The Pizza Issue | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

April 20, 2016 News » Cover Story

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It's a contentious question; one that has torn apart Salt Lake City families for generations: What's your favorite local slice of pizza?

A recent inquiry on City Weekly's Facebook page quickly garnered responses ranging from "I prefer to cook my own—always better!" to "I do not want a slice. I want authentic Chicago-style deep-dish stuffed pizza. That's what I want," and "The Pie or Este," followed by another commenter's note that "Both are overrated. Good, for sure. But I've had better."

Though it's recorded that ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks ate flatbread topped with olive oil and seasonal produce, modern pizza can be traced back to 18th-century Naples, where the lazzaroni—the poorest in the kingdom—would munch on the quick and inexpensive treat. In 1889, when Queen consort Margherita of Savoy (the Kim Kardashian of her time), visited the region and got bored of the haute cuisine being thrown at her, lore has it she ordered pizza topped with mozzarella, tomato and basil, and went to town. A legend was born in 30 minutes or less.

According to a report by the Department of Agriculture, pizza is now a global obsession—to the tune of $37 billion annually being spent on the stuff. In the United States, on any given day, 13 percent of the population over age 2 consumes pizza, and out of that chunk, people get a fourth to a third of their daily energy from it (it also accounts for 39 percent of our saturated fat intake, but hey, let's focus on the positive).

Today, pizza toppings in restaurants around the country range from frog legs to squid ink and mac 'n' cheese to mini hot dogs (insert your cardiologist's reaction here). You traditionalists out there will rejoice in knowing that for our first pizza issue, we kept it simple. Check out the story of three men with a quarter century of pizza-making experience here. Both lovers and staunch opponents of fruity toppings get their say, and we also offer a crash course on which beer best suits which pie.

In the mood yet? Come hang at our second annual Pizza Party at the Hellenic Cultural Center (279 S 300 West) on April 23.

Whatever you do, just don't become a pizza archetype. Here are four profiles to avoid like the Noid. After that required reading, check out our handy-dandy directory featuring more than 50 local pizzerias that get the job done. While you're munching on a slice, take a stroll through a pepperoni-paved memory lane to remember local pizza joints that time (and your tastebuds) forgot.

So join us on this cheesy adventure by popping a frosty one and donning your eatin' pants. Oh, and feel free to get some grease on these pages. We won't judge.

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A Life Well Tossed
Three men, 75 years of shared pizza-making experience 


In America, where the faces inhabiting the space between New York City and Los Angeles are as varied as the terrain, there is one establishment, in addition to a grocery store, gas station and the ubiquitous burger joint, that can be counted on in nearly any town dotting the atlas: a pizza parlor.

In the annals of publishing, many book-length investigations have peered into America's love for pizza. Of course, one city—New York City—strikes a special chord with pizza aficionados, if for no other reason than New Yorkers believe that their pizza is unrivaled as the finest food on earth.

But every place needs pizza, and in Salt Lake City, there is a wealth of superb pizzerias fueled by passionate chefs who spend their professional lives with one thing on their minds: making incredible pizza.

What follows is a trio of pizza stories—tales of three men and the pizzerias they came to own, all through a combination of hard work, blind luck and a somewhat accidental passion for pizza that has refused to be extinguished.

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Free Wheelin' Don
Don Murray was a 20-year-old taking a break from college when he landed a job as a pizza delivery boy at Free Wheeler Pizza in 1989.

At the time, Free Wheeler had multiple locations across the Salt Lake Valley.

In no time, Murray found himself in the kitchen, making pizzas—a gig he stuck with until 1994, when Free Wheeler's then-owner was looking for partners to help staff various locations. Murray bought in, and opened a location at the rear of the Zephyr Club —a much-beloved and mourned music venue that now sits vacant on 300 South and West Temple.

"I kind of liked the history and the vibe of the place and kind of stuck with it," Murray says of his foray into the pizza world. "Then the opportunity to buy it came along, and I just decided to go for it."

When the Zephyr Club shut down, Murray's branch of Free Wheeler moved into a spot on Main Street, where the Wells Fargo tower now sits. Following another relocation in 2002, the shop grew roots at 150 S. 400 East in 2002.

For Murray, the process of dialing in the ideal-tasting pizza has been 17 years of trial and error. Think about it: What kind of dough, sauce and toppings are needed, and how much of each does one use if the goal is to create a well-balanced pie? Each ingredient is a riddle unto itself, and the variables are endless.

"I think we've kind of honed it," Murray says of his pies, which feature a distinctive sourdough crust and can be crowned with around 50 different toppings. "There's still learning to do. We're still figuring a few things out, but as far as the product, I think we've got it where we want it."

Murray's bread and butter is delivery service (it's free downtown), though he has a small dining room, with floors bedecked in red and white checkered tile, simple furniture and vending machines in the corner.

By sheer appearances, Free Wheeler is a no-frills pizza joint. But Murray says he's become known for crafting some of the more adventurous pizzas around. He tries to tailor them to the season—much as a bartender does with cocktails—offering an Oktoberfest pizza in the fall, a Caesar pizza called the Ides of March and a pair of Cinco de Mayo pizzas—the Fajita and the Tostada.

Murray, 47, now has 11 employees, and his pizzas have been selling as well as ever. "Right now, things are about as good as they've been for us," Murray says, noting that he's once again thinking about branching out and opening up a second location with a partner.

When Murray took that small break from college 27 years ago, he says he had no idea he'd never return to school and that a future of pizza was in the cards.

