While working at a national pizza chain, Scott Gittrich looked at the palette of ingredients around him and wondered why pizza seemed so limited. Then in 1991 he got his chance to experiment. He opened the first Toppers Pizza, combining a fun, party-fueling atmosphere with edible concoctions that topped housemade dough with unexpected delicacies such as mac ‘n' cheese and a deconstructed gyro. More than 19 house specialty pies make use of freshly kneaded dough, transporting classic recipes and unheard-of combinations to get people excited about pizza again. And the people respond, enjoying the treats as much as Scott himself, who once went 60 days eating at least one meal a day from Toppers.
Today Toppers Pizza stretches across the country, peppering the Midwest and reaching to the East Coast. Along with pizzas, the cooks oven-toast their grinder sandwiches, which are built on artisanal french bread and stuffed with ingredients such as chipotle chicken and italian sausage. Signature Topperstix—breadsticks adorned with cheese, garlic butter, and toppings such as bacon and pepperoni—accompany pizza orders, silencing rumbling bellies until the early morning.
Situated inside the CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel & Spa, Bella Vita Ristorante's warm, copper-toned interior warms diners to a menu of "elevated Italian" dishes. A consecutive winner of Gold Fork Awards from Fox Cities Magazine, Bella Vita uses locally sourced ingredients to make many items in-house, including fresh mozzarella. Locally baked artisan bread provides a crisp platform for bruschetta made with ripe, juicy tomatoes and 12-year aged balsamic glaze, while wine racks display more than 80 different labels.
Muncheez Pizzeria, an intimate space brightened by a loud green, serves pizzas adorned with molten cheese and fresh veggies. Their classic pie sports a variety of toppings, such as pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and onion. More unusual pizza creations include the mexican pizza, which swaps out tomato sauce for refried beans and salsa. Guests can customize their pies by choosing from 19 different toppings, such as mandarin oranges, grilled chicken, and green olives. Wings and salads compliment the cheesy feasts, which are washed down with more than 50 styles of beer or buckets of free water.
Papa John's has carefully crafted a menu of specialty pizzas to satisfy any taste or mouth shape. Order a Hawaiian BBQ Chicken, or go all-out and get The Works, a top-heavy combination of pepperoni, ham, spicy Italian sausage, fresh-sliced onions, green peppers, gourmet baby portabella mushrooms, and ripe black olives. Satisfy herbivores and herbivoyeurs with a Tuscan Six-Cheese or Garden Fresh pie. The full list of specialty pizzas includes several more; take the hassle out of haggling over individual ingredients and boldly cast your straight-ticket ballot for the pizza party that your conscious dictates.
Owners Brian Glassel and Tim Nicholson eventually teamed up to bring Glass Nickel Pizza Co. to fruition in 1997 after spending their teenage years working around the nostalgic aromas of baking pizzas in Wisconsin eateries. They met while working in the same pizzeria and shared a passion for gourmet pies, so they spent a year planning and dreaming. Then they gathered a small but dedicated team to flip the saucy dough and accommodate patrons with first-class customer service, including the provision of tall glasses brimming with cold beer. Their dedication to this modus operandi helped the restaurant to bloom into a statewide fixture with several locations throughout Wisconsin.
While keeping pizza the star of the menu, Brian and Tim augmented it by adding battered-fish baskets, meaty lasagnas, stacked sandwiches, and crispy chicken. Committed to quality, the duo uses house-made sauce and dough, as well as Boar’s Head deli meats. With an equal commitment to their community, they help to support various nonprofit organizations and keep all their restaurants green through the use of ovens that shut off when not in use, energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting, and cars that run on used vegetable oil and time-travel only when absolutely necessary.
In 1978, brothers Eugene and John Jetts lent their name to the sign above their pizza shop in Sterling Heights, Michigan. In the more than 30 years that followed, they’ve lost one of the Ts but gained more than 200 franchises across the country. Jet’s Pizza churns out thin-crust rounds and signature square-shaped pies in hearty deep-dish form. The eight-corner deep-dish style lets each member of a dining octet enjoy a slice of corner crust without fearing the paper cuts inherent in triangle slices. After loading pizzas with heaps of meats and veggies, guests have the liberty of flavorizing their crust for free, choosing from eight options such as garlic, sesame seed, Cajun, or poppy seed. To augment pies, Jet's chefs whip up triple-cheese turbo sticks filled with mozzarella, cheddar, and romano as well as regular and boneless wings draped in hot or sweet sauces.