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.
Thai chicken with peanut sauce and green onions. Pot roast with garlic mashed potatoes and carrots. Macaroni and cheese. All wonderful meals in their own right, but even more so when you put them on top of a pizza. That's what happens at Umbria Gourmet Pizzeria, where unexpected toppings are heaped upon fresh dough made in-house daily. The rest of the menu includes build-your-own calzones, gourmet pastas, and hot or cold boxed sandwiches for lunch.
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.
From its humble origins as a soda fountain in 1930s Saint Paul, Green Mill Restaurant and Bar has grown into a franchise with more than 28 locations all over Minnesota and the Midwest. As TV screens blast sports news in the background, patrons at each eatery dine on a menu of classic American and pizzeria fare. Thick, hand-pressed burgers form bunned towers with hefty toppings such as smoked bacon, haystack onions, and chipotle mayo. Families looking to bond can practice fractions on regular, deep-dish, or thin and crispy pizzas or group juggling acts with samplers of 27 juicy wings. In addition to pastas and salads, each location's bar carries a varied drink menu that includes draft beers such as Blue Moon and Samuel Adams alongside wine, martinis, and margaritas.
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.