"It's been pizza ever since," Murray says.

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Sun Of a Rust
Wally Stephens has never been to New York City, but he's heard from many a New Yorker that Rusted Sun's pizzas are "OK."

"That's what I'm told—it's fairly New York-style," Stephens says of his pies. "From someone from New York to say 'It's OK,' that's actually quite high praise."

But Stephens—with his graying long hair and trimmed beard—doesn't come across as a guy who gives a damn about what others think. For the past 17 years, Stephens has simply attempted to make the best pizza he can, and the lack of seating on any given night in his small pizzeria at 2010 S. State St. is a testament to his success.

For Stephens, the path to a life of pizza was circuitous. A native of Reno, Nev., he arrived in Salt Lake City just after high school to attend the University of Utah. He earned a degree in psychology, but along the way, fell in love with managing restaurants.

It started with a waiting job at a restaurant called Shenanigans on the corner of 300 South and West Temple and later as a manager for Domino's Pizza. Then, Stephens scored a job as an assistant manager at a local pizzeria called DeLoretto's, which had either four or five locations, depending on who is talking.

Stephens managed the DeLoretto's near the Smith's in the Avenues, and the DeLoretto's that occupied the building that currently houses Rusted Sun before moving onto other ventures. Then, out of the blue in 1998, the owner of DeLoretto's called Stephens, explaining that he wanted to sell his string of pizza joints.

"He basically gave me the place," Stephens says, noting that the lease on the building was turned over to him and the ovens, tables, plates and recipes cost a mere $15,000. Even by 1998 standards, that was a steal.

Stephens says he fancied up the recipes some, offering barbecue chicken pizzas and buffalo chicken pizzas, for example. But the plain cheese pizza at Rusted Sun, Stephens says, is still more or less the same plain cheese pizza that DeLoretto's offered.

In addition to altering the menu, Stephens made minor cosmetic changes, building a bar and replacing the countertops. He also switched from plastic plates to real china, from paper cups to pint glasses and from paper napkins to linen.

"I just classed the place up a little bit and it worked," he says.

In the early days, Stephens says he had visions of expansion: knocking down walls and making the dining room bigger or opening up satellite locations. Those plans, though, never materialized and now, Stephens says, he sees some wisdom in staying small—a reality that he says helped him weather the Great Recession.

"The more I pondered it, the more I realized I know how to run a restaurant, not a huge corporation," Stephens says. "If it's not broken, don't fix it."

During his 17 years in the pizza business, the restaurant owner says he's watched the number of specialty pizzerias bloom—a phenomenon he used to worry about.

"I realized over the years that I never even notice when another place opens," Stephens says of his competition. Pizzerias, he continued, are a lot like other local institutions. "It's like how there are never enough Mormon churches in this town, or 7-Elevens."

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Big Apple Man
With memorabilia from New York City lining the walls and a mural of the city's skyline pre-9/11, having a slice of pizza in Big Apple Pizzeria is about as close as one can get to the big, big city in Salt Lake City.

The look and feel of the place isn't the only thing that is reminiscent of New York. Big Apple owner John Nelson says a good chunk of his customers are East Coast transplants who are eager to taste a bite of authentic New York-style pizza. A good portion of the time, Nelson says, these refugees return for more.

"I make as close to New York-style pizza as I can without shipping in the water," he says.

But the flat, hand-thrown dough, the Bakers Pride pizza oven with a pizza stone set inside and the meticulous care taken to ensure that the taste of the dough is not overpowered by the sauce, the sauce is not overtaken by the toppings and that the whole pizza is a testament to balance, is present in Nelson's shop.

While Nelson's pizzas are a draw for the East Coast set, Nelson himself was reared in Wales, a tiny outpost in Utah's Sanpete Valley. He moved to Salt Lake City in the 1980s to attend to school, and arrived at pizza the same way as many of his peers—by chance.

What is now Big Apple, located at 2939 E. 3300 South in Millcreek, was once a DeLoretto's. In 1985, a few months after DeLoretto's opened, Nelson got a job waiting tables. Within a month or two, he was managing the place—a gig that suited him for 12 years.

Then, in 1998, the owner was ready to get out, and Nelson took over the business, changing the name, altering the feel inside the place and expanding the menu. The basic recipes that DeLoretto's used, though, Nelson retained.

"He had a good thing going," Nelson says of the owner of DeLoretto's, Heath Koltenuk, who now owns Nuch's Pizzeria and Restaurant. Koltenuk, Nelson says, was a native of New Jersey and knew his pizza. "I have a steady clientele," Nelson says. "I've got people who have been coming in here since 1985."

Owning a pizzeria is a distant cry from where Nelson thought he was headed when he took a waiting job three decades ago. At that time, Nelson was close to completing a degree in political science, which he hoped would lead to a job in civil service, where he could eventually become a foreign ambassador.

"I gave up on the aspirations of politics and decided to go into pizza," he says.

It was a good decision. Nelson still likes going to work, and enjoys making and eating pizza—the latter of which he says he makes room for every single day.

"Lately, I've been throwing breakfast bacon on it," he says of his go-to pie.

He opened a now-closed satellite location in the Fort Union area, but says sales never took off there. For the past two years, though, Nelson says business has been as good as ever and he's drawing up plans to expand his space.

Accident or not, Nelson says he imagines his life in pizza isn't all that different from how other people find their way through life.

