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This installment of the Detroit Pizza Tour takes us to the charming near-Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe Woods….
Right there on Mack Avenue, near the Original Pancake House and right by a cute yarn shop, is the delightful storefront of DiNoto’s Genuine Italian with a welcoming red awning.
When we entered Dinoto’s we were confronted with a promising aroma and friendly service. A young woman was working the counter, answering our questions, when owner-operator Pino DiNoto emerged from the kitchen and insisted we sample one of his famous “S” cookies – a cakey, buttery sugar cookie with a delicate layer of frosting. His thick Italian accent immediately charmed us and gave an aura of authenticity to the pizzas we were about to sample.
We decided on two small pizza and a side order of cannelini beans and took a walk around the neighborhood while our pizzas were being prepared. To be clear, DiNoto’s does carry out only. For some reason, even though I’d read some Yelp reviews before going, I was a little surprised to realize this, but it didn’t really matter in the long run.
Our two pizzas were Pino’s White Vegetable Pizza and the Sicilian Pizza. Pino’s White vegetable pizza is described as “light and delicious – without sauce, topped with oven roasted veggies, olive oil, herbs and Romano cheese.” This was Michael’s favorite. It had tomato, onion, and thinly sliced yellow squash. Indeed light and garlicy. My only regret was that there was not more of a tang to it, to balance the flavors. I think had the tomatoes been in season this would have done the trick, but we all know fresh tomatoes this time of year aren’t always the best tasting.
The Sicilian was my favorite, also very simple, with crushed tomatoes that had a serious depth (almost as if they were mixed with sun-dried tomatoes) and herbs, olive oil, garlic with a light sprinkling of Romano cheese. Tangy and delicious.
This isn’t the Detroit pizza style with the thick crust, but a medium-to-thin crust, with an unobtrusive, delicate flavor that really highlights the toppings. Don’t expect gobs of melted cheese, either. Just a slight dusting of Pecorino-Romano actually makes this pie a healthier option than some grease laden varieties we’re accustomed to. We did happen to pick pizzas that were vegetarian, but mostly because there is a wide variety of vegetarian options that just looked so yummy and different. They also have a pie with prosciutto and arugula, the Gambino’s Favorite, which is calling my name for another visit.
I read rave reviews about the meatball sub, so next time I go I will try a different kind of pizza, for some variety, and this highly recommended sandwich. Their menu also has some fantastic looking pasta dishes and salads. One thing is for sure, if I lived closer I would be making more trips to DiNoto’s and probably buying too many of those delectable S cookies in the process.
Overall, the unique, authentic quality of the pizza combined with the quaint atmosphere and exceptionally welcoming service can’t help but endear you to this place. I can see why DiNoto’s is a favorite pizza stop for Detroiters. As it stands, my only regret was that I could not enjoy the pizza fresh from the oven with a nice glass of Chianti (this is the kind of pizza that screams for wine over beer!). Since we simply couldn’t wait for the drive home to lose that hot-out-of-the-oven experience, we had to eat it in the car!
DiNoto’s Genuine Italian Carry Out
20223 Mack Ave.
Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236
Phone: (313) 884-5030
A highlight on the Metro Detroit Pizza Tour…
I have picked up a Shield’s pizza a time or three to bring home, and have always thoroughly enjoyed the warmish pizza at my own kitchen table, dutifully resisting the urge to break it out on the drive home.
But to give Shield’s a completely fair shake, I had to go in and have the entire dining experience.
Shield’s has several locations around Metro Detroit – four to be precise – and the one I’ve been going to is in Southfield. I’ve always appreciated the ambiance of the attached bar as I’ve gone in to pick up my pizza at the take-away counter. It seems darkish – the right lighting for a bar, in my opinion – and somehow cozy and intimate, like a place where you can hang with your friends and make new ones. The thing I like the most is that there’s plenty of Detroit pride on display, with Old English Ds and proud Red Wings emblems (a far cry from the brightly lit Pizza Papalis bar that wants to be in Chicago). Don’t go here thinking you’ll have a quiet, romantic evening. This bar’s for hanging out and catching the game.
But the dining room is another story. Very family friendly. In fact, there was a clown on duty that night, and I spent much of the evening dreading that it might come near my table and make me a balloon animal. But I think it sensed my clown aversion (and age inappropriateness) and thankfully stayed away.
The Pizza! Witness the Gold Medal specialty pie – highly recommended if you like a little spice in your life.
