Fort Wayne’s Best Pizza
Eye on the Pie
Fort Wayne will probably never be nationally known for pizza as are New York and Chicago. But Fort Wayne and environs are teeming with traditional pizza that rewards pizza nostalgia as well as daring pizza that challenges pizza adventurousness.
While New Yorkers and Chicagoans have fistfights over whose pie reigns supreme, we who live in Fort Wayne can eat both kinds of pie and every pie in between without fear or favor.
What are the essential qualities of the New York pizza? One factor is foldability. If your slice isn’t foldable, it probably isn’t a New York-style slice. New York-based pizza eaters do something with their slice known colloquially as “the fold hold.” It involves folding a characteristically thin and broad slice lengthwise with one hand so it forms the shape of a hard taco shell. Big Apple Pizza is known for a variety of New York-style pies, including Queens Grandma, the Brooklyn and the Manhattan Neapolitan. 1130 N. Wells Street, 260.424.4012
River Bend has a reputation for being bold and experimental. If you have a hot tooth (a term I just devised to refer to the spicy version of a sweet tooth), you should try the Fireball, a pepperoni-topped pizza that is made incendiary with the addition of hot sauce and various whole, diced and crushed hot peppers. A less fiery but no less novel option is the Golden Lion, a tomato sauce-free pizza. The sauce on the Golden Lion is cheddar-based, and the rest of the pizza is comprised of various other kinds of cheeses. In the past, River Bend has also offered gyro and chili-dog pizzas in the past so it pays to check in regularly to see the specials. 7410 St. Joe Road, 260.485.3390
Pizza-by-the-slice eateries tend to thrive in college towns where students can grab-and-go. When 816 Pint & Slice originally opened in 2007 downtown, there wasn’t as much foot traffic as there is today. But 816 Pint & Slice carved its niche anyway and is now one of Fort Wayne’s most beloved pizzerias. It usually has at least a half-dozen pies ready to be scarfed down more-or-less instantly. But there are nearly 30 pies on the sit-down/take-out menu, as well as calzones, grinders, pastas and gluten-free options. Pizza creations include one topped with mac n’ cheese and one done up like a Caesar salad. (If you think about it, adding a crust improves any salad immeasurably.) Its spacious second floor has been the scene of some of Fort Wayne’s coolest events. 816 S. Calhoun Street, 260.423.6600, pintandslice.com
Oley’s is regionally famous for its double-crust pizza. The double-crust pizza actually involves two thin crusts conspiring to masquerade as a thick crust. Perhaps it is a bit of a deception. Then too, maybe it’s the opposite of a deception. Maybe it’s détente. Two New York-style crusts collaborating to create a Chicago-style crust? Some locals have said that Oley’s double-crust pizza is some of the best pizza they have tasted anywhere in the contiguous U.S. One of Oley’s best pies is called the Godfather and it makes you an offer that you can’t refuse. The pie features top-quality meats as formidable as Don Corleone’s three sons: Italian sausage, steak and meatballs. 10910 US Highway 24 West, 260.432.6996, oleys.net
When you say “Chicago-style pizza” to most people, they think of deep-dish pizza. Rightfully so. But the city of Chicago actually has a thin-crust tradition all its own. It’s thinner than New York-style pizza, which is really only thin when compared to deep-dish. And it’s crunchy. Chicago’s thin crust pizzas are almost cracker-like. Mad Anthony Brewing Company’s Unwraps seem to be paying homage to Chicago’s less ubiquitous thin-crust tradition. Unwraps are available in several cunning flavors including Jambalaya and creamy Cajun chicken. 2002 Broadway, 260.426.2537, madbrew.com
Clara’s Pizza King is a venerable Hoosier chain that hearkens back to a time when pizzerias cultivated a fun atmosphere. The Fort Wayne location gives adults lots to look at and kids lots to do. It has tiered seating, video games, phones at the tables for placing orders, a booth that has a porch swing for a seat, antique photos on the walls, faux Tiffany lamps and circular stained glass windows. The pizza that Clara’s Pizza King devotees rave about most often is the Royal Feast. It consists of of pepperoni, sausage, onions, mushrooms and variously hued peppers on a thin and crispy crust. 321 W. State Boulevard, 260.483.2163
Mama Mia’s is a beloved and dependable locally-owned pizza option. Two items from its specialty menu are worth noting, the Sicilian — an ultra-thin crust with onion, mushroom, tomatoes, olive oil, feta cheese and a choice of meat — and the BLT Pizza, which is essentially a BLT sandwich in pizza form. 6656-A St. Joe Road and 1525 W. Dupont Road, 260.485.9777, pizza-fort-wayne.com
Not all monsters are bad monsters. Some monsters are good monsters. For example, there’s Sully from Monsters Inc., the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street and the Monster Pizza from Mozzarelli’s. The Monster Pizza has five meat toppings and five veggie toppings and comes in seven sizes. The top size is a 29-inch diameter, which is twice as large as Pizza Hut’s largest pie. 1820 W. Dupont Road, 260.489.4049, mozzarellispizza.com
