The Daily Cardinal 2014 Pizza Poll
Once upon a time, in Daily Cardinal yesteryear, the staff would yell across the isthmus of Madison City far and wide to the Italian mom-and-pop shops and greasy establishments, "Give us thy pizza! Thy most prized pizza!" And they did. Pizza after pizza would arrive to the office in Vilas Hall, and the staff loved the pizzas so much they made it into a pizza party. Then, they said, "Let us vote upon our favorite pizza, and put it in the paper!" And the crowned pizza would live on in Madison infamy for the rest of time. But the pizza eaters of then have now gone, and new ones (you) are now here. And the Madison pizza landscape has changed! So for the good of humanity, here we present to you five pizzas better than the rest! Upon this Easter Eve, let us celebrate the resurrection of the Pizza Poll!
Best non-conformist pizza: Ian's 'Chipotle Sweet Potato'
Ian’s Chipotle Sweet Potato pie so artfully combines a variety of non-traditional pizza toppings, it delivers next-level flavor and innovation. It blends creamy, spicy chipotle sauce with sweet potatoes and feta cheese. Portabella mushrooms, pico de gallo and grilled onions piled on top complement the ensemble well. The best part? I’m not sure when I would most prefer to eat this delicacy: whilst watching a summer sunset or as a term paper reward in the depths of winter. Not only does Ian’s Chipotle Sweet Potato refuse to conform to pizza logic, it transcends seasonal consumption law.
Best artisan pizza: Pizza Brutta's 'Prosciutto Arugula Pizza Bianco'
The first thing Pizza Brutta reminded me of upon my first rip into the flatbread crust was the unexpected S2 Pizzabar (Rest in peace), which popped up on State Street a bit over a year ago before forever fading into ’za lore. The real difference between the two locales, though subtle, particularly comes through in crust quality and ingredient pairing. Their Prosciutto Arugula Pizza Bianco (olive oil, rosemary, prosciutto, red onion, ricotta, mozzarella, arugula, parmesan) is a personal-sized, brick-oven pizza that sells for $12. While eating it, there was one ingredient that I couldn’t quite pick out—rosemary—but that choice addition leveled up the taste from “pretty good” to “crave-worthy.” Instructions on the artistically designed carryout box said cooking the pizza for three minutes at 500 degrees once you get it home yields the best results. I enjoyed the crust without the extra cooking. In fact, it was notably not too tough—an area in which many similar pizzas fail. But it was floppier than some people might expect a brick-oven pizza, so following those directions is definitely worth a try.
Best pizza that bucks against the hegemony of red sauce: The Roman Candle's 'The Professional'
Pizza without red sauce may seem like a heresy or the proffering of a mad apostate; in the case of Roman Candle’s The Professional pie, it’s strictly business—and business is good. Bringing together chicken breast, bacon, green pepper, jalapeno and broccoli over a bed of cheese and white “professional sauce,” this pizza relishes in subtlety in lieu of boldness, highlighting the maslin of ingredients resting contiguously, the admix of flavors lapping over one another in a spicy, salty, meaty flow. Make no mistakes: The Professional pizza transforms its lack
of red sauce into a strength: a tasty, tasty strength.
Best pizza pizza: Urban Slice's 'On Wisconsin!'
The Wisconsin Union’s own Urban Slice brought a solid meat-lover pizza to the table with its aptly named “On Wisconsin!” pizza. Toppings on this classic pizza include sausage, pepperoni, bacon, onions and mushrooms. While the pizza came heavy on the meat and toppings, it was light on flavor. So any Badgers looking for a tasty pizza that doesn’t go overboard on spices and heavy flavors, this is the perfect slice for you. It’s the pizza’s pizza, the classic toppings, the traditional taste. It’s reliable. It won’t let you down. Just like a Badger.
Best deep dish pizza: Itzza Pizza's 'Deluxe Deep Dish Pan Pizza'
If garlic bread, fried mozzarella sticks and thick-crust pizza had a beautifully choreographed menage a trois, Itzza Pizza’s Deluxe Deep Dish Pan Pizza would be their delicious love child. During my time as a pizza addict and aficionado in Madison, I’ve found that pizza parlors in Wisconsin’s capital city have the tendency to ruin their deep dish pizzas with a pitiful sauce-to-cheese ratio (I’m lookin’ at you, Gino’s—your pizzas were basically breaded bowls of tomato sauce. Rest in peace.). On the other hand, Itzza Pizza—the rightful heir to the Isthmus’ deep dish throne—makes no mistakes with this cheesy monstrosity generously covered in fresh toppings. You could easily get at least two days’ worth of meals from one of these beauts, but then again, what’s holding you back from eating the entire glorious, garlicky pie in one sitting?
(Editor’s note: Haley is addicted to pizza.)Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter