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Three days, 58 pizza places, endless love

The Pitch put its stomach to the test with a three-day, 58-pizza-joint jaunt.

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Forty-five seconds into a minute-long plank, as your trainer counts down the time and your sweat pools under your face, you remember why you're really working out. So you can eat more pizza.

This is the last day, you tell yourself, the third of three breakfast-lunch-dinner-snack pizzathons. You and your colleagues are taking on slice after pie after slab, tasting the familiar along with the new. You're wondering how Savannah, Georgia, sneaked onto Travel + Leisure's "Best Cities for Pizza" list two spots ahead of Kansas City. (We're No. 10.) You're thinking you need to eat a lot of salad for the rest of your life.

Together you're trying to eat all the pizza in the metro, and together you're experiencing the same symptoms of what's now a full-on bender. First there was bliss (pizza all the time!). Then disbelief (more? I just flossed!). Today: a nagging shortness of breath and the occasional blackout.

It's worth it. Because you've found proof of what you always knew: In Kansas City, you're never farther than a mile or two from a good pizza. Sometimes, in fact, you're a short walk from a great pizza, a pizza that defies the usual taxonomy - is this New York-style? St. Louis? Why doesn't anyone around here do Providence? - and establishes its own identity. There's no KC-style pizza in Savannah, and that's fine. We've got all the KC-style pizza right here. (All of it except the one that got away, the one we figure you'll tell us about.)


All Star Pizza & Pub

6100 Northwest 63rd Terrace, 816-587-6000, allstarpizzaandpub.com

Amore? Craft-beer and pizza lovers' refuge in the Northland

Signature pie: The Dot.com Special — a weekly selection from creations suggested on the restaurant's website

Noteworthy deal: A salad and mini pizza with two toppings for $7 (11 a.m.–2 p.m. Monday–Friday)

Toppings: Bait (white anchovies), sweet-pepper-pesto and roasted-garlic-butter sauces, grilled squash, avocado and sun-dried tomatoes.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price range: A small cheese costs $8, while a large Ultra Mega Combo Supreme is $24.

All Star's bar is inviting, running the length of the restaurant, beneath a ceiling filled with upside-down umbrellas from sports teams. Go for the beer list — 31 taps plus another 10 that will be installed soon — but you'll be ordering pizzas after seeing them come out of the kitchen. The pub pizza is closer to flatbread, with the Thai Pie (a homemade peanut sauce and red-chili chicken) and the Shrimpy (grilled shrimp and chorizo in a jalapeño cream sauce) regularly appearing on plates. The classic pizza has house-made red sauce and a fair bit of grease, but it grows on you after another round.


The Art of Pizza

1801 Baltimore, 816-421-1888, theartofpizzakc.com

Amore? For Art of Pizza fans, a long wait never matters.

Signature pie: The Meataholic, topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham and ground beef, is not for the faint of artery.

Noteworthy deal: All-you-can-eat pasta on Mondays for $5.95

Toppings: Feta is as exotic as Art gets.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: From $15.95 for an 18-inch cheese to $22.95 for the Meataholic

This Crossroads pie joint is home to tortured pizza-maker Victor Almo, whose pies reflect his mood swings. When Almo is content, his pizza lives up to the claims that this is the city's best New York–style version. Other days, an order of crackling garlic knots is best. Roll the dice with a $12 carryout special on Fridays (order between 4 and 6 p.m. every week except First Fridays).


Barley's Brewhaus

11924 West 119th Street, Overland Park, 913-663-4099

16649 Midland Drive, Shawnee, 913-268-5160, barleysbrewhaus.com

Amore? People come for the beer first and the pizza ... not quite first.

Signature pie: The Windy City is the only pizza on the menu.

Noteworthy deal: Plan your pie around whatever beer special is available that day.

Toppings: Meat is a smart choice for the sake of structural integrity.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $19 (one ingredient) and up

Chicago-style pizza is on few local menus and is done well by even fewer restaurants. The crust on the version at Barley's, light brown and tantalizingly flaky around the top, suggests that someone in the kitchen here knows the basics. But the heavy, chunky sauce and the pie's inner architecture stray from what a purist demands without compensating with strong flavors. On the other hand, you can drink a lot of beer — good beer, given that this is Barley's — in the 40 minutes it takes to bake one of these bastards, by which time this pizza is about cushioning. And claiming to be a purist about Chicago pizza in a KC bar is a dick move anyway.

Bella Napoli

6229 Brookside Boulevard, 816-444-5041, kcbellanapoli.com

Amore? A taste of Rome in Brookside

Signature pie: The Giovanni (sausage, onion, peppers, tomato and mozzarella)

Noteworthy deal: 10-inch pies for $5 on Monday nights

Toppings: Great selection of Italy-centric cured meats

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: Most pies are around the $10 mark.

Part café, part grocery, part classy restaurant, Bella Napoli is one of those quiet, easy-to-miss Brookside spots that makes the neighborhood a coveted place to live. The authentic Italian sandwiches are the star menu items, but the pizza is a close second. The crust is chewy (in a good way), and the mozzarella is always fresh. (The recipe and all ingredients for the dough are imported from Italy, the menu notes.)


Blue Grotto

6324 Brookside Plaza, 816-361-3473, bluegrottobrookside.com

Amore? Progressive wood-fired pies

Signature pie: Quattro Formaggio (bubbling ricotta, asiago, aged gouda, goat cheese, extra-virgin olive oil)

Noteworthy deal: Half-price 8-inch pizzas 3–6 p.m. weekdays

Toppings: Hard to beat the lamb sausage.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: Most $14

There's a pepperoni pizza on Blue Grotto's menu, but it's the type of place where you feel a little silly ordering it. If you're going to shell out $15 for a 12-inch pizza, you might as well go with something like the Merguez: lamb sausage, tomato, roasted pepper, olives and pecorino. Upscale is the name of the game here — the wine list is a cut above, and the Visitation moms who order glasses of it from the bar don't have any trouble paying for it — but the thin, adventurously conceived wood-fired pizzas are worth the price.


Caddy Shack  

700 East Third Street, 816-421-4742, caddyshackkc.com

Amore? It's a hole in the wall.

Signature pie: Supreme with pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, red onion and green pepper

Noteworthy deal: 9-inch Meat Lovers for $11

Toppings: Limited but include anchovies.

By the slice: No

Delivery: Yes, to downtown, the River Market, North Kansas City, Briarcliff and the Plaza.

Price: $9–$16

Caddy Shack, a dusty dive east of the River Market, attracts the type of clientele that prefers the comforting haze of a few glasses of Maker's. Maybe that's why the city's drinkers rave about the pies here. Caddy Shack's grid-cut 9-inch pizza is the perfect size for a drinker. The crust is thin, without the saltine texture that snakebites other joints. The toppings are plentiful, with mounds of meats and veggies peeking out. It's good pizza to pair with a few drinks — and a solid sober lunch, too.