On to the pizza: as I’ve mentioned, the pies I’ve brought home were always darn good – more than adequate. With that characteristic Detroit-Sicilian square shape that produces those delectable carmelized cheese edges (that I’ve tried to capture on film here). In the past we’ve enjoyed our perennial make-your-own favorite – sausage, onion and mushroom – as well as their oh-so-delicious Shield’s Super specialty pizza (pepperoni, brick cheese, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and ham). But this time we went for the Gold Medal: brick and Romano cheeses, Italian banana peppers, sweet red bell peppers, topped with Italian pear tomatoes sautéed in garlic. And as if this were not enough to make you swoon: add the optional (but recommended!) Italian sausage and you’ve got a truly amazing pie, as everyone at the table agreed!
See those carmelized cheese edges? Perfect example of the Detroit-style breed! Best in show!
I would be remiss in my blogger-informant duties if I did not mention that Shield’s also has a fairly extensive non-pizza menu – including a better-than-average kid’s menu. I can not yet vouch for any of these items, but I have to say that the pasta and sub sandwiches on other people’s tables were looking mighty appetizing.
Bottom line: Shield’s pizza truly rocks and is an excellent specimen of the Detroit Pizza style. I have to stop short of saying that this pizza is better than Buddy’s – there is something about Buddy’s crust that is so far unparalleled in my pizza adventuring – but it is certainly on par with Buddy’s and without a doubt worth coming back for. Shield’s deserves all the praise it gets, and all the business you can give it. Bring the kids.
Shield’s of Southfield
25101 Telegraph Rd.
Southfield, MI 48076
Other locations in Macomb Township, Rochester Hills, and Troy.
More pizza adventures from Metro Detroit as I continue my Detroit Pizza Tour…
Great things are said about PizzaPapalis, which has five locations in metro Detroit (seven if you count the combo Rio Wraps locations, where they have a limited menu in combination with wraps). This locally-grown, beloved restaurant, which started in the 80s, has ridden its popularity all the way to a location in Toledo. So I was excited to give it a try. Especially since there’s one not too far from my home.
I must admit I never even noticed it on my way to Buddy’s – right down the block – until I began researching for my Pizza Tour. After a visit to their website, I was prepared to be faced with Chicago-style pie, which I must admit is not my favorite. In fact, until I met the classic Detroit-style pizza, I never considered myself a thick-crust kinda gal. So with that epiphany in mind, I went to PizzaPapalis (Dearborn location) with an open mind and an empty stomach.
Inside PizzaPapalis on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn.
The interior is clean and sleek with stylish “vintage” posters of Chicago all around – and is too brightly lit for my taste. There’s a bar, several TVs with sports being broadcast, and a keno set up, if you’re into that sort of thing. We ordered a pitcher of beer, and I was very pleased with the frosty mugs that came with.
We decided to get both the deep dish and the thin crust. Be warned if you are on a tight schedule, as we were told it would take 25 minutes for the thin, and 30 for the deep dish. Maybe it always takes this long for pizza, and they never tell you and I never notice. But the fact that they pointed it out to me did make me notice, and has caused me to be more time-conscious in my visits to other pizza joints (which run closer to 15-20 minutes, if you’re interested).
I’m really glad we ordered the thin crust, because honestly it was the highlight of the meal. The cheese, oh the cheese! — I don’t know why, but I have to say that was some superior cheese. It has a sort of buttery, provolone quality. The sauce was good, the toppings generous. But that cheese was just really yum. Somehow in the deep dish you just couldn’t get the flavor of the cheese, perhaps because it was overpowered by the excess of bread/crust. In general, I just couldn’t love the deep dish as I did its thinner brother. Could be because I ordered blander toppings on the deep dish, and I should have remembered that deep dish really needs some spicy toppings to complement the bulk of the crust, which I have to mention is rather biscuit-like. I don’t know that this texture really adds anything. It’s different. Not terrible. But I wasn’t really a fan. Like I said, I found the thin crust pie tastier all around. It had the same quality of crust, but just less of it.
I will say that my dining companion was considerably more impressed with the pizza than I was, so I have to include this point to be fair. I can’t really compare this pizza to Buddy’s because it’s just altogether a different genre.
If you love Chicago-style, this might be the place for you. As for myself, my conclusion for future PizzaPapalis visits is this: skip the dine-in experience. Call in a take-out, thin crust. And if you do dine in, be sure to get a frosty mug of beer to enjoy and have some good company with you while you wait for your pizza.
22022 Michigan Ave.
Dearborn, MI 48124
Other locations in Troy, Greektown, Southfield, Rivertown, and Toledo
The first installment of my admittedly ambitious Pizza Tour of Detroit.
In the unassuming, working class suburb of Hazel Park, within a mile of Detroit Proper, lies a legend among pizza joints: Loui’s Pizza.