"That's how life goes for the most part," he says. "You get started on something and plans change and that's what happened to me. I started making pizza and things changed."

Pepperoni Pints
Ever wonder which beer pairs perfectly with what slice? Look no further.

By Darby Doyle

Why wait for July 24 to celebrate Pie and Beer Day? Unless you've been locked away in Superman's icy lair for the past decade, you've heard all the buzz about Utah's bounty of award-winning breweries. From 3.2 grocery-store coolers to heavy beers bottled by the liter, a slate of superlative suds are ever at your fingertips these days. My buddy Chad "Hoss" Forrest—who writes the popular beer blog "Hoss on Hops"—came over with a cooler brimming with local brews, and I fired up the grill and started tossing dough. We spent a sunny afternoon carefully testing all the possible options to come up with these praise-worthy pizza pairings. Somebody's gotta do it.

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The works and Uinta's Baba Black Lager
A pizza with the works needs a beer to stand up to—and also complement—the bold flavors of spicy sausage and pepperoni, the snappy bite of onion, and loads of cheese and veggies. Hoss says, "Turn to the dark side." The dark side of beer, that is. It's one of the more unusual Utah brews, but our favorite with a fork-worthy dish of pie: Uinta's Baba Black Lager. Its nice nose, good finish and rich body pair well with hearty foods in general. Wasatch Brewery's Polygamy Nitro Porter also fits the bill, but make sure you pour that bad boy into a real glass to get the most out of this beer's dark complexity.

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Potato Bacon and Epic Brewing's Imperial Red Ale
An All-American pie with potato and bacon calls for a big red ale, and Epic Brewing's Exponential Series Imperial Red Ale has a great balance of sweet caramel notes and hoppy bite to sidle up to all that smoky bacon with style. Squatters Full Suspension Pale Ale also has the rich unfiltered hops-forward body meant to tackle this carbs-laden bomb of flavor.

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Prosciutto, Pecorino & Fresh Arugula and Wasatch Brewery's Snap Down India Pale Lager
Hoss is the first one to admit he's an India Pale Ale guy as his go-to brew of choice with pizza, even with pies made sans red sauce, such as grilled prosciutto, pecorino and fresh arugula. The complex notes of bitter, salt, floral olive oil, peppery greens and the nuttiness of hard cheese marry well with one of my favorite beers of the evening, Wasatch Brewery's Snap Down India Pale Lager. It's got a great balance of hops bite, floral nose, a super-clean finish and the badass green dragon graphics on the can can't be beat. Hoss also recommends "one of the best brown ales in Utah," Moab Brewery's Squeaky Bike Nut Brown Ale as a more mellow accompaniment to this type of greenery-gilded pie.

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Vegan pizzas and Squatters' American Wheat Hefeweizen
Weissbiers remind me of lazy hazy afternoons sipping liters of brew, noshing fresh-baked pretzels and people watching from Berlin's ubiquitous Straßencafé, or outdoor cafes. Similar in style, Belgian witbiers also highlight floral, citrus-forward notes that pair well with garden-fresh vegan pizzas. Several Utah breweries are nailing this flavor profile with pizzazz. Both coming in at 4 percent ABV, Shades of Pale Brewing's Jack Wagon Wheat Beer and the unfiltered beauty that is Squatters American Wheat Hefeweizen hit all the summertime nostalgia buttons, lemon wedge optional.

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Thai Chicken & Peanut pizza and Epic Brewing's Spiral Jetty IPA
This wacky and wonderful internationally influenced pie begs for bold hops with a good backbone of bitter to balance all of the smoky and sweet pizza toppings heat. Go for a no-apologies, in-your-face India Pale Ale like Epic Brewing's Spiral Jetty IPA, Uinta Brewing's Hop Nosh IPA (popular for a reason), or for a more unusual spin on the Belgian wit recipe, Wasatch Brewing's Ghostrider White IPA. It's all good.

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Margherita and Uinta Brewing Co.'s 801 Pilsner
A great session beer is just what you need to go with minimalist pies like the classic Margherita, or when you're lucky enough to score some adult beverages to go along with a pile of plain cheese pies after the kids' Little League game. In this case, pick a pilsner. Uinta Brewing Co.'s 801 Pilsner gets high marks for consistent body and flavor all day long.

Behold the four corners of Utah pizza-eater archetypes.

By Westin Porter
Illustrations by Jason Crosby

We've all seen them, even broken crusts with them. The burnouts, huddled around a foggy window watching for the glowing Big Daddy's triangle atop a Geo Metro to illuminate their street. The Relief Society patrons, stacking boxes of cheese and pepperoni next to towers of red Solo cups, soon to be filled with K brand root beer and Diet Coke while the kids bow their heads, pick their noses and snicker during the blessing of the pie. The sad daddy, his teenage daughter glued to her phone screen, close enough to the door that if the pock-marked cashier behind the counter recognizes her, she can take a fake phone call. His son navigating the waters of sad-parent manipulation, telling his dad, "Mom lets me have Mountain Dew this late." And, of course, the snob, imparting pizza wisdom on the world beneath her because she hasn't yet found the perfect slice to transcend her from this heap of mostly bad wine and poor people. Yes, Utah is a unique place in many regards, and its pizza eaters are no different. In honor of this week's Pizza Issue, let's take a look at the four corners of archetypal Utah pizza eaters.

