What the uff is Minnesota-style pizza?

Photo: Mark Tan/EyeEm via Getty Images
Photo: Mark Tan/EyeEm via Getty Images

I consider myself an authoritative scholar of the pizza arts, but until 30 minutes ago, I’d never heard of a Minnesota-style pizza. A recent story in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press noted that a well-known chain in the Twin Cities called Red’s Savoy Pizza had laid claim to a state-sanctioned pizza style—which must be legally pronounced with that elongated Upper Midwest patois as: ’sota-style.

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The Pioneer-Press story described the Minnesota style as such:

A thin crust, square cut, loads of toppings cheese and a spicy “passive-aggressive” sauce.

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My severe allergy to bullshit compelled me to investigate, and by investigate I mean a cursory ask around the office and a few texts to Minnesota food writer friends. Here are the results of my half-hour of research:

  • People really like Red’s Savoy! It received the thumbs-up from three friends with Minnesota roots.
  • The chain’s parking lot gained notoriety in 2006 as the place where former Senator Norm Coleman’s 81-year-old father was caught with a prostitute.
  • As for the legitimacy of an actual Minnesota style of pizza? One colleague who lived there for many years stated: “That’s just their marketing, it’s not actually a thing. Nobody in Minnesota would consider there to actually be such a thing, or use that phrase.”
  • Brett Anderson, the restaurant critic for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Minnesota native, told me what he knows of a Minnesota-style pizza is a pie that’s cut into squares. When I informed him that such a pie exists outside the Upper Midwest, such as in Chicago and St. Louis (the criss-cross configuration is called the “party cut”), Anderson responded: “People in Illinois and St. Louis who think that’s their style can kiss my Swedish ass.”
  • Anderson went on to say that he doesn’t know of a specific ingredient unique to Minnesota, but he has noticed that “there is a lot of cheese on the kinds of Minnesota pies under discussion here.”
  • I called up Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, from his St. Louis Park, Minnesota-based offices. Here’s a word-for-word transcription of our conversation:

    The Takeout: Andrew, is there such thing as Minnesota-style pizza?
    Andrew Zimmern: Fuck no.

Any Minnesotans care to elaborate/defend?

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

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DISCUSSION

johnseavey
johnseavey

Minnesota native who likes to get pizza everywhere he visits, and yes, Minnesota-style is absolutely a thing. Here are the key elements:

1) The crust is incredibly thin. Normally when you think “thin crust pizza”, you’re thinking of that sort of cracker-y, flaky crust you get from places like Pizza Hut, but this is crust so thin that the grease from the cheese and the sauce soaks right through it to create a mildly translucent layer of dough that you can roll up like a cigar with no real effort. (Except for the outer crust, which is extremely minimal—the cheese usually leaves maybe a quarter-inch of a ridge?—but which bakes up like a hard breadstick.) This does make it very messy, because there is nowhere to grab it that’s not greasy. Grab napkins.

2) Cut into squares. This is the thing everyone notices, and so you get a lot of people saying, “But the thin-crust pizza here gets cut into squares, too!” Yes it does but that’s not the only thing.

3) Heavy on the toppings. The cheese is usually pretty generous as well (and usually local), but you’ll always be able to tell a Minnesota-style pizza apart when you order sausage as a topping. You get massive hunks of sausage, usually made right there in the restaurant, easily worth eating by themselves. (The first time my wife had Minnesota-style pizza, she went from “huh, is that a thing?” to asking the restaurant if she could buy the sausage from them for her morning omelets.)

4) Lots of sauce. I’ll be honest, I don’t generally notice a spicier sauce than usual, but I do notice that it’s spread on pretty thickly. If you bite into it and you get sauce squirting onto your fingers, you’re eating Minnesota pizza.

I have also heard this as “Midwestern-style pizza”, so it’s probably proliferated into the surrounding states, but it’s very clearly different from New York and Chicago style. I will say that if you’re going to be in the Twin Cities, skip Red’s (the owner is a racist fuck) and go to Broadway Pizza or Carbone’s Pizza. Both will give you the distinctive experience.