Amore Pizza’s signature pizzas are tops. They include the garlic chicken, the Philly cheese steak and something called the Paul Bunyan Hungry Man BBQ Lovers Delight. Any pizza that combines the name of a legendary lumberjack with the name of a legendary TV dinner has to be good. Amore’s also has a full line of Chicago-style, deep-dish pizzas, and there are Windy City transplants here in Fort Wayne who swear that Amore’s pies come startlingly close in quality to those of that Chicago stalwart Giordano’s. 933 E. Dupont Road, 260.490.9099, amorespizza.net
Jet’s Pizza is a national chain that began north of here in Sterling Heights, Michigan. It specializes in rectangular, deep-dish pizzas and receives a great deal of praise for its crusts. The crust is made from a proprietary flour blend. Some of the distinctive flourishes at Jet’s include the 8 Corner Pizza, featuring eight slices that each have a nice, crusty edge, and Turbo flavoring, a combination of butter, garlic and Romano cheese that can be added to any crust upon request. Rumor has it that you can even request extra Turbo, even though isn’t on the menu. 5825 Maplecrest Road, 260.485.8550, jetspizza.com
Fort Wayne is packed with great pizza parlors. But ask some local pizza aficionados for their northeast Indiana favorite and a few of them will tell you to drive south to Bluffton. Tyeger’s Pizza is unusual. It is owned by heritage-proud Irish-Americans who have infused all of their pies with Gaelic flair. For example, there’s the County Cork, which features (according to the owners) the three most popular pizza toppings in the Irish region this pie is named for: country sausage, corn and mushrooms. There’s also the Parlour Pie featuring seven cheeses (Parmesan, cheddar, provolone, mozzarella, Swiss, muenster and bleu) and the Irish Loaded Baked Potato Pizza with corned beef and potato. Tyeger’s offers a different specialty pizza every month. Past highlights have included a fried bologna pizza and a Cuban sandwich pizza. 931 N. Main Street, Bluffton, 260.827.0700, tyegerspizza.com
Raimondo’s is known for interesting chicken pizzas respectively evoking Tex-Mex fajitas, Swiss cordon blue, Buffalo chicken wings, Southern American barbecue and Manhattan’s club sandwich. It also offers a white pizza that has earned raves; it features mozzarella, ricotta, fresh tomatoes and sausage. 2608 W. State Boulevard, 260.482.1777, raimondospizza.com
800 Degrees is an upscale pizza restaurant that touts its top-quality (usually imported or locally-sourced) ingredients. Menu highlights include the pomodoro. No tomato sauce on that one — just olive oil, garlic, grape tomatoes and two cheeses. It also offers two barbecue pizzas (chicken and pulled pork) and one of the best vegetarian pizzas in the area, the Verdure, which has roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, red onions, mushroom, zucchini, fennel, mozzarella cheese, goat cheese and a white sauce base. 5215 Illinois Road, 260.416.0005; 10020 Lima Road, 260.490.0111
The Acme Bar and Grill has been a staple in the region of town known as the 05 for almost 80 years. Notable specialties include the Mediterranean with salami, zucchini, black olives, onions, mushrooms, pineapple and a white sauce base. There’s also the Acme Heat Pizza, which is loaded with hot sauce and peppers. 1105 E. State Boulevard, 260.480.2263
Pizza Bomba — the mobile pizzeria — earns raves for its food, including its BBQ Pork Pizza. But special accolades are reserved for its Crab Rangoon pizza, which features a topping of wonton wrappers and sweet chili sauce. 260.415.8345 Pizzabomba.com, facebook.com/pizzabombafw
This one is worth the drive north. Fort Wayne restaurant vet Tim Johnson opened Timmy’s Pizza and BBQ in Garrett over a decade ago, and it has since earned the sort of reputation that regularly draws pizza and BBQ aficionados from miles around. There are many good items on the menu, but the thing to order is Timmy’s Trainwreck, a pizza topped with Johnson’s hickory smoked pulled pork. 105 N. Randolph Street, Garrett, 260.357.6666
At B. Antonio’s, the noteworthy special pies include the Tuscany chicken (consisting of antibiotic-free chicken, garlic, mayonnaise, honey mustard, roasted red peppers, red onion, ricotta and mozzarella), the tomato pesto (featuring pine-nut pesto and vine-ripened tomatoes) and the self-explanatory Philly cheesesteak. 10011 Lima Road, 260.490.9222
Stupendous specialty pizzas offered by the venerable local joint Lexy’s include the chicken club with fajita-style meat and the Neapolitan with sausage, onions, mushrooms, green peppers and mozzarella. 908 Spring Street, 260.424.1640, lexyspizzafw.com
*In the February 2018 issue of Fort Wayne magazine, this story reported River Bend Pizza’s phone number as 260.483.2163. It should have read 260.485.3390. We regret this error.