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The Sad Daddy
Slice of Choice: Hawaiian with extra soda and bread sticks
Utah's divorce rate is slightly higher than the national average, according to U.S. Census data, and no one has cleaned up on the messy business of separation like Papa John. The Sad Daddy takes his children to the local pizzeria rather than having his pie delivered; glad for any reason to get the kids out of his dim two-bedroom apartment littered with lite-beer cans, forwarded mail and Stouffer's frozen-dinner boxes. The Sad Daddy is a connoisseur of convenience, quick to indulge his kids' desires for greasy foods and sugary snacks. He places his order and tells the young ones to make a selection—something their mother wouldn't approve of—from Redbox. The Sad Daddy's slice of choice is a classic Hawaiian ham and pineapple, a sweet and savory pairing served over rich warm red sauce and a salty crust. Served with extra breadsticks and name-brand soda, the Sad Daddy's slice of choice is perfect for stoking the memory of Mom while simultaneously spiting her.

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The Stoner
Slice of Choice: Half sausage, mushroom, green bell pepper and bacon; half pepperoni, artichoke, pineapple with extra cheese.
This archetype makes up for roughly 100 percent of Big Daddy's clientele. The bleary-eyed stoner makes his 3 a.m. pizza order between bong rips and assertions about the origins of Siddhartha and George Harrison, pays with crumpled bills of assorted denomination collected from the group and tips with a loaded bowl. The Stoner has deep roots in the Beehive State. Those kids spotted on the curb outside Little Caesars with the greasy box on their laps, tearing slices of thin cardboard pizza between them—that is the embryonic stage of the Stoner. Years of social ineptitude, ambient religious impression and Black Sabbath are the exigencies from which this archetype is born. The Stoner's slice of choice is a collaboration of hazed minds and truculent appetites; a hodge-podge of toppings and flavors to satisfy each region of the tongue while simultaneously maximizing the four-toppings before being bumped into higher price bracket. Yes, the Stoner has a bloodshot eye for detail.

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The Hunger-Relief Society
Slice of Choice: Cheese and pepperoni
The Hunger-Relief Society pizza eater is especially unique to Utah. Plastic table-cloth, ammonic shine of recreation room hardwood, kids' screams and parents' shushes, resonant keys that sing of church and of old folks' homes—these are all greater ingredients to the Hunger-Relief Society's pizza experience. Always accompanied by prayer and paper plate, the plain cheese and pepperoni feast is a miracle unto itself. They say they only ordered five boxes, but when the children kept lining up under the friendly oil eyes of Caucasian Jesus, the Hunger-Relief Society fed the multitude. Yea, verily there was also enough crazy bread and root beer for seconds. The Hunger-Relief Society is the most pious of all Utah archetypes, never wasting a single triangle.


The Slice Snob
Slice of Choice: Thin-crust Gorgonzola with caramelized onion, roasted small-batch tomatoes and fresh basil essence
The Slice Snob is the inharmonious counterbalance to the Stoner and the Sad Daddy, pretentiously pushing back with her high-brow pizza palate just enough to keep the pizza world from flying off its axis. The Slice Snob eats exclusively at local pizzerias that serve locally produced, non-GMO foods. She enjoys a thin, brittle crust licked by the flames of burning almond wood, lightly smeared with plump, San Marzano tomatoes under a layer of venous Gorgonzola and delicately topped with fresh basil leaves and caramel-brown onion. She pairs her slice with a glass of Grenache, tips lightly and complains about the service to her perfectly bearded and sweatered partner as she opens the door to her double-parked Mercedes. The next day, the Slice Snob shares her pizza tasting exploit with colleagues, simultaneously imparting pizza dogma and condescension.

Forbidden Fruit
Some pizza toppings are better left on the produce aisle.

By Alex Springer

In the annals of pizza philosophy, two schools of thought have traditionally locked horns: Those who welcome the inclusion of pineapple on a pizza, and those who do not. I am a staunch adherent of the latter. I like my pizza to be a savory celebration of cured pepperonis and black olives on a bed of salty mozzarella cheese.

One look at the menu of Salt Lake City's famous Este Pizza tells me that I'm in good company. It boasts a variety of creative pizza options, yet nary can a pineapple be found. While that can be said of a few different pizza joints in town, the lack of a Hawaiian-style pizza on Este's menu has given founder Dave Heiblim quite a reputation in the local food community.

Heiblim shed more light on Este's refusal to serve up Hawaiian pizzas—"Este serves New York-style pizza, and pineapple isn't on New York-style pizza," he says, "But anyone who's authentically trying something new and experimenting with a history of food, I support and respect. I want to see more great pizzerias in Salt Lake." With Heiblim's guidance, I set my sights on four different pies from four different local pizza joints.

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Pie the First: The Munchy Mango @The Pie Hole
Heiblim's Spin: "The Pie Hole knows their business, and they know their clientele very well. Would I try it? Absolutely not. But it sounds like exactly what people want at 2 a.m."

Verdict: The Munchy Mango at The Pie Hole (344 S. State, 801-359-4653, is late-night stoner chow at its finest. It's topped with diced mango, sliced jalapeños roasted in brown sugar, green onions and Thai peanut sauce. My first bite had the right mango-to-jalapeño ratio, igniting my taste buds with a pleasant sweet and spicy combination. Subsequent bites let the peanut sauce in—it's a flavor that's not unwelcome, but it doesn't pack much punch overall. The green onions were the only ingredient that didn't pull their weight. The cooking process left them papery and flavorless, reinforcing my hatred of the weed. Despite the rogue's gallery of toppings, the Munchy Mango is pretty accessible. The Pie Hole always brings it with its thin, foldable crust making it something to try when craving the familiarity of pizza while wanting to try something new.