Café al Dente

412D Delaware, 816-472-9444, cafealdentekc.com

Amore? Good downtown pizza delivery is hard to find.

Signature pie: Several, but the Gray Cup stands out (white sauce, chicken, mushrooms, Canadian bacon and pepperoncini).

Noteworthy deal: Happy hour 4–7 p.m. with $2.25 domestic bottles

Toppings: Smoked Cajun sausage, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini

By the slice: No

Delivery: Yes

Price: $9.75 for a 12-inch regular cheese pie; $17.75 for a 16-inch specialty pizza, like the Draft Pick (mushrooms, green pepper, onion, black olives, zucchini, eggplant and tomato).

Nestled on a cozy corner of one of Kansas City's best streets (Delaware), Café al Dente quietly slings some of the tastiest pies in the metro. This is the place for speciality pizzas — with 12 options, all bearing football-themed names — like the 1st & 10 (pepperoni, Canadian bacon, hamburger, sausage, Italian sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, onion and black olives). The pizzas come on a firm crust with golden brown cheese and toppings stuffed inside. Don't have time to dine in? Café al Dente delivers downtown for $1.50. Tip your driver.

Chiusano's Brick Oven Pizzeria

1713 Village West Parkway, Kansas City, Kansas, 913-299-8787, chiusanospizza.com

Amore? Offbeat and unexpected topping choices

Signature pie: The KC Chiefs Cheesesteak, with sliced sirloin, green pepper, caramelized onion, mushrooms, cheddar and mozzarella.

Noteworthy deal: A slice of cheese pizza costs $3, but you can get a 9-inch cheese pizza for $7.

Toppings: Elk sausage, brie cheese, Thai pepper peanut sauce, and duck foie gras

By the slice: Yes, but not all of the featured pizzas are offered by the slice.

Delivery: No

Price: $7–$20

This independently owned pizzeria is surrounded by acres of chain restaurants. Owner Robert Borberg is proud of his oven — a round, candy-apple-red Remco Millennium 2000 that evokes something out of Blade Runner. The "brick" part of the oven is a heavy, round fired object that mechanically rotates inside the oven at a properly crust-scorching temperature.


Coal Vines

616 Ward Parkway, 816-912-2690, coalvines.com

Amore? The dining room is dark and sexy at night, particularly in the balmy months when the windows facing Brush Creek are open.

Signature pie: The White Pizza, topped with mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and oregano.

Noteworthy deal: In addition to the regular menu, there are daily pasta, pizza and seafood specials.

Toppings: The list isn't very extensive, considering the pretensions of this Plaza pizzeria.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $11–$17

Coal Vines' pizzas are visually pretty here, but as they say in Italy, L'abito non fa il monaco — the cowl does not make the monk.


d'Bronx

3904 Bell, 816-531-0550; other locations, see dbronxkc.com

Amore? Off the chart

Signature pie: It all starts with the plain cheese pizza ...

Noteworthy deal: ... which is big (16 inches) but only about $14 with tax.

Toppings: This is where big, grindery meatballs really know how to ball.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: From $2.85 cheese slice to $75 for a 30-inch "party" size with a butcher's block of meat on it

Nothing in this cruel, bitter life is certain, but a d'Bronx pizza racks up three facts you can count on: a crisp yet buttery crust, a tangy sauce and smartly proportioned cheese. Is it fair to count these items separately? Is it blasphemy to dissect a little miracle, as though such a thing can be understood? Not everywhere, no. But here, yes, where crust and sauce and cheese make a holy trinity, and we can't remember a slice ever letting us down.


Fun House Pizza & Pub

9120 East 350 Highway, Raytown, 816-356-5141, funhousepizza.com

Amore? Big with kids' sports teams, smokers, and Raytown alumni

Signature pie: Polish and Kraut (Polish sausage and sauerkraut) and the BLT (bacon, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes)

Noteworthy deal: On Thursday, all large pizzas come with a pitcher of soda.

Toppings: Very kid-friendly; few vegetarian selections outside the norm

By the slice: No, but mini pizzas are available for lunch.

Delivery: Raytown only

Price: A small cheese costs $8.55, while a large Big Daddy (ham, pepperoni, Italian sausage, olives, green pepper, onion, tomatoes and beef) costs $21.39.

Much like a trip to Fun House, eating Fun House pizza is a little messy, heavy on sensory overload and surprisingly gratifying. Locals pack the long, family-style tables for pies that hang over the edge of the dish. The crust is crisp on the bottom, with toppings piled high. Pizzas are called out from the counter, so listen closely when the joint is packed. While you wait, kick back with a cold $2.50 domestic draft, watch the kids on the coin-operated horse, and recall the good ol' days when a trip to the pizza parlor with the fam was as good as it got.

Grinders

417 East 18th Street, 816-472-5454, grinderspizza.com

Amore? Hipsters and the business crowd sit elbow to elbow.

Signature pie: Chili Bomb Pie, with tater tots, chili, cheese, and scallions piled high in the center.

Noteworthy deal: The Show-Me Pie Package — a small specialty or large two-topping pizza plus a cold, domestic six-pack for $25

Toppings: Tandoori chicken and smoked salmon are just the start.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: From $8.75 for a 10-inch cheese to $19.25 for an 18-inch gourmet pie.

Grinders is never subtle or minimalist. The pies come with outlandish combinations — cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers and pesto sauce on the Goldberg "Phats" comes to mind. There's real thought in the madness. The salty capers cut the cream cheese, and the pesto ensures that this isn't an open-face sandwich but a crisp flat slice of a New York–style pie.


Imo's Pizza

4037 Mill Street, 816-931-4667

11552 West 135th Street, Overland Park, 913-529-4667

imospizza.com

Amore? For those who crave square pie

Signature pie: Square slices smothered in Provel

Noteworthy deal: An 8-inch one-topping pizza, side salad and 16-ounce drink for $6.89

Toppings: Jalapeño and anchovy co-exist here.

By the slice: No

Delivery: Yes

Price: From $8.85 for a 10-inch cheese to $21.79 for a 16-inch meat pizza.

Imo's offers small concessions for those who don't get St. Louis–style pizza: thicker crusts and mozzarella cheese. If you're walking through the door, you're already committed to Provel. The creamy, white processed cheese dominates the browned cracker crust. Vegetables and meat are swallowed by the fluid tidal wave of cheese product. Imo's has started offering Provel bites (tater-tot-sized fried cheese sticks), so you can mainline St. Louis.


Italian Delight by Avelluto

6522 Martway, Mission, 913-262-7564, theitaliandelight.com

Amore? Diners like this casual, family-owned Italian diner.

Signature pie: the $19 Polpette — fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, parmigiano-reggiano, olive oil, fresh basil, freshly cracked pepper and sliced meatballs

Noteworthy deal: The pizza isn't cheap, but beer is $3.

Toppings: Meatballs and Italian sausage rule.

