More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesars location, a then-unheard-of carry-out-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant. Today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pizza designed for instant pickup, and warm, garlicky Crazy bread. With a storied half century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating their own charitable programs.
Tempting taste buds for more than 30 years, Godfather's Pizza crafts mouthwatering pies composed of 100% fresh mozzarella, an array of robust meats and veggies, and three varieties of baked crust. Like frisbees, Godfather's pizzas ($8.99–$15.99 for one topping; additional charges for two or more toppings) are ideally suited for enjoying indoors or at the park and are even more satisfying for teeth than they are for hands. Each delicious disk can be made with original, thin, or golden—extra warm and buttery—crust and comes smothered in the eater's choice of eclectic toppings, including beef, mushrooms, jalapeño peppers, and anchovies.
The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to 100 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location's being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, grilled and deli-style hoagies are assembled and calzones and pizzas baked in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 100 microbrewed and imported beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's and Abita are also featured in regular beer events.
Tucked behind Leinkauf Elementary School, La Pizzeria has been lauded by Press-Register food editor David Holloway as "one of the best-kept secrets" in town. He praises owner Todd Henson's balance between Italian classics—pastas with housemade sauces and calzones among them—and creative menu contributions. A list of character-inspired gourmet pizzas includes the garlic-infused Bela Lugosi and the Sherlock Holmes, a mystery order whose toppings are chosen by the chef and cooked beneath a carefully aimed magnifying glass. Strewn with white tablecloths and still-life paintings, the low-lit interior features one private table, where Henson wagers "we've had a hundred proposals of marriage … over the years."
Cooks at all of the Buck’s Pizza Downtown franchise locations mix fresh dough each day and sprinkle crusts with pure mozzarella cheese. Founder Lance Benton selects the tomatoes for the sauce, which are sun ripened in the Central Valley of California and watered from springs in the high Sierra mountains. In the restaurants’ kitchens, chefs top pies with the carefully chosen, fresh-cut produce as well as barbecue chicken, aged cheddar, fresh basil, and marinated steak. They also construct pies that simulate the experience of eating a chicken club sandwich, spinach alfredo, or a bacon cheeseburger. Oven-baked buns for hoagie sandwiches brim with ham, hard salami, and italian dressing like the poetry of hungry castaways on desert islands.
Picklefish OldShell’s chef draws on 16 years of experience to season and sizzle pizzas, po boys, and burgers. Nibbles such as buffalo and barbecue wings or spinach-and-artichoke dip pave the way for cheesy pies such as the Great White, which spreads garlic-based sauce, fresh basil, and feta onto a crispy crust engraved with Herman Melville’s initials. Televisions flicker as diners bite into italian-sausage-and-ham-laden slices of the Big Pig or the gooey goodness of a hand-patted four-cheese burger. Bell peppers and grilled onions tickle the spine of a philly cheesesteak as live music simultaneously tickles ears on weekends.