I was starting to feel a bit grumpy about the bill at Pizzeria Lola: nearly $80 for two, including tax and tip — with only one glass of wine between the two of us. If we had had a couple of drinks apiece, we could have pushed the bill all the way into triple digits, which seems rather outrageous for a neighborhood pizza joint with bare tables and a poured concrete floor.
But then it hit me — we had had a very good meal, and we could have spent a lot less, if we had wanted to. We started with the roasted cauliflower ($8) — roasted florets tossed with shreds of hot Calabrian pepper, surprising in its simplicity, followed a light but lively salad of roasted beets with frisee, chevre and toasted hazelnuts ($11).
Then we each ordered a pizza — Carol chose the Forester, topped with several varieties of mushrooms, plus truffle oil and a truffle-flavored cheese, and I opted for the Lady ZaZa, a Korean-themed pizza topped with house-made kim chee, black and white sesame seeds, and a Korean sausage that tasted a lot like bulgogi.
The pizzas are cooked very fast in a very hot wood-burning oven, resulting in a thin, puffy crispy crust. The mushroom pizza was delightful, and redolent with the aroma of truffles. (Or maybe not. According to Wikipedia, “Most truffle oils are not made from actual truffles, but are a synthetic product that combines a thioether (2,4-dithiapentane), one of numerous organic aromas or odorants found in real truffles, with an olive oil or grapeseed oil base.(1)“)
I was less enthralled with the Lady ZaZa. I like kim chee, and I like the idea of cross-cultural culinary experimentation, but this combination didn’t quite work for me — the sourness of the pickled cabbage seemed to overwhelm the other flavors. On a previous visit, I thoroughly enjoyed The Iowan ($15), which comes topped with prosciutto, ricotta, mozzarella, roasted garlic and arugula, and I would be curious to try some of the other pies, such as the Boise ($14) topped with potato, gruyere, caramelized onion, olive oil & rosemary. We finished this all off with a cup of the house-made soft-serve ice cream ($4). The regular house flavor is vanilla, but our server proposed offered us a two-flavor twist: vanilla and the special of the day, chocolate hazelnut. We could have added extra-virgin olive oil and fleur de sel, or chocolate-covered cacao nibs for $1 more, but that seemed like excess.
As for spending less, we probably could have gotten by with just one starter, or just one pizza, or perhaps chosen a couple of the less expensive pies, such as the Marinara ( $8, Italian red sauce, roasted garlic, olive oil & oregano) or the Old Reliable ($10, house red sauce, mozzarella & pecorino.)
Pizzeria Lola, 5557 Xerxes Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-424-8338.