My first introduction to Detroit-style pizza was Buddy’s, a legend of its own with 9 locations in the Detroit-metro area.
But part of what makes Loui’s so special is that there is only one. And the one is so adorable in its ambiance as to trump any Buddy’s atmosphere I’ve been to. There are literally hundreds of basket-cradled Chianti bottles draping the walls, interlaced with cheery Christmas lights on a properly Italian-Restaurant-Red background. The bottles are signed by loyal patrons from any number of years ago, as this location has been in the same spot for over three decades. Just walking into this place puts you into a mood for a great dining experience.
And you’ll get one, too. Not the kind of upwardly mobile, wish-I-was-in-Chicago pizza dining experience best suited to the mall shoppers of the world. But a real career-waitresses-who-know-your-name, Made-in-Detroit, exact-same-menu-and-furnishings-since-you-were-a-kid dining experience that can only come from an authentic legend like Loui’s. This place is a serious case study in pizza as comfort food.
So what about the pizza?
The pizza here is nearly indistinguishable from Buddy’s, with the same square, Sicilian shape, same sauce-on-top structure, same scorched-outer-yielding-to-doughy-center crust, and same carmelized cheese edges that make it impossible to ignore as a pizza genre in its own right. I will say that the sauce at Loui’s has an extra pepper bite and extra oregano that DOES distinguish it from Buddy’s. For me, the only drawback was that the mushrooms were from a jar and not fresh. But with so many other things going for it, this minor misdeed was forgivable.
While we waited, my dinner companion and I sipped some adequate red table wine from a carafe and munched on the lauded antipasto salad. The salad was not fancy mixed greens, but straight-up, crowd-pleasing iceberg — fittingly served super cold — with very, very generous amounts of meat, cheese and tomatoes mixed in, all swimming in the tangiest Italian dressing of your dreams. Highly recommended. We even took the leftovers home and added MORE lettuce, it was that dense with accoutrement.
Apparently, Loui’s history is intertwined with that of Buddy’s. My understanding is that the owner, Loui himself, once worked at Buddy’s, and then there was a schism in the world of Detroit-style pizza, and Loui’s version of Detroit-style pie was born. I don’t know the details. In fact, I just overheard patrons discussing it. Perhaps someone can shed some light on this intriguing tale of two pizzas.
Whatever the story – whether mundane restaurateur enterprise or salacious gourmand rivalry – the end result is more delicious pizza.
I will say, until another pizza place can capture my heart with such decisive deliciousness and simpatico setting, this will be my place to share with out-of-town guests when I want to show off how cool Detroit’s pizza really is…
23141 Dequindre Rd
Hazel Park, MI 48030-1600
Here’s the challenge: devour Detroit, one pizza at a time.
Inspired by a story on the best pizzas in metro Detroit, I have landed on a noble goal: get an accurate education in Detroit pizza.
My curriculum: two pizzas a month (at least) for a year.
My coursework: this blog.
In my research on Detroit pizza, I was pleased to discover that Detroit is considered by James Beard Award-winning food journalist Alan Richman to be the 3rd best pizza city in the nation, just behind New York and San Fran, and perhaps surprisingly (though not to me) above #4 Chicago.
Little known to Detroit dwellers and outsiders alike, there is a Detroit-style pizza. But the mix of cultures and influences means that there’s a great variety of pies available in the metro area, so our selection is not limited to this one execution — though it is a fine style, and one of my favorites.
We all know sharing is caring; I plan to share with you my impressions as I sample all the pizza I can get my mouth around. I am starting out with a list of pizza places that will undoubtedly grow as time goes on. Please send your suggestions for places to visit, and I’ll add them to the destinations list!
- Buddy’s Pizza
- Amici’s Pizza
- Loui’s Pizza
- Crust Pizza and Wine Bar
- Luigi’s Original
- Dan Good’s
- Cloverleaf Bar
- DiNoto’s Genuine Italian
- Green Lantern
- Tomatoes Apizza
- Hungry Howie’s
- Lucky Duck’s
- Fresh Farm’s Market
- Cottage Inn
- Brooklyn Pizza
- Pizza Cutter
- Bricks (added 9/10)
- Royal Oak Brewery (added 9/10/09)
- Red Devil (added 9/11/09)
- Bob’s Pizza (added 9/11/09)
- Papa Ramano’s (added 9/11/09)
- Little Ceasar’s (added 9/11/09)
- Nikki’s (added 9/21/09)
- Aubree’s (added 9/26/09)
- Jerusalem Pizza (added 9/28/09)
- Frank’s Restaurant and Pizzaria (added 11/5/09)
- Sportsmans Pizzeria (added 11/5/09)
- Geno’s Pizza (added 1/31/10)