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Pie the Second: The Pera @Pizzeria Limone
Heiblim's Spin: "I like the way pears and melon work with prosciutto, but I personally am not a huge pistachio fan. Sounds like it would make a better sandwich than pizza."

Verdict: Topped with sliced pear, prosciutto, pistachios and onions, the Pera at Pizzeria Limone (several locations, is a bold attempt to merge French and Italian cuisine. Given the variety of toppings, however, the only flavor that really stood out was an ambiguous sweetness. The cooking process reduces the pear's sugars into a nice pop of sweet that is omnipresent throughout the pie, but I was disappointed that the actual pear flavor wasn't more pronounced. Occasionally, the flavors of prosciutto and onion would cast a sidelong glance in my direction, but the nondescript sweetness of this pizza overshadowed its cohorts. The Pera's crust and cheese game was on point—that oven-fired flavor is great—but there was a distinct lack of harmony among this pie's ingredients.

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Pie the Third: The Fig and Pig @Eva
Heiblim's Spin: "That's an homage to a very classic pairing. Pork goes really well with sweet things. There's a little more attention to the history of food, and I would absolutely try that."

Verdict: Pairing fig jam with prosciutto and arugula pesto is what I would call using figs correctly, and the pie at Eva (317 Main, 801-359-8447, explores a sophisticated depth of flavor. The best part about the Fig and Pig is the way the deep sweetness of the fig jam melts into the slight bitterness of the arugula pesto. The prosciutto was surprisingly absent from this experience, which was a shame—a nice sliver of saltiness was exactly what the whole package needed. The crust appeared to be rendered from overworked dough, making it chewier than I prefer. The Pig & Fig is a testament to pizza's power to blend flavors together, and it's fun to feel that tapestry unfold on the tongue.


Pie the Fourth:The Hawaii Pie-O @The Pie
Heiblim's Spin: "It's part of the pizza canon, and I never discredit anyone for serving it, but I don't serve it because it's not what I grew up on."

Verdict: This iteration at The Pie (various locations, was responsible for most of my negative baggage. It's a traditional Hawaiian pizza, topped with pineapple chunks and smoked ham. It arrived as all Pie pizzas do, thick crust, loads of cheese and generously dressed. While other Hawaiian pizzas have turned me off because of the pineapple's acidic sweetness and mealy texture, this one did not disappoint. The pie was nearly obscured by the amount of fruit, but everything worked very well together. The Pie doesn't mess around with its ham—it's sliced in sizable rounds and smoked to perfection. The cheese, crust and sauce always make a satisfying mouthful, and this was what made the Hawaii Pie-O a success. The pineapple was definitely there, but the savory backbone held up, making the citrus flavor reveal itself only when it was needed. This is the Hawaiian pie to end all other Hawaiian pies.

I took many things from this pizza quest, but learning that pizza is not exclusionary by nature—it invites all comers to bask in its warm, melty glow—was most enlightening. The question about whether or not fruit belongs on pizza will likely be debated for centuries to come, but, as Heiblim puts it, "The more people debate pizza, the more people will want to eat it."

Slice of Nostalgia
We pour our marinara for these forgotten pizza parlors

By Enrique Limón

There's a certain romanticism about places long-gone. As far as these pizza emporiums that we tip our paper chef's hat to, some might have served cardboard with a schmear of Ragu or given you night terrors during your formative years courtesy of a creepy robot-animal band, but their memory lives on. So join me in this cheesy journey to the past and party like it's your birthday, boy or girl.

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Dër Ratskeller Pizza Shoppe
With a menu chock full of options all "baked in 750 degree ovens" and adhering to the motto "pizza is always eaten with the fingers," Dër Ratskeller, the brainchild of car dealer and restaurateur Roy Moore, was as good as it got in the 1970s Salt Lake City. There, otherworldly pizza like the fresh Alaskan shrimp and the Portuguese linguiça, filled local bellies and elevated slices to high-art. Other than a weathered sign in Sugar House depicting DR's lederhosen-clad Arian boy mascot, very little remains of the chain. Luckily, there's a post in written by a man known simply as the Old Wolf. Turns out Wolfie, who remembers the place as "a cut above," was the former assistant manager at the 2100 South location. The blogger discloses DR's secret cheese blend (75 percent mozzarella and 25 percent crumbled cheddar), and remembers Grandma Moore's thick pizza sauce, the recipe for which time has forgotten, fondly. He does, however, share the exact recipe for their famous crust (albeit for 50-pound batches).

The Grainary Sandwich and Pizza Loft
There were a few old remnants from managing editors past when I moved into my office at City Weekly HQ. Among them, a plaster donkey with a sign around its neck that reads "CW fantasy football last place award!" and a floormat emblazoned with the message "Welcome abnormals." Out of all of 'em, one reigns supreme: a poster-size map of 1976 Salt Lake City that depicts little illustrated people interacting with cartoon businesses in a not-so-subliminal fashion. Characters include a noticeably upper-class lady, nose in the air, heading to Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution, "the first department store west of the Mississippi." WATCH CHANNEL 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. There's also a nod to frontier marshall Orrin Porter Rockwell, who apparently "never killed a man who didn't deserve it!" COTTONWOOD MALL: SHOP THE ONE THAT HAS IT ALL! Out of all of the places in the map, none intrigues me more than The Grainary, which is depicted in a Coney Island-like fashion. Time (and current management of Trolley Square, to whom I reached out for this story) have forgotten about this Willy Wonka-esque emporium. Long before Whole Foods moved into the shopping center, our publisher John Saltas recalls, "They were the precursors to whole grain this, whole grain that." To keep the fantasy alive, in my mind those grains were harvested by Technicolor-haired dwarves that sang in unison: Oompa Loompa, doom-pa-da-dee, if you are wise, you'll get extra peppero-ni.

