City of Pizzas
Our Guide to the Local Pizza Scene
Pizza is a many-splendored thing in Fort Wayne. Elegantly simple Italian-style pizzas are as easily found as robust multi-topping American renditions of the concept. And the creativity and variation available between those two would be daunting if they all didn’t taste so good.
There is no reason to be a pizza purist – of any kind – in Fort Wayne. It’s good to explore the pizza scene, especially since we’re here to help.
Highly trained researchers (aided by our readers’ votes in the 2007 Fort Wayne Favorites contest) identified 10 great Fort Wayne pizzas. We ordered one of each, added a veggie tray, a selection of beer, wine, pop, water and juice boxes – plus more than 20 people of all ages – and had ourselves a pizza tasting party.
Fort Wayne obviously has more than 10 great pizzas, and more than 10 great places to get pizza, so we do not present our choices as exhaustive. But they are without a doubt representative of the best that is available.
We tasted a lot of pizza. Even the children were adamant about “no more pizza” the next day. But we persevered, and Fort Wayne Monthly is proud to provide this guide to the local pizza scene.
double layer pepperoni
Winner of the 2007 Fort Wayne Favorites best pizza honor, Oley’s makes its mark on the local pizza scene with its double-layer concept. Therefore, of course, a piece of this Oley’s pizza is a meal, not a snack. Hearty, a favorite for people who prefer more cheese than sauce and who are ready to sit down with a plate and a fork to eat it.
10910 W. Jefferson Blvd.
sausage, mushroom, pepperoni deep dish
Lexy’s got the second-highest vote total in 2007’s Fort Wayne Favorites contest. It has two routes to people’s favorites list: the pizzas themselves and its convenient neighborhood locations. The sausage, mushroom, pepperoni is a for-dinner pizza, perfect after a day of yard work or home improvement, and feel free to order a large even if you don’t have a crowd to feed. It reheats beautifully to a crispy, golden deliciousness.
908 Spring St.
The original Munchie Emporium on Taylor Street at Broadway has long been a source of creative pizza in Fort Wayne. This combination of fresh spinach, mushrooms and Roma tomatoes (plus cheese) on house-made dough is rich without being heavy. The teenagers at our tasting party each declared it their favorite with just one caution: “You have to eat it with a fork.” The adults liked it, too, and they’re old enough to enjoy it at the restaurant with a glass of Mad Anthonys microbrew.
1109 Taylor St.
This cuisine-style pizza won kudos for its attractive presentation: goat cheese toasted to golden highlights, accents of roasted artichokes, fresh spinach and Roma tomatoes on a nicely browned crust that looked handmade. And it disappeared quickly because it was as tasty as it was pretty. The smoky crust, nicely browned on the bottom, got praise as did the combination of toppings. The goat cheese was spotlighted, too, as something creative and unusual. White and almost fluffy after baking, the cheese plus the vegetables created the refreshing overall impression.
10910 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Sweet Hand-pinched Sausage
One of the newer pizzerias in town, Toscani is a place to get pizzas we couldn’t get just a few years ago. Having quickly become a mainstay of the downtown dining scene, Toscani is also a destination pizzeria for everyone enjoying Fort Wayne’s urban scene, whether that’s a movie date at Cinema Center or ice skating with the kids at Headwaters Park. Its hand-pinched sausage pizza was praised at our tasting for its authentically Italian simplicity and freshness and for its sauce and crust. Overall, the tasters agreed that they “could taste all the individual pieces and parts, but it all works together.”
120 W. Wayne St.
Columbia Street West
imported Italian sausage
Alongside the always tasty bar food at Columbia Street West on The Landing, customers enjoy pizzas, including one featuring imported Italian sausage. The sausage, described by at least one taster as awesome, carries the pizza, dominating the combined flavors of crust, cheese and sauce with its subtle flavor and moist texture. Spicy without being hot, robust without being heavy, the sausage pizza avoids extravagance and concentrates on simple, thorough goodness.
