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.
At Frankie's, chefs coat fresh pizza dough in red, alfredo, or barbecue sauce before sprinkling it with a fine blend of italian cheeses. They then blanket the pies with a choice from more than 20 toppings—one for each pizza it takes to feed a rugby team or a Venetian parking meter. The topping roster includes such delicious embellishments as sliced roast beef and basil, and once they've been added to the pies, the chefs bake them in a stone oven. The care that Frankie's staff takes with its pizzas is similar in magnitude to the selection of its menu's pastas and sandwiches, such as the baked rigatoni and the buffalo-chicken sandwich.
“You feel like you’re in a museum, or some other metropolis hotspot,” a reporter for the Minnesota Monthly said after a visit to My Burger. The article went on to praise the menu, applauding “beefy, thin burgers with good, sweet, fresh buns.” Each quarter-pound burger is prepared fresh to order, with standard toppings as well more adventurous options such as Cajun bacon. Amid crackling décor infused with pop-art influences, patrons also swap in patties made of fish, chicken, turkey, or veggies like the best friend of a lonely chef.
The staff also claims they have their french-fry process down to a science, which may be true: they were listed in Citypages’ Top 10 French Fries in the Twin Cities in 2012. Robin’s-egg-blue stand mixers churn out fresh malts in chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, and glasses click together at the small bar, spilling rivulets of wine, hard ciders, and draft Surly.
It started with a single store, opened in Fridley, Minnesota in 1964. But Dick Kempe's pizza proved too tasty for one outpost, and Chanticlear Pizza eventually spread to 14 locations in the following years. And although Dick no longer owns the pizzerias, his uncompromising standards for quality pies remain in place. Fresh dough is mixed up and hand-tossed daily. Vegetables are chopped each morning. Instead of adding sugar to their sauce, the chefs rely on the tomatoes' natural, charm school-perfected sweetness. And the from-scratch foundation is always topped with house-shredded, 100% Wisconsin mozzarella cheese.
Once the dough and sauce are ready, Chanticlear Pizza's chefs continue the process by loading them with meats and veggies. The selection of toppings range from shrimp and bacon pieces to a secret-recipe pickle blend. A splash of spicy, bourbon-tinged molasses or chunky salsa can add additional pizzazz to pizzas. Beyond circular eats, polygonal dishes as pastas, calzones, and sides of buffalo wings and garlic toast populate the menu.
Andrea and Mario Gambino opened their first pizza place in 1972 with a family recipe that was created in Palermo, Sicily, and honed to perfection on the streets of New York. After decades of baking, Andrea Pizza has grown into a New York–style pizza conglomerate with locations spread across the Twin Cities like pepperonis. They still cook their signature thin-crust pizza that was called Best of the Cities by Minnesota Monthly magazine in 2007, but they also decorate pies with some newer tweaks. Patrons can order their pizzas with eight distinct sauces ranging from traditional marinara to feta cheese, buffalo, and creamy alfredo. More than 23 toppings such as jalapeños and pineapple can bedeck hand-tossed disks that are available by the slice, as a full pie, or crusts that your friends don't feel like finishing.
At Arezzo Ristorante, chefs hand-press fresh batches of dough into thin crusts, ladle the disks with sauces made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes, and toss them into a blazing brick oven. This process, which adheres to strict standards of the Associazione Vera Napoletana, earned Arezzo Ristorante the Citysearch award for Best Pizza in 2009. In addition to pizzas, chefs toss house-made pastas with sautéed vegetables and traditional Italian cured meats.
Arezzo Ristorante’s interior pays homage to Italian culture as well: an earth-toned mural of the Italian countryside unfolds beneath marble arches, and stone mosaic floors flicker in the warm glow of the flame-fueled pizza oven.