By the slice: Yes, thin crust or thick

Delivery: For catering only

Price: From $2.09 (thin-crust slice) to $21.19 (for large "gourmet" pizza)

The Avelluto family first opened a pizza joint at Indian Springs Shopping Center in 1977. (That one moved a couple of years ago to 8145 State Avenue, in Kansas City, Kansas.) The Mission satellite, a mainstay since the early 1980s, started as a narrow, Melamine-tabled eatery. After the Avellutos closed their adjoining, more upscale Café Italia, Italian Delight expanded into that space. You still order at the counter and take a number, and your food is served at the tables, which are now dressed up in white-plastic tablecloths. A recent thin-crust cheese slice with mushrooms, ordered to-go, was flavorful and crunchy, if light on sauce.


Jerry's Bait Shop

13412 Santa Fe Trail Drive, Lenexa, 913-894-9676

302 Southwest Main, Lee's Summit, 816-525-1871, jerrysbaitshop.net

Amore? A nautical juke joint with pizza

Signature pie: Big Kahuna (Italian sausage, beef, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, mushrooms, black olives, green pepper, onion and tomato)

Noteworthy deal: Small cheese for $6.99

Toppings: Get them in calzones, too.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $6.99–$20.99

If you're getting your pizza fix at the Lenexa outpost of Jerry's Bait Shop, be prepared for a little ear ringing. The spot has live music six nights a week, lively patrons and trains that rumble by on the tracks outside the front door. The pies here are pretty standard: a bit greasy with adequate toppings and decent cheese. Jerry's pizzas are also known for "braided" crusts, which look kinda like ropes on a ship, showing thorough commitment to the bait theme.

Joe's Pizza Buy the Slice

4058 Pennsylvania, 816-931-2777, joespizzakc.com

Amore? For Pyramid Pizza nostalgists

Signature pie: The Big XII — pork sausage, beef, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, black olives, sliced almonds, tomato slices, bacon and pepperoni with mozzarella, cheddar and provolone

Noteworthy deal: $5.25 gets you a slice, salad and large drink or two slices and a large drink, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Toppings: Meats and veggies, but this is Kansas City; you can get barbecue sauce on your pie.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: $10.99 for a 14-inch cheese pizza ($1.49 for additional toppings); a large specialty pizza goes for $17.99.

Joe's Pizza offers the cheapest by-the-slice lunch special in midtown. The little pizza shop in the back of Westport institution Kelly's offers two daily lunch deals for less than $6. If you can't make it for lunch, Joe's sells slices until 3 a.m. for those closing it down in the party district.


Johnny C's

11200 West 75th Street, Shawnee, 913-631-3234

Amore? This double-sided joint is packed on weekend nights — the dining room with families and the bar with younger townies, often in KU gear.

Signature pie: Cheesy Cheese, made with Provel, mozzarella, cheddar and romano

Noteworthy deal: The $4.25 daily lunch special lets you pick two options from a pepperoni or sausage slice, salad, half-sandwich, soup, toasted ravioli and garlic bread.

Toppings: Standard

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: An 8-inch individual cheese pizza costs $3.70. A 16-inch all-meat "J"-iant pie is $21.55.

St. Louis–style is the name of the game at Johnny C's. This means a seriously crunchy, hard cracker crust with loads of Provel and spicy sauce. (Crusts can go thicker, and Provel can be replaced by mozzarella.) We suggest the restaurant's signature sebago burger — a mix of Italian sausage and hamburger (hold the Provel) served with a $3.50 call cocktail or a $7 domestic pitcher with an icy mug. Extremely kid-friendly, Johnny C's hasn't changed much since the 1980s. The hanging faux-Tiffany lamps and Spuds MacKenzie doll behind the bar tell the story.


Johnny Jo's

1209 West 47th Street, 816-401-4483, johnnyjospizza.wordpress.com

Amore? True love for John Milone's pies

Signature pie: The Meathead (pepperoni, Virginia ham, Italian sausage and hamburger)

Noteworthy deal: An 18-inch four-topping pizza is $17 on Mondays.

Toppings: Roma tomatoes, pineapples and grated romano cheese ... heavenly.

By the slice: Yes, a slice from a 20-inch pie costs $3.50.

Delivery: No

Price: $15.35 for a 16-inch cheese pizza; $24.40 for the Works (pepperoni, Italian sausage, green bell pepper and onion

John Milone's no-frills pizzeria opens at 5 p.m. and closes up shop at 10 (he's also closed Sundays), but his New York–style pies are worth waiting for. Tucked in a little storefront in the West Plaza, Johnny Jo's sells slices and whole pies with fresh ingredients. The pepperoni pizza is a divine experience out of the oven and almost as good warmed up the next day.


Johnny's Tavern

1310 Grand, 816-268-2260, johnnystavern.com

Amore? A slice of KU in Kansas City's Power & Light District.

Signature pie: The Great Bambino (mushrooms, red onion, green pepper, black olives, choice of one meat topping)

Noteworthy deal: $2.99 for a cheese slice that's roughly the size of Greenpoint

Toppings: Three kinds of olives

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: Slice, $2.99–$4.99; 18-inch, $14–$17

Johnny's serves pizza seemingly by the acre. You think you have a concept of the size of an 18-inch pizza. When it arrives, the thin, New York–style pizzas take up 60 percent of the high-top table. The slices can be folded as many times as a Rand McNally map. It's an uncomplicated, straightforward New York homage that pairs well with sports on the dozens of TVs hanging throughout the bar.

Judge's Pizza

5171 North Chouteau Trafficway, Gladstone, 816-453-1516

Amore?  Regulars hold court at the copper bar.  

Signature pie: Supreme Court (pepperoni, Canadian bacon, hamburger, Italian sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, onion and black olives)

Noteworthy deal: All-you-can eat spaghetti and meatballs for $7.99 Monday nights.

Toppings: Two kinds of sausage (American and Italian), bacon, red onion and green olives, among the standard set.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Nestled between a Pizza Hut and a Papa John's, Judge's Pizza is trying to make a case for the independent pizzeria. Inside the A-frame building is a long copper bar anchored by men who know their way around a domestic bottle of beer. The pizzas, affectionately named with courtroom lingo (the meat lover's is the Jury Selection and the vegetarian pie is known as the Prosecutor's Preference), are the draw. Opt for the pan crust over the thin; the stretchy cheese extends to the end of a slice, and the final few bites taste of brushed butter. You'll leave with the verdict never in doubt: full.  


Kelso's Northtown

300 Armour Road, North Kansas City, 816-221-8899, kelsoskansascity.com

Amore? More loyal fans than the Royals

Signature pie: The Jimmy Piersall — mushrooms, black olives, green pepper, onion, garlic

Noteworthy deal: $11.95 for a Take & Bake pepperoni, cheese or meat combo

Toppings: The Tommy Lasorda is delightful in name and appearance, with sliced chicken spiedini, artichoke hearts, cheese and white sauce.  

