Korean Pizza…just one of many surprises at Pizzeria Lola

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It was around six o’clock on a cold Friday evening when I found myself in south Minneapolis at the entrance of Pizzeria Lola and at the end of a long line waiting for tables. We were offered a table for two right at the door and in a moment I decided to suffer with the cold air coming through from the outside rather than stand in the line already wrapping itself around the wall. It was a good choice.

For more information go to www.pizzerialola.com or call 612-424-8338. The restaurant is located at 5557 Xerxes Avenue South in Minneapolis with parking in a lot next door. It is open Tuesday through Sunday at 5:00 p.m. until 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

First of all the double doors keep most of the cold air out. And the fast service brought some of the most creative food I have ever had in a pizzeria. The brainchild of Korean native Ann Kim and her business partner Conrad Leifur, Pizzeria Lola is not your run of the mill pizza joint. Its starters are your first clue. Roasted baby beets with mixed greens, Montchevre and hazelnuts; Tuna conserve with cannellini beans, tapenade, upland cress and fennel; and Roasted Brussel sprouts, butternut squash and cippolini onions head the appetizer list including delicious meatballs in marinara sauce, mixed olives, the Lola antipasti plate, and more. The Caesar with romaine leaves and hearts of palm had a light lemony olive oil flavor with a soft egg garnish – your choice to chop the egg into the greens or leave it alone.

But this is a pizzeria and Kim is a certified pizzaiola trained at the International School of Pizza in San Francisco. It is the only school in the United States affiliated with the Sculoa Italiana Pizzaiolo of Italy, and she is one of only 90 certified pizzaiolas in the U.S. She spent more than a year developing the menu and just opened Pizzeria Lola at the end of November.

The special copper covered, wood-burning oven gives Lola’s pizzas their special texture and flavor. Thin, crusts handmade to order are topped with a variety of choices and served hot off the coals, the way pizza should be served.

We tried the Sweet Italian pizza featuring house made Berkshire sausage, a light house made tomato sauce topped with mozzarella, provolone, onions and piquante peppers for a variety of fresh flavors and just a touch of heat. There are a dozen pizza choices with a special each night including, on occasion, Korean inspired pizza. Some of the choices include potatoes and onions, bacon and pineapple, arugula and prosciutto, roasted garlic, anchovies, and so much more.

Everything is house made including desserts. If soft serve ice cream with olive oil and sea salt seems strange, it is apparently a big hit judging by the number served the night we were there. To it you can add some chocolate covered cacao nubs or just put it in root beer for an old fashioned float. Or put it between two chocolate chip cookies for an ice cream sandwich.

While the décor is brand new and modern looking Kim has added a few touches of bygone years like the tin Camel cigarette box used to hold the check, the mismatched serving dishes that look like they came from yard sales, and the ironing board reception table that must have had a different purpose in a former life. Just a little humor in this very serious endeavor.

Dinner for two can be as simple or complex as you make it and can run from $15 to $20 or more per person. They also offer takeout, but it is probably best to call ahead. Since the doors open at 5:00 p.m. it is clear that getting there early is the best way to beat the lines that start forming by six. Pizzeria Lola has a number of tables and booths plus a bar overlooking the oven and kitchen area. Beverages include beer, coffee and soft drinks but no hot tea – just iced tea.

For more information go to www.pizzerialola.com or call 612-424-8338. The restaurant is located at 5557 Xerxes Avenue South in Minneapolis with parking in a lot next door. It is open Tuesday through Sunday at 5:00 p.m. until 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Phyllis Louise Harris is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher specializing in Asian foods. She is founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes Ltd. dedicated to the preservation, understanding and enjoyment of the culinary arts of the Asia Pacific Rim. For information about ACAI’s programs call 612-813-1757 or visit the website at www.asian culinaryarts.com.