That fantastical pizza place I talk about in @slcweekly's current issue 🍕

A photo posted by Enrique Limón (@limonenrique) on

Again, there's no documentation online on this local iteration of the pizza/arcade concept that swept through the nation in the 1980's, but their location on 90th South by the freeway left a lasting impression in patron Chris Wright, who was in awe of its Western-theme scheme. The locale "had tons of cool games," Wright told City Weekly in 2012. " I couldn't get enough of Crossbow, Battlezone, Sea Wolf, Carnival, Stunt Cycle, Fire Truck and Berzerk," he continued. How much of an impression did the haunt leave? Big enough that Wright opened Atomic Arcade (3939 E Highland Drive, 801-634-1130), an operation of his own, in 2012; a cathedral housing the likes of Galaga, Donkey Kong and Frogger. This 5-star Yelp from Nov. 2015 let's the world know Wright is doing his influencer justice: "Best arcade EVER! Crummy in all the best ways. Open late. Chill environment. Cool old games!"

Gepetto's Restaurant
Gepetto's arrived in Holladay in 1970 as the "perfect après-ski destination" and never left. Soon it solidified its reputation as a cool hangout with a hippie vibe and an impromptu stage for live music acts. Sadly, its door permanently closed on Feb. 13, 2014. Many in the area and beyond still salivate at the thought of their "Buffalo Soldier"—a blue cheese-topped roasted chicken and creamy Alfredo sauce creation; the veggie "Hotel California Garden;" the jerked chicken topped "Bob Marley;" and the "Rastafarian" which alongside pesto and baby spinach, featured toasted hemp seeds. Man, the fumes coming out of that brick oven must have been glorious.

ShowBiz Pizza Place
Founded in 1980 in Topeka, Kansas, ShowBiz was an early precursor of the pizza parlor/arcade hybrid that quickly spread around the country, including a couple of Salt Lake City locations in what a young music editor Randy Harward recalls was 45th and State and another one his mother used to say was in BFE ("Bumble-fuck Egypt"), aka South Towne. The pizza was good by kiddy expectations, but the real draw was The Rock-afire Explosion an animatronics band designed and built by Aaron Fechter—also the inventor of Whac-A-Mole—that was heralded as "the world's most advanced entertainment." at the time, and included such high-profile fans as Michael Jackson.

click to enlarge _1.20.jpg

Band leader Fatz Geronimo has long put away his keyboard and my favorite member, Billy Bob the bear is not as quick on the banjo as he once was, but the band (or rather ghostly pieces of it) pop up here and there at roadside attractions and online auctions.

By 1992 all stateside ShowBiz operations were absorbed by Chuck E. Cheese's. Is there a local tie-in you ask? Why, yes there is. As noted by local "pizza connoisseur" and blogger Jason Woodland on, Chuck E. Cheese's was conceived by Atari founder (and Clearfield's own) Nolan Bushnell.


Utah Pizza Directory

Classic joints
Where to go when you want some downhome pie.

Alpine Pizza
2429 N. UT-158, Eden, 801-745-1900,
A mom-and-pop type establishment that takes pride in fresh ingredients and great pizza, such as the Venetian—a combination of the traditional Margherita and four-cheese pizzas with a considerable dose of pepperoni.

BK Pizza
8537 W. Magna Main St., Magna, 385-900-8910,
Find them on Facebook and get in on their daily carry-out specials.

Café Galleria
101 W. Main, Midway, 435-657-2002,
Flavors here range from the classic pepperoni or Italian sausage to the more complex goat cheese with roasted peppers or Genovese pesto chicken (all $11.99).

The Factory Pizzeria
119 S. Main, Logan, 435-752-9384,
Build your own pie with the variety of toppings and sauces, or select a specialty pizza, such as the BBQ Chicken or Chicken Alfredo.

Gabor brothers Grill & Pizzeria
197 Main, Layton, 801-544-4344,
It's touted by its management as a "small eclectic gem" and they ain't kidding. Forks dangle from the ceiling and a dummy named Chester greets customers in the entryway.

Hungry Howie's Pizza
1549 N. State, Orem, 801-225-3333,
Hungry Howie's is known for their flavored crusts—eight of them, in fact—that blend the wide variety of toppings to create a unique taste.

Italian Village
5370 S. 900 East, Murray, 801-266-4182,
More than 20 pizza options abound, but those in the know, go for the "bender."

Jack's Wood Fired Oven
256 N. Main, Logan, 435-754-7523,
Although there isn't a bad choice at Jack's, The Sunny-Side piled with prosciutto creminelli, dry-aged bacon, smoked cheddar and two eggs has the people of Logan calling for an encore. There are even gluten-free options.

The Junction
Multiple locations,
Come for the pizza, stay for the sandwiches, salads and killer sides, like the house poutine ($4.49).

Litzas Pizza
Multiple locations,
You definitely get bang for your buck at Litzas Pizza as servings are heaping at reasonable prices. The old-timey atmosphere takes you back to another decade.

