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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.

Detroit Pizza - Dinoto's

Cheerful storefront is your first clue that this is gonna be some swell pizza.

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.

Detroit Pizza - Dinoto's pictures

Family photos proudly on display are more evidence of a strong tradition behind DiNoto's

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.

Detroit Pizza - Dinoto's Pino's White Vegetable Pizza

Pino's White Vegetable Pizza

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.

Detroit Pizza - Dinoto's Sicilian Pizza

DiNoto's Sicilian Pizza

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.

Detroit Pizza - Cute Dinoto's counter area

Cute, homey counter area. Note the stacks of 'S' cookies on left!

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

For this installment of the Metro Detroit Pizza Tour, we traveled to the northern suburb of Madison Heights…

A true suburb in the classic sense, Madison Heights was incorporated in 1955 when suburban living became the craze across the country. And its architecture reflects the evolution from classic suburb to current big-box-store-anchored strip mall paradise – although they do boast a majority of privately owned businesses

The Green Lantern Lounge shares its birthday with the city itself, having been opened by Thomas and Irene Vettraino in 1955. To this day their daughter, Marlene Spreitzer, uses the same recipe that made their pizza legendary throughout the metro Detroit region. There is a location now in Royal Oak, but of course we had to travel to the original site to see what this pizza was all about.

I’d like mention that while researching their website, I got a chuckle out of the very honest writing – not typical marketing stuff. For instance they admitted that their chicken was dry, and that the place was smoky – even the non-smoking part. I found that approach very refreshing.

Stepping inside the Green Lantern Lounge on a cold winter day felt very right. The restaurant exudes warmth, and – as the name “lounge” would suggest – it’s appropriately dark and smoky. A fantastic stamped tin ceiling and dark woods created comfort and coziness for the nearly-at-capacity pub-like space. We went on a Sunday afternoon, and the sports-watching clientele were deep into their pitchers of beer and focused on the drama of the game.

Green Lantern Lounge - pub

Cozy, pub-like atmosphere makes for a good pizza-eating environment.

This isn’t a place where there is a sports bar in one section and an eating area in another (à la Sheild’s). The whole place is pretty much a bar atmosphere. Fine by me, but I didn’t happen to see kids around, so not so sure about the whole family dining thing.

Green Lantern Lounge - lamp

Dining room detail.

So we got beer, as this is the kind of place where beer is a requirement, and ordered the traditional thin crust (they also have a thick pie on the menu, but the thin is what they have been serving for over 50 years) with some of our favorite toppings (olives, sausage, mushroom, onion). We also got a salad – Greek this time – as is our tradition (a nod to our struggling arteries).

Green Lantern Lounge - Greek SaladGreek salad – generous portions!

I can not complain about the service. Very prompt and attentive. Nor can I knock the beer or Greek salad – not a GREAT salad, but certainly better than o.k., with a generous amount of toppings.  And honestly the pizza had this sort of pizza-oven taste that I can only describe as being the way pizza was meant to taste – the quality of flavor that comes from a well-worn oven that has had years of use – a sort of seared-oregano infusion that only some rare pizzerias can deliver.

Green Lantern Lounge - Pizza Pie

Pizza pie – olive, mushroom, onion and sausage.

BUT – we found the quality of toppings lacking. What could have been a stellar execution, with perfect sauce, buttery cheese, and classic crust with flawless texture, was marred by mediocre toppings that seemed perhaps a step above the chains – or maybe on par. We both said it at the same time, so my impression was not unique.

Green Lantern Lounge - pizza slice

Portrait of a slice.

In any event, I can see why the Green Lantern is so beloved. If I lived closer, it would certainly be a regular stop, as I really appreciated the warm, intimate  ambiance, and now that I know their mushrooms are canned and their olives mushy, I would probably order a straight-up pepperoni and be very pleased. 

So if you like a pub atmosphere and a truly traditional pizza that has stood the test of time, the Green Lantern Lounge will hit the spot.

Green Lantern Lounge

28960 John R Rd.
Madison Heights, MI 48071-2819
Phone: (248) 541-5439

(another location at 4326 Rochester Road, Royal Oak)

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.

Sheild's Detroit-Style Pizza

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!

Shield's Detroit-Style Pizza

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

248-356-2720

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.

Pizza Papalis Decor2

Pizza Papalis Decor

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.

PizzaPapalis BeerFrosty mug of beer while you’re waiting? Perfect side dish for any pizza!

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).

PizzaPapalis ThinThin crust pizza with a cheese that’s to die for!

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.

PizzaPapalis Pan PizzaPapalis’ specialty – deep dish. This is the small size. The salt shaker is included for scale.

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.

PizzaPapalis
22022 Michigan Ave.
Dearborn, MI 48124
313-724-7722

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.

Loui's outside

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.

Loui's inside...

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.

The Real Deal - Louis Pizza

 

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.

Loui's Antipasta Salad

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…

Loui’s Pizza
23141 Dequindre Rd
Hazel Park, MI 48030-1600
(248) 547-1711