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $10.99 for a small cheese, $20.99 for a large Grand Slam (cheese, sausage, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, black olives, onion and green pepper)

North Kansas City is better off since Jeff Kelso followed in his father's footsteps and opened a pizza shop after retiring from professional baseball. Kelso's Northtown has echoes of Bill Kelso's Liberty joint; the hand-tossed pies have a hint of oregano and piles of mozzarella. The pizza is divided into Signature and Specialty pies, with most named for ballplayers, like the Joe DiMaggio with Italian sausage, salami, pepperoni, Roma tomato and roasted red pepper. Kelso's is what it has always been: a pizza joint masquerading as a sports bar.


Leo's Pizza

408 Northwest Englewood, 816-453-6666, leospizzakc.com

Amore? A neighborhood pizza joint not that much bigger than a pizza box

Signature pie: The Leo's Deluxe (sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, onion, and green pepper)

Noteworthy deal: $4.50 for an 8-inch personal lunch pizza served 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

Toppings: The traditional options — and shrimp, regular or large

By the slice: No

Delivery: Only after 5 p.m. in the immediate Gladstone area

Signature pie: The Leo's Deluxe (sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, onion, and green pepper)

Noteworthy deal: $4.50 for an 8-inch personal lunch pizza served 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

Price: $7.70–$20.15

The late Leo Failoni opened his namesake pizzeria the same year that The Godfather: Part II was released — when all things Italian were considered sexy and slightly dangerous. The venue's tagline is "really Italian," though Leo's uses Provel (mozzarella costs extra), and one of the more popular toppings is pineapple. Appropriately, Leo's is tucked between a barbecue joint and a Weight Watchers office.


Mamma Leone's

650 East Red Bridge Road, 816-943-1760, mammaleones.com

Amore? All the nostalgia of mall pizza in a freestanding restaurant

Signature pie: Mamma's special has beef, onion, black olives and ham.

Noteworthy deal: A square 16-inch pie costs $14.95.

Toppings: The wildest it gets is pepperoncini.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: $10.95–$21.45

Mamma Leone's is an adult take on kid pizza — pizza that you never outgrow. It's the kind of comfortable, Sicilian-style pizza in which the crust (which holds a proper fold like a carb-loaded paper airplane) is the standout. Mamma Leone's is fast, too. A fully cooked scratch pie is ready in less than 15 minutes. Call ahead and take advantage of Mamma Leone's drive-thru window.

Marco Polo's Italian Market

1201 West 103rd Street, 816-941-6600, jasperskc.com

Amore? Marco Polo's is the storefront for one of the most respected Italian eateries in KC — Jasper's.

Signature pie: The Around the Boot, with nine ingredients

Noteworthy deal: A slice of white clam, full of bits of clam and white sauce, costs $3.95.

Toppings: Sicilian fennel sausage, sweet onion, artichoke hearts, prosciutto

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: An 11-inch medium cheese — no smalls here — costs $12.95, while a square-pan combination costs $20.95.

Jasper Mirabile Jr. and his kitchen staff don't mess around when it comes to the traditional favorite: a thin, simple crust with light cheese (a blend of fontina, provolone and fresh mozzarella) and sweet sauce. Get to Marco Polo's early in the day for fresh slices or call in a whole pie and pick it up — the atmosphere of Marco Polo's isn't quite as cozy as at Jasper's.


Mark & Michelle's Bar & Grill

7102 North Oak Trafficway, Gladstone, 816-436-6600

Amore? The Cheers of Gladstone

Signature pie: Supreme — all available toppings

Noteworthy deal: $24.75 for a medium two-topping pie and 2 pounds of wings

Toppings: Standard

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: From $6.75 for a 10-inch cheese to $17.75 for a 14-inch Supreme

Mark & Michelle's is a neighborhood bar with the coziness of a basement living room. The pizza, which Mark & Michelle's contends is the best in Kansas City, is exactly what you would want in your rec room — the best frozen pizza that has never been frozen. The crust is thin, with an even coating of cheese and sauce. Throw in a few bottled beers (there are no beers on tap) and a few games on the two pool tables, and you'll see why you'd be a regular here if you lived nearby.


McCoy's Public House

4057 Pennsylvania, 816-960-0866, mccoyspublichouse.com

Amore? Westport's most comfy dining room

Signature pie: Margherita

Noteworthy deal: Kitchen Sink (Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, basil roasted peppers, caramelized onion, three cheeses) for $12

Toppings: Lobster and citrus crema

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $11–$14

With its own beers on tap and cozy booths lining just about every wall, McCoy's is a homey place to unwind. So it's fitting that the pizzas here are cooked in a brick oven that's reminiscent of an old, grand fireplace. The pizza here is flatbread-style, with coaster-sized pepperoni, freshly torn basil, savory 12-hour red sauce, and a delicious salty mixture of cheeses. The more adventurous should stop next door at McCoy's sister eatery, the Foundry (424 Westport Road), to try the Cheat Lover's pizza, with faux cheese and meat and lots of veggies ($13).


Minsky's

5105 Main, 816-561-5100

Many other metro locations — see minskys.com

Amore? Cheesiest pizza in town

Signature pie: Papa Minsky (pepperoni, Italian sausage, salami, roasted red peppers, sweet "Minskitoni" sauce)

Noteworthy deal: Buy one medium, get the second medium half-off.

Toppings: This place has everything, but ask for a side of the peppercorn ranch dressing to give the crust a little extra kick.

By the slice: For lunch at certain locations.

Delivery: Yes

Price: A medium pepperoni runs about $14; a large gourmet pizza, like the Italian Buffalo-Style Chicken, goes for $18.99.

There are tastier pizza places, and cheaper ones and more sophisticated ones, but no local pizza chain in town is as consistently pretty-damn-good as Minsky's. Its greatest attribute is its versatility: suitable for after the kids' soccer games, casual Tuesday dates or lazy Friday-night deliveries. We're partial to the honey-wheat crust (great with a plain old pepperoni) and the dozen or so "gourmet" pies, like the Cheeseburger (hamburger, sweet "Minskitoni" sauce, onion, sliced pickles, mozzarella, cheddar). Some find the Minsky's cheese — a thick blanket of 100 percent Wisconsin mozzarella — too filling, but we're not ones to complain about a surplus of cheese.

Monetti's Taste of Italy

1313 Northeast Douglas, Lee's Summit, 816-524-1777, monettistasteofitaly.com

Amore? There's a real Italian pizza maker (he speaks very little English) tossing the pizza dough behind a glass window. Brooklyn-born restaurateur Giuliano Monetti Jr. is known to burst into song in the middle of the dining room.

Signature pie: All the pies are made-to-order.

Noteworthy deal: From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a slice of cheese pizza costs $3, and the pepperoni is $3.25.

Toppings: Lots of salty things — feta cheese, Kalamata olives, ham, anchovies

By the slice: During lunch only

Delivery: No

Price: Depends on the number of toppings, but it ranges from $8 to $40.

Giuliano Monetti built a stone façade around his wood-fired pizza oven (it burns white oak) so that it looks like something you might see in Brooklyn, if not Naples. He uses only whole-milk mozzarella and a house-made marinara on his pies, which have a thin but appealingly chewy crust.