Lucky Slice
Multiple locations,
With a variety of classic pizzas as well as Italian cuisine—e.g., Fire Island, with garlic cream sauce, mozzarella, capicola ham, carmelized onions, pineapple and jalapeños—Lucky Slice impresses the most avid food connoisseurs.

Malawi's Pizza
Multiple locations,
Think of it as pizza with a purpose. For every meal you order here, one is supplied for a child in need in Africa.

Mountain Mike's Pizza
3785 W. 10400 South, South Jordan, 801-878-1551,
With names like The McKinley, The Everest, Mt. Veggiemore and Snowy Alps, it comes as no surprise that Mountain Mike's piles the goodies high on their pies.

Nicolitalia Pizzeria
2295 N. University Parkway, Provo, 801-356-7900,
Provo is home to Nicolitalia Pizzeria, a cozy spot that boasts of homemade Boston Italian style pizza.

2819 S. 2300 East, Salt Lake City, 801-484-0448,
Longtime owner of DeLoretto's pizzerias opened this more upscale restaurant, serving New York-style pizza and calzones.

Ogden Pizzeria
936 Washington Blvd., Ogden, 801-393-3191,
A small-town eatery that packs a big punch. Customers swear by the Buffalo Chicken or Chicken Alfredo pizza.

Park City Pizza Company
1612 W. Ute Blvd. Ste. 111, Park City, 435-649-1591,
Established in 1985, this pizzeria knows how to stay in business: a delivery system, catering service and desirable food make this Park City spot a classic.

1565 E. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-272-4201; 1385 S. 500 West, Bountiful, 801-298-1515,
Go for the Robertino's Combo pie ($18.25 for a large) and leave the entire tribe happy with green pepper, mushroom and Canadian bacon goodness.

Slab Pizza
671 E. 800 North, Provo, 801-377-3883; 3430 N. Ashton Blvd., Lehi, 385-355-3883,
Promising fresh ingredients from farms in New Mexico and chile peppers straight from Mexico to make top-notch pies, Slab has become a hotspot for BYU students.

Smoky Mountain Pizza
1850 E. 9400 South, Sandy, 801-523-7070,
Get any personal or specialty pizza wrapped up into a calzone. Smoky Mountain Pizza also caters to gluten-free patrons.

Tenney's Pizza
Multiple locations,
With Game of Thrones kicking back into high gear this Sunday, Tenney's is the place to call for deluxe pizzas, wings and breadsticks to chow down on your in-home Lazy Boy throne.

Wasatch Pizza
Multiple locations,
Their motto is "Dinner today, breakfast tomorrow." With classics and specials, such as the cilantro lime chicken pizza, no truer words have ever been spoken.

Slice Czars
The essential on-the-go slices in Salt Lake City.

Caffe 222
222 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-561-3018,
Not particularly known for its pizza, Caffe 222 on Main Street puts itself on the map with its delectable classic pepperoni.

Free Wheeler Pizza
150 S. 400 East, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3733,
Opened for nearly 40 years, free delivery to the downtown vicinity and numerous delectable pies to choose from, Free Wheeler has the recipe for success.

Main Street Pizza & Noodle
530 Main, Park City, 435-645-8878,
Smack in the middle of all of the hustle and bustle of Park City, Main Street Pizza & Noodle offers a casual dining atmosphere and a mouth-watering array of food.

Pier 49
Multiple locations,
Branch out with the seven sumptuous sauces and 21 different toppings—or the specials such as Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard Street and Alcatraz—taken straight from the streets of San Francisco.

Pizza Cone Zone
Food truck,
Wrapping their pizzas into the shape of a cone, the Pizza Cone Zone dishes up a handheld device you can eat.

Pizzeria Fratelli Tasso
Food truck, 385-214-0612
Fratelli Tasso's is a mobile wood-fired pizza service feeding the patrons of local farmers markets, art shows and more.

Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta
1063 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-484-1804,
Private cushioned booths and televisions airing sports events make this restaurant a casual and inviting spot for both lunch and dinner.

Sicilia Pizza & Kitchen
35 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-961-7077,
At this downtown gem, follow your heart with the Meat Amori that is capped with pepperoni, fresh Italian sausage, seasoned beef and ham.

Artisan Artistes
Leave your DiGiorno expectations at the door. These spots elevate pizza to works of art.

Arella Pizzeria
535 W. 400 North, Bountiful, 801-294-8800,
Residents of Bountiful enjoy the bounties this pizzeria has to offer, such as The Arella, served with three cheeses, carmelized pears, candied pecans and topped with arugula doused in blue cheese dressing.

Este Pizza Co.
Multiple locations,
Create your own New York-style pizza—thin-crust with a crisp edge and pliable inside—or try one of their daily specials. They also cater to gluten-free patrons.

Flatbread Neapolitan Pizzeria
2121 S. McClelland St. East, Salt Lake City, 801-467-2180,
Craft your own or choose from their selection of the Neapolitan-inspired wood-fired pizzas to make your time in bustling Sugar House worth your while.

From Scratch
62 E. Gallivan Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-961-9000,
Offering authentic Italian cuisine in a modern, downtown atmosphere. Try the Fennel Sausage Pizza, accompanied with creme fraiche, onions and fresh mozzarella.

Mama Lia's Pizza
415 S. US-40, Roosevelt, 435-722-4400,
Home of specialty pizzas like the bacon cheeseburger. Yeah, you read right.

