their gimmicks include some truly creative offerings. The “CSA Pizza,” for one, is based on produce from the Harmony Valley C.S.A.; I love that they’re both utilizing local, in-season produce as well as helping inform the public about some of the local C.S.A. options available.

Also in the Lyn-Lake area is Pizza Lucé, now celebrating its tenth year in the neighborhood. The pizza is good and has received all sorts of awards, but one of my favorite things about Pizza Lucé is that it’s turned a boring and ugly convenience store into something new and improved, complete with patio.

And yet another Lyn-Lake addition, Dulono’s has been a longtime neighborhood institution. Go here to get your thin crust pizza, beer, and bluegrass music. I love that it’s been around forever, and hope that it continues to thrive. I get tired of all the trendy, hipster places (even if they do offer good pizza and socially-responsible operational policies), so it’s a relief to have some actual authentic, non-manufactured “ironic” places around.

The Leaning Tower of Pizza gets major bonus points for its place in Minneapolis history. The restaurant opened in 1952, and moved to its current Lyndale location in 1959. According to their website, they were only one of four restaurants in the city to offer pizza. Thank goodness I was born well after 1959, as I can’t imagine a childhood (and adulthood) devoid of pizza. In addition to its tasty pizza and long history, Leaning Tower is also where Uptowners can go to schmooze with current Ward 10 Council Member Ralph Remington – go eat pizza, have a beer, and talk Uptown with Remington every fourth Tuesday of the month between 5:30 and 6:30. I hope this is one tradition the next Council Member will continue; with both leading contenders living in the Wedge I’d say it’s at least a possibility.

So there it is… a partial tour of some of Uptown’s (and Lyn-Lake’s) pizza offerings. I’ve undoubtedly left off someone’s favorite spot, but we can all take heart in knowing that there are plentiful pizza offerings for those of us who think as goes the local pizza scene, there goes the neighborhood. Even better, most of the Uptown area’s pizza offerings are either independent stores or local chains. Go buy a pizza today and do your part to support your community, stimulate the economy, and soothe your pizza cravings.


  1. Dulano's is my hands-down favorite. Nothing fancy, beer in a frosted mug, and live music. What else do you need?

  2. Okay, so it may not be Uptown-proper, but Punch Pizza is by far my favorite.

  3. I've never actually been to Punch Pizza - I'll have to put it on my list of places to visit!

  4. Punch is pretty great. The best part? Greenway access in the parking lot!