Unlike Chicago or New York City, Kansas City isn’t famous for its pizza offerings. But that hasn’t stopped area chefs and restaurants from developing their own distinctive pies — including two Lee’s Summit chefs who claim they’ve crafted a “Kansas City-style pizza” and a local spot that offers toppings such as crab meat and Indian spices.
On our annual pizza show, Central Standard’s food critics discussed the best spots in town for a slice or a whole pie.
Mary Bloch, Around the Block:
- Bella Napoli —This homey neighborhood pizza and pasta joint is consistently satisfying.
- XR Cafe — There’s a wood burning oven in the lounge. The pizza was a bit doughy at first, but they are starting to hit their stride.
- Il Lazzarone — This River Market spot got its start in St. Joseph. Now under new ownership, they turn out lovely pies all day. I recommend the Margherita, a simple and traditional pie with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, basil, mozzarella and salt.
- Limestone Pizza — This place is a great excuse to make a trip to Lawrence. They use basil oil to drizzle over the pizza, which gives it way more flavor than a few basil leaves.
- Spin — This spot is always reliable and consistently good. Try the one with onion jam and blue cheese.
- Providence Pizza — Any meat lover would be satisfied with the Federal Hill Sicilian-style pizza. It's loaded with a blend of pepperoni, Italian sausage, sliced meatballs and bacon, which balances well with its thick, pillowy crust.
- Italian Delight — This is the first pizza I fell in love with when I moved to Kansas City. As an East Coast native, I can confidently say that Italian Delight's pizza is a true rendition of New York Style: thin crust and wide slices that are perfect for folding.
- 1889 Pizza Napoletana— Simplicity at its best! One of 1889 Pizza Napoletana’s signature pies, the Margherita, features San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, Parmigiano Reggiano and extra virgin olive oil. The charred crust adds a nice smokiness to the flavor.
- Old Shawnee — Old Shawnee's Crab Rangoon specialty pizza is one of the oddest pizzas I've ever tasted, but it works. Old Shawnee makes the Crab Rangoon filling in house and couples it with a sweet chili sauce that cuts right through the creaminess.
- Artego Pizza — This spot’s formaggio pizza takes “cheesy” to a whole new level. The base is alfredo sauce and cream cheese, which is topped with mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and romano. The first bite immediately hits you with a creamy, salty molten lava.
- Homeslice Pizza and Pints — If you like a crispy crust, Homeslice Pizza is the place to go. Try The Wise Guy — fennel sausage, meatballs, mushrooms and caramelized onions piled on a hand-crushed tomato sauce. What keeps me coming back is the subtle yet palatable note of fennel in the sausage.
- Leo’s Pizza —This family run joint has been making St. Louis-style pizza for more than 40 years, and they know what they are doing.
- Johnny Jo’s — A little pizza shop that serves large floppy slices topped with red sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes and a variety of toppings, as well as whole pies. The Meathead, with pepperoni, Virginia ham, Italian sausage and hamburger, is pretty good.
- Square Pizza — Located in historic Independence Square, this spot has been serving square pizzas with a variety of toppings for years. Why not order something crazy like the Big Island, with Canadian bacon, pineapple and pine nuts? There's also a Mexican pizza, with ground beef, salsa-bean sauce and red onion, topped with lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese and served with a side of salsa.
- Green Mill Restaurant & Bar — Green Mill is known for its deep dish, Chicago-style pizza, so order the Windy City with tomato basil sauce, sausage, spicy Italian sausage, mozzarella, herbs and parmesan cheese, and rejoice in the layers of toppings nestled inside of a deep pie crust.
- Pizza Man — This spot serves several Chicago specialties like Chicago-style dogs, Italian Beef sandwiches and a cracker-thin crust pizza cut into squares St. Louis-style, only instead of provel they use mozzarella. Plain pepperoni is perfection with this simple, crispy style of crust.
- Grinder’s — The Bengal Tiger, an India-influenced pizza made with pesto, tandoori chicken, crab meat, hearts of palm and cilantro, is a favorite. From closer to home is the Crossroads pizza with what Grinders calls its Rockin’ RED sauce, cheese, pepperoni, pineapple and spinach, with black olives dividing it into quadrants.
- Cult of Pi — This is a new backyard pop-up pizza party on Kansas City's Westside, thrown by Chef Brent Gunnels along with Shane Burton and Savannah Bennett, who host their first "service" of the season on March 14, Pi Day. How it works: Sign up for a Sunday you can make it, then members who have been before bring wine for the table of 10 and new members bring ingredients that Gunnels then bakes into pizzas in the wood-fired oven in his backyard. Each guest is then asked to make a small donation to help host next week’s pizza party.
- Tim’s Pizza — It’s family owned, the crust is just right, it’s got a bite to it. There’s lots of meat and they use their own three cheese blend of mozzarella, provolone and cheddar.
- Papa Keno’s — Somewhat thin crust that’s not cracker-y, and the edges of it seem to balloon up and bubble and hollow. They also offer a huge pizza.
- The Dish Pizza — Really good deep dish Chicago-style pizza.
- Pizza 51 — Gigantic pizzas. It’s a pizza and beer sort of place.
- Cupini’s — Gigantic pizzas and foldable pizza slices.
Celisa Calacal is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @celisa_mia.