Next Door Pizza & Pub

3385 Southwest Fascination Drive, Lee's Summit, 816-763-1200, nextdoorpizza.com

Amore? Both thick-crust Chicago-style and thin-crust pizzas

Signature pie: The N9ne, named for Tech N9ne, promises "red everything."

Noteworthy deal: On Mondays, three children eat free with the purchase of a large pizza.

Toppings: It's one of the few pizza venues (maybe the only one) in the metro that offers a Bacon Explosion pizza: smoked sausage stuffed with bacon and wrapped in bacon.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $10.45–$21.95

Owners Patrick and Joy Cuezze just wanted a neighborhood pizza parlor that would appeal to both the college students in the neighborhood and the young couples with children living in the surrounding suburbs. If that's not your scene, don't go Next Door.


Northern Lights

7811 North Oak, 816-420-9977

7711 Prairie View, 816-587-5050

See northernlightspizza.com for additional locations

Amore? Dorm-room nostalgia

Signature pie: The Louisiana chicken supreme

Noteworthy deal: A medium two-topping pizza, breadsticks, two cans of soda, and a choice of wings or dessert for $17.99

Toppings: The usual meats and veggies, but also sauerkraut

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $10.49 for a medium cheese; a large "super combo" runs $17.99.

Remember the pizza you'd order in college? The hot, fast, cheap and good (at least, you remember it being good) pizza that you'd order and eat for the next 48 hours? That's Northern Lights. The Missouri-Iowa chain covers those four basics and puts together deals that could feed a football team (or a dorm-room party). Order Northern Lights and eat like you're in college.


Old Shawnee Pizza & Italian Kitchen

6000 Rogers Drive, Shawnee, 913-631-5716, shawneepizza.com

Amore? Loyal customers can show their love with Affliction-style T-shirts, available online and at the store.

Signature pie: Creamy Italian — cream cheese, tomato, roasted garlic, Italian sausage, artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes, three-cheese blend

Noteworthy deal: On Whiskey Thursdays, get any large specialty pie for $18.99 and any whiskey for $3.

Toppings: Nine different sauces, 13 cheeses, 19 meats (including crab and brisket), and 23 herbs and vegetables.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: A 9-inch one-topping pie costs $7.95, and an 18-inch Biggin' can go as high as $29.55.

Old Shawnee is a crowd-pleaser with its selection of 28 specialty pizzas, a full cocktail menu, and awesome pizza sauce that's available by the jar for $3.99. Old Shawnee calls its signature-pie style "Midwest," meaning fresh-daily homemade dough that's rolled thin and piled high with toppings. We recommend mixing it up with dill pickles and Scimeca's Italian sausage, and enjoying an Italian margarita — an $8 doozy made with Patrón Silver and Disaronno.

Old Town Pizza

14850 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-897-9242, kcoldtownpizza.com

Amore? Yippee-ki-yay

Signature pie: Among various Wild West-sounding pizza names, there's the Stampede, which includes more pork than beef and therefore suggests a good old-fashioned hog trampling.

Noteworthy deal: Various daily specials

Toppings: Respectably 1980s

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $7 for an 8-inch with one topping; $18 for a 14-inch specialty pie

With its saloon chandeliers and gunfighter logo, Old Town Pizza could have been a stop on the old Santa Fe Trail — if the cattle drive somehow time-warped to the early Reagan administration. (Oddly, though, none of the food here approaches wagon-wheel size; the small pie can be demolished in about 10 bites.) It's the kind of unfussy, one-crust-fits-all suburban joint where a whole lot of us first fell in love with pizza.


Open Fire Pizza

3951 Broadway, 816-605-1644

Amore? Its mission is earnest without being cheesy.

Signature pie: These are DIY pies.

Noteworthy deal: $8.59 for a 10-inch pizza with a salad or soup.

Toppings: Eat your vegetables because the toppings are unlimited — organic onion, roasted mushrooms and red pepper.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $6.99–$7.99

The art that decorates Open Fire Pizza's walls hints at the restaurant's purpose. Open Fire supports Art Closet Studios, the community-driven arts workshop and work space operating behind a set of doors off the dining room. With live music and rotating art exhibits, there's a lot going on in the space. But the glow and the smell emanating from the wood-fired brick oven make it clear that this is a pizza place. The oven is the room's centerpiece, producing pies with a bit of chew. The toppings are local and organic, when possible, as part of the art operation's stated mission of sustainability.


Original Pizza

11134 Antioch, Overland Park, 913-451-9245; other locations — originalpizzakc.com

Amore? Nearly three decades in the same OP strip mall must mean something, right?

Signature pie: Original claims to have "the best New York–style pizza in Kansas City."

Noteworthy deal: The $15 large cheese pie is a whopping 18 inches.

Toppings: You could get something besides just cheese or pepperoni, but that would be silly.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price range: From $2.50 for a plain slice to $16 for a 16-inch square pie

When the quarters ran out at Fun Factory, the mall kids hustled upstairs to the food court, where a burnout in an apron would take a couple of singles from you and heat a slice of pizza until it was a temperature conducive to further incubating all those joystick germs. Those days are gone, but Original Pizza — ruler of Oak Park Mall teens back then — is still rocking the suburbs at College Boulevard and Antioch. It's as New York as pizza gets around here, at least in terms of presentation: a long line of pies, ready to be poached from and oven-freshened for you while a kid in an apron tries to upsell you a salad. Get a second slice instead.


The Other Place

7324 West 80th Street, Overland Park, 913-652-9494

16590 West 135th Street, Olathe, 913-791-9500

theotherplace.com

Amore? This could be the busiest place in downtown OP on a Friday night.

Signature pie: The Four Star with pepperoni, sausage, green pepper and mushrooms

Noteworthy deal: Nothing pricewise, but there are 50 TVs, all tuned to sporting events.

Toppings: Standard, plus sauerkraut and cilantro

By the slice: Yes, at lunch for $2.50

Delivery: No

Price: A 9-inch cheese costs $7.50; a 16-inch specialty can run as high as $23.75.

The Other Place's first location, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, opened in 1970 and was primarily a college bar with pizza. By 2013, the concept has been tweaked enough that the OP location is more a sports bar with pizza on its menu. The soft crust and tangy sauce don't stand up too well to sandwiches, subs and salads that are also available, but the atmosphere and drink specials can't be beat.

Papa Keno's

1035 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-841-7272

7901 Santa Fe, Overland Park, 913-648-1313, ks.papakenos.com

Amore? Trending upward again after some rocky years

Signature pie: The Steely Dan–sounding Kid Keno — pepperoni, spinach, feta, romano, roasted garlic

Noteworthy deal: Two-topping slice, salad and draft beer for $10

Toppings: Just because sauerkraut is available doesn't mean it's a good idea.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: From $3.50 (cheese slice) to $27 (loaded 26-inch pie)

In the early 1990s, Papa Keno's imported the big-ass New York slice to Lawrence. By late 1995, there was a PK in Overland Park, and it, too, was an overnight hit. A decade and change later, the business suffered a failed expansion across the state line, a back-taxes quagmire, a labor dispute and a bankruptcy filing — hits you could taste in the frustratingly inconsistent food. Now, though, new ownership is overseeing old recipes, and there's reason to believe again. The slices are no longer gargantuan, and the prices are more uptown than the décor, but you'd forgive many more trespasses for this sauce.


Pie-zanos Pizzeria

7932 North Oak Trafficway, 816-436-5050 , piezanos.net

Amore? Hope bubbles up like good pizza crust.

Signature pie: The Bulldog (pepperoni, bacon, black olives and mushrooms)

Noteworthy deal: An 8-inch cheese pizza costs $4.99 (lunch only).

Toppings: The sauces include Alfredo and buffalo.

By the slice: No

Delivery: Yes

Price: A 10-inch cheese costs $7.99, and a 16-inch Supreme is $18.99.

A new pizza shop has a checklist of items to cross off before it opens: row of booths, bank of arcade games, cheap domestic beer. Opening just last month in a former Pizza Street location, Pie-zanos has the first two covered and is hoping to secure its beer and wine license by next month. Now, it's serving a bready pie with a brown crust around a pretzel-like interior. The sauce is sweet, and the toppings are fresh — and the Hawaiian is even better cold the next morning.


Pizza Bar

1320 Grand, 816-221-8466, pizzabarkc.com

Amore? You're drunk in the Power & Light District, and it's the only hot, cheap thing that lets you put your mouth on it.

Signature pie: Pepperoni

Noteworthy deal: The $8, 32-ounce Miller Lite or Coors Light comes in a cup you keep.

Toppings: Nothing exotic

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: Slices, $3–$4.50; pizzas, $15–$20.

Chances are, if you're eating at Pizza Bar, you're drunk. The P&L pizza joint's imitation New York slices are so thin, they're easiest to eat by folding or rolling. You need two or three napkins just to clear the slicks off each greasy slice. But pizza is pizza when you're drinking, and Pizza Bar fills a need. Open until 3 a.m., Pizza Bar is the loud, last stop of a late night in the P&L.


Pizzabella

1810 Baltimore, 816-471-3300, pizzabellakc.com

4000 Indian Creek Parkway, Leawood, 913-341-7700

Amore? Passion for this pizza runs as hot as Pizzabella's 700-degree oven.

Signature pie: Biancoverde with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta and arugula

Noteworthy deal: Little Freshie sodas for $3

Toppings: Potatoes, leeks, eggs and chorizo — the whole farmhouse

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $10–$14

A well-placed pile of arugula on the prosciutto pie and fat slices of radicchio on the potato pizza provide a balance to rich, bubbly cheese. Pizzabella's thin, wood-fired pie is right for sharing, as long as you snag a bowl of Brussels sprouts or a fish special. And just when you think you'll have something to take home, poof, it's gone.

Pizza 51

5060 Oak, 816-531-1151

5938 Mission, Fairway, 913-766-1133, pizza51.com

Amore? Sliceheads and NY-style adherents wish the place were open 24 hours.

Signature pie: The Cowtown Lovers, with pepperoni, sausage, beef, romano and ... Canadian bacon? Huh.

Noteworthy deal: The Fairway shop opens at 9 a.m. and serves $4.25 breakfast pizza.

Toppings: The romano is unusually tasty.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: Limited

Price: $3.25 for a cheese slice up to $40 for a 26-inch specialty pie

With its old filling-station interior and its patios made for people watching, both Pizza 51s feel as though they've been fixtures here for decades. But the restaurant is a relatively young player on the scene, and a regular 51'er still witnesses the occasional display of adolescent regression: a distracting bray of gossip from the oven dudes, a slower than usual pie. That's all part of being a regular, though, and the heaping slices and brash sauce are more than good enough to keep this place at the front of the rotation.


The Pizza Man

10212 Pflumm, Lenexa, 913-492-2116

Amore? For Chicago ex-pats, the only thing better is Ditka.

Signature pie: A 16-inch Kitchen Sink (Italian sausage, ground beef, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mushroom, onion, green olives and pineapple) for $20.30

Noteworthy deal: A 9-inch cheese costs $5.50.

Toppings: Dill pickles and anchovies are available. Combine at your own risk.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $5.50–$20.30

Pizza Man owner Mike Klaersch, often clad in Chicago sportswear, takes the orders, cooks the pizzas and serves the food in the blue-and-red-painted space dedicated to the Cubs, Bulls, Bears and Blackhawks. The sauce here is more pepper than sugar, an added kick that punches up thinly sliced vegetables or crumbled hamburger.


RecordBar

1020 Westport Road, 816-753-5207, therecordbar.com

Amore? Good music and creative pizzas

Signature pie: The Reuben Kinkaid — corned beef, sauerkraut and sliced potatoes over Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese and mozzarella

Noteworthy deal: A small pizza with three toppings goes for $7.

Toppings: With 13 cheeses and meats and 18 vegetables, the combinations seem endless.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $5–$13

It's impressive when a bar or restaurant offers a decent-sized menu and still gets pizza right. RecordBar is one such place. The Westport club with an exhaustive concert schedule has a rock-themed menu of sandwiches, salads and pasta that comes bound in a classic LP sleeve. But it's the pizza that makes us twist and shout. The crust is chewy, the sauce is savory (not overly sweet), and the variety of specialty pies is wider than at most high-end spots. Bonus: We're glad that MiniBar (3810 Broadway) also serves the pies.


Red 8

7300 West 119th Street, Overland Park, 913-451-0444, oneblocksouthkc.com

Amore? Crowds are just now getting acquainted with Shawn McClenny's south JoCo entertainment district.

Signature pie: The Dragon, made with Canadian bacon, pineapple, onions and cilantro

Noteworthy deal: $1 happy-hour slices

Toppings: Standard

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: 10-inch individual pies cost $10, with additional toppings $1; 16-inch specialty pies are $18.

The thin-crust pizzas at Red 8 take a backseat when it comes to the small bar's fancy cocktails and by-the-hour billiard tables. However, after a couple of hours of hard drinking at either of the bars next door — Fuel or Kanza Hall — the soft crust and greasy cheese come alive in your mouth.

Ricco's Italian Bistro

11801 College Boulevard, Overland Park, 913-469-8405, riccoskc.com

Amore? An intimate dining room fragrant with the aroma of a wood-fired pizza oven, which burns white oak to bake the thin-crust pies.

Signature pie: The Garbage Truck, topped with pepperoni, spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms, onion, green pepper, mozzarella, provolone and house-made marinara

Noteworthy deal: Half-price pizza on Saturdays from 9 to 11 p.m.

Toppings: Two of the house pies include artichoke dip as an ingredient.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $8.99–$13.99

Ricco's pizza crust is nearly tissue-thin and crackly, under mostly Mediterranean-style toppings. For wood-fired fans, it's worth a trip south.