Maxwell's East Coast Eatery
357 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-328-0304; 1456 Newpark Blvd., Park City, 435-647-0304,
Maxwell's flatbread-style pizza such as The Godfather and The Fat Kid warranted a feature in Guy Fieri's food show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Mellow Mushroom
1080 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City, 801-844-1444,
Mellow Mushroom uses Appalachian spring water for their crust and high quality ingredients to create a distinct and flavorful pie.

Pizzeria Seven Twelve
320 S. State, Orem, 801-623-6712,
Pizzeria 712 features a contemporary interior design and beautifully displayed array of dishes to present a warming atmosphere. Bonus, 712 buys its ingredients from local Utah farmers.

Pizzeria Limone
Multiple locations,
Each pizza is topped with either fresh roasted marinara or five cheeses. Try the Viola, a combination of prosciutto and blackberries.

Rusted Sun Pizzeria
2010 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-483-2120
People flock to the ovens to get the Mediterranean—a Rusted Sun fan-favorite—dished up with tangy marinara, fresh mozzarella, salami, artichoke heart, green olives and a taste of feta cheese.

Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana
260 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3556,
Take a trip to Italy at this authentically Neapolitan-inspired pizzeria that boasts prosciutto from Parma, cheese from Modena and salumi from Seattle.

Zilio's Artisan Pizza
10367 S. State, Sandy, 801-251-1445,
Sharing isn't to be expected at Zilio's, as pies are served per individual. Get a taste the Sweet Pulled Pork with mozzarella, pineapple, caramelized onions and barbecue sauce.

Regular restaurants that also offer delectable pizza.

677 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City, 801-355-5500,
Greece meets Italy with the Gyro Pizza, dished up with gyro meat, creamy yogurt sauce, fresh tomato and feta crumbles.

Green Pig Pub
31 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-532-7441,
Keep your hunger at bay with one of Green Pig's pie of the day, ranging from classic pepperoni and cheese to Hawaiian with ham and fresh pineapple, to name a few.

145 S. Pierpont Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-883-8714; 3000 E. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, 801-484-5597,
Hand tossed sourdough with homemade sauce, and for the especially famished patrons, "The Works" will not disappoint.

Michelangelo's on Main
132 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-532-0500,
An Italian restaurant that serves pizza? Se bueno. Try the Four Seasons, topped with ¼ sausage, ¼ fresh mushrooms, ¼ olives and ¼ margarita sauce.

Red Rock Brewing
Multiple locations,
Pizza and beer—the former complements the latter and vice versa. 10-inch personal pies presented here, as well as a Pizza of the Day.

Sage's Café
234 W. 900 South, Salt Lake City, 801-322-3790,
Taco Tuesday is out, Tuesday Night Pizza at Sage's is in. A variety of seasonal selections all at a set price of $12.75 every week.

Sea Salt
1709 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-349-1480,
Sea Salt is the real deal when it comes to Italian cuisine with a vast array of homeland delights. Try The Piemonte pizza, topped with wild mushrooms, fontina, fresh ricotta cheese and thyme.

Stoneground Kitchen
249 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City, 801-364-1368,
Stoneground offers thin crust pizza in an urban setting. Featured is the Bianca Diovala dished up with spicy goat cheese, nduja, red onion and peppadews.

Trio Cafe
Multiple locations, TrioDining,com
Regulars at Trio come in time and time again for the scrumptious Rosemary Flatbread with fresh goat cheese, tomatoes, roasted peppers and caramelized onions.

Twin Rocks Cafe
913 E. Navajo Twins Drive, Bluff, 435-672-2341,
Situated just below the Twin Rocks formation in southern Utah, this cafe—aptly named—allows its patrons to dine on Navajo pizza with a breathtaking view.

Hit these places up if you're looking for some late-night nosh:

Big Apple Pizzeria
2939 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, 801-485-4534,
New York style pizza by the slice or whole pie. Give the Monte Cristo a whirl, made with Alfredo sauce, mozzarella, a serving of breakfast bacon and feta cheese.

Big Daddy's
Multiple locations,
Delivering until 4 a.m., Big Daddy's is the place to call to fill those late-night hunger pangs.

Pie Hole
344 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-359-4653,
Not only is it open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, but the thin-crust pizza here is cheap, sold by the slice and damned good. Don't miss out on its SLC-famous potato bacon.

Marco's Pizza
Multiple locations,
No matter where you are in the valley, Marco's Pizza can deliver within minutes with an affordable and savory pie.

New York Take & Bake
2416 Fort Union Blvd., Cottonwood Heights, 801-942-2109,
New York Take & Bake prepares your personal or specialty pizza and you take it home and bake it when you're ready to serve.

The Pie
Multiple locations,
Wherever you land on the vegan-to-carnivore spectrum, your pizza cravings will be satisfied with The Pie's all-inclusive topping options.

Wild Mushroom Pizza
2711 S. State, Salt Lake City, 801-484-6100,
Expand your horizons and take in all Wild Mushroom has to offer, such as the Pacific Northwest, served with Pacific smoked salmon, capers, pine nuts and mozzarella.

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Speaking of...

Enrique Limón

Enrique Limón

Editor at Salt Lake City Weekly. Lover of sour candies.
Mikey Saltas

Mikey Saltas

The youngest of the Saltas clan, Mikey is City Weekly's associate publisher. Find out about the third annual Utah Cann conference, which he is organizing, here.

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