135 W. Coumbia St.
everything (no anchovies)
River Bend Pizza is a great neighborhood pizzeria, strong in both the basics and creative, too. We probably disappointed them by declining anchovies on our Everything pizza order, but, after all, this is Indiana. It came out of its box with its generous coverings of green peppers and olives positively glowing under the pale cheese. It tasted fresh and about as healthy as an Everything pizza can be, and somehow all the flavors worked together. It had a cayenne peppery aftertaste that lingered only a little while. Our tasters agreed one piece is a lot, and like any pizza with fresh veggies on it, it was moist and messy.
7410 St. Joe Road
With one look at a Pizza Hut Supreme pizza, you can tell how much thought and planning went into its development. All the flavors are there, all the ingredients and plenty of them are atop Pizza Hut’s category-defining pan pizza crust yet it is a well-structured pie that can be eaten out of hand as easily as with a fork. It is delicious with good balances of sauce and cheese, spicy and fresh flavors.
3820 E. State Blvd.
So simple, with its toppings of fresh sliced Roma tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil under a blend of cheeses, yet Casa’s Margherita impresses with good flavor. “It’s fresh and delicate. It reminds me of a margherita from Italy,” one well-traveled taster said. “I think it is really good, no-nonsense, real pizza,” said another.
7545 W. Jefferson Blvd.
We let Tasty Pizza play the role of First Pizza at our tasting – because we all knew the younger children like plain cheese pizza. Calling Tasty’s rendition of the classic plain, though, is unfair. Our pizza came out of the box with beautifully browned cheese (none of it burned or even singed) over a nice layer of sauce and tender crust. Sturdy enough to eat by hand, it is also easy for grownups to cut into kid-sized bites. Tasting some of the bites is always allowed, though, because grownups like this fine example of a cheese pizza, too.
Pushing the envelope
Casa’s Paul Wilson continues the championship season
In the stylishly serene brown and gray dining room at the Stellhorn Road Casa Grille, Paul Wilson stands out like a star in his white chefs jacket.
It’s only right, too. Wilson has star power. Not only is he charming in the dining room chatting with customers, but he is a top-ranked pizza chef. After his regional first-place finish in Toledo last summer, in the competition sponsored by trade magazine Pizza Today, he’ll be in Las Vegas representing us all at the national competition April 2 and 3.
“I’ve done a lot of work with pizza in my career,” he said. He spent seven years at Bucca di Beppo, famous for large pizzas served on a pizza board. Now he is a master of the elegantly small, gourmet pizzas baked in the wood-fired ovens the Casa restaurants have at their Grilles and Ristorante location on West Jefferson Boulevard.
His competition pizza is a daring extension of the whole pizza concept: the Calamari pizza. Traditional pizza sauce sweetened with Marsala sherry goes on the crust; it is topped with mesclun and then feta cheese. After baking, it is finished with freshly fried calamari and roasted red peppers.
It is to die for.
Wilson stands in a distinguished line of chefs exploring the potentials of pizza. He cites Wolfgang Puck as the first executive chef in the nation to hire a pizza chef. And Puck is the originator of the barbecue chicken pizza, a rendition of which is on Casa’s menu, too, finished with roasted onions, cilantro and smoked gouda cheese.
Important restaurateurs including Charlie Trotter in Chicago and restaurants like the French Laundry in Napa Valley, California, are also among his pizza inspirations.
He takes it as obvious that pizza can and should be something more than “just something you get on a Friday night,” he said. Puck, et al., “brought it into the dining room. It makes pizza a better meal. Now people can get exactly what they want.”
Wilson’s responsibilities for the Casa restaurants extend beyond pizza. He has been responsible for all menu development since last April. He is upholding a company tradition of champion pizza making. His predecessor Keith Yonker’s Pizza Genovaise, still on the menu, twice won Yonker a place on the U.S. Pizza team in the Sofo Foods Invitational contest.