Rudy's

704 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-749-0055, rudyspizzeria.com

Amore? Ever heard of Danny Manning? Like that.

Signature pie: We're partial to the Hampy — spinach, tomato, black olives, onion and feta.

Noteworthy deal: Daily specials, the best of which might be Wednesday's small $3.75 pie.

Toppings: More than you probably need on your Pell Grant budget.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: Yes

Price range: Dollar slices at last call, $22 18-inch specialty pies

Whatever other experimentation goes on among KU students (and alumni), Rudy's is where a lot of us had our first pizza trip. Maybe your spirit animal was they-never-had-this-at-Pizza Hut feta. Maybe trying a whole-wheat crust blew your Little Caesar's-addicted mind. Or maybe you always knew good pizza but didn't expect to find your new favorite in a basement restaurant with the ambience of a tricked-out 1976 Ford Econoline. However you ended up here, the perfectly chewy, cheese-heavy, sauce-rich pies at Rudy's are distinctively flavored and earnestly served, and they generate pretty much boundless loyalty.


Santora's

3834 Main, 816-756-1616, santoraspizzas.com

Amore? Unrivaled affordability

Signature pie: Lasagna pie (sausage, hamburger, ricotta-herb blend, and mixture of romano and shredded parmesan)

Noteworthy deal: $1 lunch slices

Toppings: Standard Italian selections; sausage and meatballs from Scimeca's

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: Yes

Price: Slices go for $1 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; a medium one-topping carryout costs $7.58.

Home to the cheapest slice in KC, Santora's caters to starving artists from the Kansas City Art Institute; midtown commuters waiting for the next Main Street bus to arrive; and late-night runover from the dance club next door. The draw here is the price; nothing about the crust, sauce or cheese will bowl you over. It's also a tiny space, with carryout and delivery only. While you wait for your slice, you can browse the charming, Olan Mills-style family photos, which dot the walls and offer about as homey an atmosphere as can be found on this stretch of Main.


Spin Neapolitan Pizza

4950 Main, 816-561-7746

Many other metro locations — spinpizza.com

Amore? One of the few KC exports other than barbecue, with good reason.

Signature pie: Salsiccia — Scimeca's Italian sausage with caramelized onions

Noteworthy deal: The Mini Mia — a 6-inch, two-topping pie and a side salad or cup of soup for $8.75

Toppings: They understand pork pairings here — apples, pecans and onion-fig marmalade are great complements.

By the slice: No

Delivery: For orders of more than $100, there's a 15-percent fee, and 24 hours' notice is required.

Price: Formaggi (cheese) is $9.95, while a three-meat pie runs $12.95.

The white pies brushed with a roasted-garlic olive-oil glaze make the toppings the star, while the pizza rossa (made with Roma tomatoes) celebrates sausage (Italian and chicken). The stone pizza oven produces a bubbly crust that crackles when bitten into. Spin has a reasonably priced and good wine list, selected with guidance from Cellar Rat's Ryan Sciara. In the spring, roll on over during the organized bike rides, which happen as often as four nights per week.

Square Pizza

208 West Maple, Independence, 816-461-2929, squarepizzasquared.com

Amore? If Richie Cunningham and Potsie were working behind the counter, it could pass for a 1950s malt shop. And all the pies are baked in square brownie pans.

Signature pie: The Square House Supreme, with pepperoni, Italian sausage, beef, red onion, green pepper and fresh mushrooms

Noteworthy deal: The 10-inch Six Cheese Pizza costs just $2 more than the 10-inch Three Cheese Pizza.

Toppings: On the exotic end of the spectrum — banana peppers, roasted garlic and pine nuts

By the slice: 11 a.m.–2 p.m. only.

Delivery: No

Price: A slice costs $4.29; whole pies are $10–$21.90.

Owned by Independence powerhouse lawyer Ken McClain, this small-town pizzeria serves a pizza with a deliciously doughy crust — not unlike the kind served in your high school cafeteria, but less greasy.


The Stone Canyon Pizza Co.

15 Main, Parkville, 816-746-8686

8630 Northwest Prairie View Road, 816-741-4444

stonecanyonpizza.com

Amore? Big-league pizza in a small-town setting

Signature pie: Stone Canyon Choice (classic pizza sauce with mozzarella, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, ground beef, American sausage and sliced Italian meatballs)

Noteworthy deal: A two-topping mini pizza, a fountain drink and a choice of side salad or cup of soup for $7.95 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Toppings: A deep roster of meats, veggies with some premiums — sauces (KC Masterpiece, basil pesto, Alfredo, roasted garlic, olive oil), cheeses (goat, feta, asiago, romano), and crusts (gluten-free and crispy cracker)

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: From $7.95 for a 10-inch cheese pizza to $19.95 for a 14-inch Bob's Whole Hog (Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, Italian sausage, American sausage and KC masterpiece BBQ sauce with mozzarella and cheddar cheeses).

We don't need excuses to go to Parkville. But when we make the trip, and a pizza craving hits, we target Stone Canyon Pizza Co. The pizza joint offers so many choices, for such a fair price, that we can't resist. You want options? There are 13 specialty pies, for starters. But we like to build our own, keeping it simple with an original crust, classic sauce, mozzarella and American sausage or choosing from mix-and-match crusts, sauces, cheeses, meats and veggies. Get it to go and eat in neighboring Riverfront Park in the spring.


Sugo's Spaghetteria

13386 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-685-1667, sugoscucina.com

Amore? This is almost classic St. Louis–style pizza, baked on a paper-thin, slightly crispy crust. If it were authentic St. Louis pizza, the crust would be yeast-free.

Signature pie: The Babbo, topped with tomato sauce, sausage, caramelized onion, balsamic glaze, and oregano

Noteworthy deal: The pies average about $11.

Toppings: Limited but stylish

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $10–$11

Sugo's is the brainchild of St. Louis–based restaurateur Michael Del Pietro, the grandson of Roy Russo — who is credited with serving the first pizza in St. Louis in 1954. Sugo's may have the closest thing in KC to St. Louis-style pizza. The pies here — the kinds that Dean Martin used to sing about — are inexpensive enough that ordering an additional salad or entrée to share can make a very filling meal.


Sutera's

4730 Rainbow, Westwood, 913-262-7883, suteras.com

Amore? Casual dining for frugal Mission Hills types

Signature Pie: Stick to the basics; a supreme will get you where you want to go.

Noteworthy deal: A 7-inch, two-topping personal pizza with a salad for $8.99

Toppings: Sliced sausages

Delivery: No

By the slice: No

Price range Large two-toppings for $13.99

Its locations in the West Bottoms and Brookside are long gone, but Sutera's lives on in a strip mall off Rainbow Boulevard in a nexus of Fairway, Westwood and Mission Hills. The casual vibe — lots of middle-aged men wearing polo shirts drinking Bud Lights after 18 holes — is a welcome one considering the affluent neighborhoods that surround it. As for the pizza: The sauce is sweet, the crust is on the thin side but pleasantly moist, and the slices are cut into squares. If you're looking for evidence of Mission Hills snobbery, you won't find it here.

