WeloveAnnArbor.com contributing writer Donna Iadipaolo suggested doing a story on HER favorite pizza places in Ann Arbor. Fortunately, she had plenty to choose from. So here are a few of her go-to pizza places in Ann Arbor that are sure to excite the taste buds.
Personal Pizza Style
Pizza is not only a popular college-comfort food in Ann Arbor, but well-made pizza (not in a detached, assembly-line method) is a beautiful, poetic art form and science.
Both my grandmothers—Adelina and Frances—created exceptional, handmade pizza when I was growing up; exceptional pizza requires love, pride, and history—not severed from the people who live and share it.
Along with including my own history and tastes, I asked various friends and neighbors about their favorite Ann Arbor-based pizza. No national franchises were considered because of our emphasis on the artisan craft.
There are also a plethora of styles in Ann Arbor, each with their own unique history: Neapolitan, New York-style, Chicago-style, Sicilian, American-style, and more. After much research and deliberation, the top choices of pizza, not necessarily in any hierarchical order, are: Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina, Silvio’s Organic Ristorante e Pizzeria NYPD (New York Pizza Depot), NeoPapalis, Anthony’s Gourmet Pizza, and Mani Osteria. We like to order different pizzas at different times instead of always going with the same one, depending on changing preferences and other variables, such as where we are around Ann Arbor.
Bigalora’s founder and chef Luciano DelSignore was born in the United States, but his parents emigrated from Abruzzo, Italy in the mid-20th Century. He has spent his life learning and cooking great Italian food. In his research of Italian food, he discovered a recipe for “biga,” which is an ancient Italian starter made from wheat, flour, water, and naturally-occurring yeast. DelSignore has integrated this recipe into his food. He describes his food as “clean” made with the finest natural ingredients, from scratch, and without unnecessary sugars or other additives, and always fresh.
The science of Bigalora’s pizza also includes a 72-hour ferment, 900-degree wood-fired oven, and 90-second cook time. Our favorite pizzas at Bigalora are the Margherita and Prosciutto E Grana. Their prosciutto is the freshest we’ve had in the area. If you dine in instead of choosing take out, they have some wonderful fresh pasta dishes with a nice amount of semolina as well as a top-notch brunch.
Bigalora is located at 3050 Washtenaw, Ste. 112.
Silvio’s Organic Ristorante e Pizzeria
The organic ingredients are really worth it at Silvio’s, especially when you are already downtown. Silvio’s crust is a one-of-a-kind, but tangentially reminds me of my grandmothers’. Their history is interesting as well, as they state:
“The Medoro family legacy can be traced back three generations, to Silvio’s grandfather and uncle who produced fresh ground flour during the early part of the 20th century, to the bakery founded by Silvio’s father in Italy during the 1960s to the restaurant you see today. The traditions handed down from father to son show themselves in the art and skill of every dish we create. In the true tradition of Italian cooking, we create all of our dishes from scratch and use only the very best ingredients from our family to yours.”
The owners even speak the real Italian. I was excited to see “rapini” as a unique topping for their pizza, which has been marketed in the U.S as broccoli rabe. They too have some traditional Italian deserts.
Silvio Medoro is also connected to the Slow Food Movement, which began in Italy, and Medoro was interviewed by the Italian Consulate about it.
“Slow Food means getting the most satisfaction out of a meal,” said Medoro. “It’s when you make friends with your hard-working organic farmers and you cherish taking the time to prepare their ingredients and employing methods developed over centuries for taste and nourishment. It makes each bite special.”
Medoro emphasizes organic Michigan ingredients and his bread and pizza crust are properly slow cultured. Silvio has also participated in the Mayor’s Green Fair downtown, displayed at the Leslie Science Center, and worked with the University of Michigan toward building a sustainable local food system. On Friday October 26, Silvio’s celebrated their 13th birthday by helping to raise money for breast cancer awareness, donating 15% of sales to the cause. Many in Ann Arbor believe that Silivo’s is the most overall conscientious choice.