Tim's Pizza

17201 East Highway 40, Independence, 816-478-0777, timspizza.com

Amore? It's a casual hangout for amateur athletes — you know, Little League — and the sign on the door warns: "No cleats."

Signature pie: The House Special, topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, beef, onion and green pepper.

Noteworthy deal: A 6-inch luncheon pizza with a choice of three toppings for $6.05 is available 11 a.m.–2 p.m.

Toppings: If the Polish sausage-and-sauerkraut combination doesn't tempt you, maybe the Mexican pizza, with refried beans and taco meat, will.

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $11.45–$20.95

The original owners still run this joint, which doesn't accept credit cards, so bring cash or your checkbook. Tim's Pizza still uses house-made pizza dough (the tomato sauce is canned) to create a solidly Midwestern, generously topped pie.


Torre's Pizzeria

4112 Pennsylvania, 816-931-3663, torrespizza.com

Amore? It's Kansas City's pizza speakeasy.

Signature pie: The All White — white sauce, mozzarella, feta, parmesan, garlic, chicken, onions, pineapple and almonds

Noteworthy deal: The Sunday special is a large specialty pizza, large order of breadsticks, chicken wings and 2-liter soda for $20.99.

Toppings: Chorizo and capicola, anyone?

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: Yes

Price: $10–$18

Torre's is Westport's phantom pizza joint. The brick-walled shop isn't much more than a delivery-dispatch desk and an oven in the back of the Dark Horse Tavern. A Dark Horse regular might not even know Torre's exists. The service isn't great — on a recent trip, a delivery driver accidentally absconded with our pizza — but the pizza is so good that families bring their children through the tavern to pick up orders. The crust is crunchy on the bottom, chewy in the middle, and buttery and garlicky on the edges. Torre's delivers until 3 a.m., but if you order delivery after a late-night binge, set an alarm. As the pizzeria's website warns: "We are not responsible if you fall asleep waiting for a delivery. Your credit card will be charged."


U-Gene's Deli and Pizza

11202 North Ambassador Drive, 816-270-1480

Amore? The taste of Riverside

Signature pie: Meaty Gene (Canadian bacon, pepperoni and Italian sausage)

Noteworthy deal: A two-topping combo (two slices, or one slice and a side, plus a 20-ounce fountain drink) costs $6.09.

Toppings: Meats are the main draw, but also available are banana peppers and zesty green olives.

By the slice: Yes

Delivery: No

Price: A 12-inch cheese costs $8.99, and a 16-inch Meaty Gene is $19.99.

Gas-station food gets elevated by the potential to discover a culinary gem amid the beef jerky and hot-dog rollers. U-Gene's Deli & Pizza, which is a half hallway from the convenience end of a Conoco filling station, kicks out hoagies and pizza all day. The slices have enough orange grease to turn a napkin translucent, but the meat toppings are generous and the crust is pleasantly reminiscent of a much thicker pizza. The best way to look at U-Gene's is just why you would stop at a gas station: fuel.


Villa Capri

8126 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-648-7770

Amore? "My customers aren't just numbers to me," Steve Scudiero says. "If you want something special, call ahead and I'll have it ready for you."

Signature pie: The Villa Capri Special, with hamburger, sausage, pepperoni, onion, green pepper, mushrooms and anchovies

Noteworthy deal: The prices don't seem to have changed much since the old White Haven Motor Lodge across the street was in full operation.

Toppings: Standard

By the slice: No

Delivery: Yes

Price: A 10-inch cheese costs $8.75. A 14-inch with two ingredients costs $16.25.

The new owners of Villa Capri, Steve Scudiero and his wife, Diana, took over in August 2012, and they claim that their restaurant is the oldest operating pizza joint in Johnson County. If that's true, it means that folks have been eating the thin crust, napoletana-style pies for the past 52 years. Steve makes everything (but the cheese) in-house, so his sausage pie — crumbled and rich with fennel seed — is as old-school and endearing as the red-checked tablecloths and black-light murals on the walls.

V's Italiano Ristorante

10819 East Highway 40, Independence, 816-353-1241, vsrestaurant.com

Amore? A classic 1960s Italian restaurant with an arbor of plastic grapes and the best early-bird dinner deal in town

Signature pie: The Super Deluxe, topped with mushrooms, sliced Italian sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, fresh onion, and black olives

Noteworthy deal: The 7-inch personal pizza is, at $7.95, available during the dinner hour but not listed on the dinner menu.

Toppings: Seafood pesto pizza with crab, shrimp, sautéed spinach and garlic on a white-wine sauce

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $7.95–$17.50

The Totta family's pizza recipe is old-school New York Italian: a very thin crust smothered with house-made tomato sauce.


Waldo Pizza

7433 Broadway, 816-363-5242

1543 Northeast Douglas, Lee's Summit, 816-875-2121, waldopizza.net

Amore? This is the Harry S. Truman of local pizza.

Signature pie: Eating the he-man Choice Cut — Scimeca's Italian sausage, bacon, pepperoni, hamburger and Canadian bacon (add spicy beef) — is like doing a set of dumbbell curls.

Noteworthy deal: Various coupons and daily specials, plus that buffet

Toppings: If you've ever hankered to try figs, turkey sausage or taco sauce on a pizza, Waldo is the only place in KC it's going to happen.

By the slice: Yes, if you're here for the buffet, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Monday–Saturday

Delivery: Yes, and pretty much anywhere in the city, for a sliding-scale fee

Price: $7.50 buys a 10-inch cheese pie; a 16-inch specialty goes for $25

There's no getting bored with the menu at Phil Bourne's KC institution. Waldo's expansive beer list is constantly refined, the place's gluten-free crust has caught on big in a short time, and the pizzas balance well-executed staples (the sausage is Scimeca's) with more exotic choices that reward experimentation. To wit: a wheat-crust pie with spinach and Roma tomatoes and cheddar, excellent for dinner and good again cold for breakfast.


Wheat State

2820 West 47th Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas, 913-281-9000, wheatstatepizza.com

Amore? Ah, Kansas.

Signature pie: The aggressive-sounding "Strangler" asks you to choke down chicken, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, bacon, red onions, mushrooms and a three-cheese blend.

Noteworthy deal: Coupons on the website

Toppings: Meaty

By the slice: No

Delivery: No

Price: $10 for a small pizza, about $45 for a "Gorilla," which sounds big.

It's a sleazy feeling, the urge to order Papa John's during NFL season. You think: No, I am not going to put money in Camaro-loving, Romney-boosting John H. Schnatter's pocket. Well, here's how you beat the sleaze. Wheat State's doughy crust, pleasantly nondescript sauce and indiscriminate deployment of mozzarella add up to a strong simulacrum of red-state chain product. Which we mean as a compliment, at least during the crucial first five minutes of pizza rage. (As though you need more than five minutes. Please.)

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