Silvio’s is located at 715 North University Avenue.
One of my favorite go-to places for delivery is NYPD. They have the clever name of “New York Pizza Depot,” but use the initials of the world-famous Big Apple police department. Their pizza reminds me exactly of the slices of pizza that I tried in New York City when I visited there; and each slice is also foldable like it is there as well. NYPD offers both New York-style and Chicago-style. The family that owns the restaurant described their history and evolution of recipes and secret ingredients in a colorful manner:
“Domenico, Mauro, and John left their hometown in Italy for the great city of New York nearly 15 years ago. While in the Big Apple, their work experience varied from downtown pizzerias to uptown restaurants specializing in Italian cuisine. During this time, the four brothers perfected their recipes by combining family secrets and high-quality ingredients to create the ultimate New York pizza pie.”
I particularly like their grilled vegetables, like grilled eggplant or grilled zucchini on their pizza. Also notable, the restaurant makes great cannoli and tiramisu as well.
NYPD is located at 605 East William Street.
Many people wished NeoPapalis delivered, but the nice part about eating in the restaurant is the friendly staff that always seems glad to see you. Owner Joe Sheena studied at the Italian School of Cooking and states that his family has been in the pizza business in Michigan for 29 years, while their Ann Arbor shop is six years old. Our favorite is the traditional Margherita pizza, which features fresh mozzarella and basil in the traditional Italian style. We also like their “Bianca,” which has herb butter, honey, and asiago upon it. They also like to highlight their “nouvelle” toppings, which you would expect to find in San Francisco or West Hollywood. Their dough rises for a minimum of three days and they get their tomatoes from the foot of Southern Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius. Their “Neo” name also has a unique story:
“The ‘Neo’ pizza blends century old traditions of the thin crust from Naples with the baking and dough techniques associated with legendary brick-oven and coal-fired pizza makers in New York and New Haven.”
Furthermore, they cook their pizza in their stone hearth ovens, at 800 degrees for about 2 minutes, so the crust gets a kind of texture that is difficult to get in a home oven.
Their restaurant is at 500 East William Street.
Anthony’s slogan is: “If it’s not Anthony’s, it’s not gourmet.” Thus, there is an emphasis on homemade ingredients. Their specialty is Chicago-Style Stuffed, like a pie with two layers of crust and pizza sauce on top, which they have been making since 1988. They also use the craft of baking pizzas in stone hearth ovens. In total, Anthony’s has 5 types of pizza: Chicago-Style, Deep Dish, Traditional Round, Sicilian Deep Dish, and New York Type Thin Crust.
Anthony’s does offer delivery and has two locations in Ann Arbor, one is at 1924 Packard Street and the second is at 1508 N. Maple Road.
“Mani” translates from Italian to English as “hands” or “hand-made.” And an Osteria is an Italian eatery that emphasizes local ingredients, small production wines, and hospitality. Mani offers their pizzas baked in wood-burned ovens. Mani’s Margherita is comprised of fior di latte, San Marzano tomatoes, and basil. Others prefer their “Tartufo,” which is made up of fontina, black truffles, and an egg.
Mani is located at 341 East Liberty Street.
A little historical context is vital here as well. The pizza that we are most familiar with that is composed with tomatoes sauce, cheese, and toppings is on record as being invented in Italy. Specifically, baker Raffaele Esposito from Naples is widely credited as the inventor. He created authentic Margherita pizza, which is believed to be christened in 1889 in honor of the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy. It featured tomatoes, cheese, and basil.
New York-style pizza is characteristically hand-tossed thin crust, popular in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The first pizzeria in the United States is said to be founded by Gennaro Lombardi in New York City’s Little Italy in 1905. According to the Chicago Daily News, Chicago-style pizza was invented by Rudy Malnati, and is like a pie with crust on the top and bottom, with all the ingredients inside. In general, the various U.S. city-styles grew out of the various Little Italy neighborhoods.
In general, we are blessed with a diverse array of artisan pizza choices in Ann Arbor.