From gourmet offerings to simple slices, we pick some of our favorite pies.
Few foods consistently deliver (sometimes literally) like pizza. Whether you prefer gourmet takes or good old-fashioned pies that come in a cardboard box, it’s rare that you’ll find a bad slice. But of course some stand out in the crowd. Thanks to creative topping combinations, perfect crusts or true-to-tradition offerings, these spots keep us coming back for more.
Story by Lara Hale | Photos by David Allison and Zach Bauman unless otherwise noted
Although it’s beloved by Brooksiders, this small Italian eatery is still a bit of a hidden gem to many outside the neighborhood. Sandwiched between—and spilling out into—an Italian deli/grocery and a coffee shop, the restaurant offers 15 signature hand-tossed pizzas with traditional toppings in addition to a full menu of panini, pasta and meat and fish entrées. All of the ingredients are imported from the old country, as are the recipes—many written by owner Jake Imperiale’s Italian-born mother.
d’Bronx Authentic Deli and Pizzeria
Founded back in 1990 by a couple of transplants from the New York borough it’s named for, d’Bronx still serves some of the best pizza in town from its original shop at 39th and Bell, and additional locations in Crown Center, Mission and Overland Park. And it serves a lot of it—the locally owned business is in the top 50 independent pizzerias in the country in terms of sales. Though it’s celebrating its silver anniversary this year, d’Bronx sticks with the formula that made it a favorite with Kansas Citians: hand-tossed pies and traditional toppings, available whole or by the slice. You can dine-in or carry out, but d’Bronx doesn’t deliver, choosing to focus on the food instead. Everything on the menu—from salads and deli sandwiches to red velvet cake and chocolate-chip cookies—is made in-house.
Owned by local metal artist Stretch, Grinders’ pizza is available by the pie or by the slice with toppings that run the gamut from traditional to those that are as unique (and, OK, a little bonkers) as the restaurant’s proprietor. Specialty pizzas include a Philly cheesesteak pizza; the Goldberg Phats, covered in pesto sauce topped with smoked salmon, capers, and cream cheese; and the Bengal Tiger, topped with rich green sauce, tandoori chicken, crab meat, hearts of palm and cilantro. Whether you go for a gourmet pie or a more traditional New York-style pizza, you can order it served with a “Chili Bomb”—a pile of tater tots covered in chili cheese and scallions—heaped on top at both the original Crossroads locations and Grinders Stonewall, which opened last year in Lenexa.
Johnny Jo’s Pizzeria
The only Kansas City pizzeria, to our knowledge, to get a mention in GQ, Johnny Jo’s serves thick-crusted Sicilian-style pizza from its original location on 47th Street (just south of Country Club Plaza) and The Pizzeria, the 103rd Street location owner John Milone opened last summer. The glossy magazine plug came courtesy of Port Fonda chef/owner Patrick Ryan, a Johnny Jo’s regular, but Milone has ties to another big name in Kansas City cuisine. Leonard Mirabile, operator of Marco Polo’s Italian Market, is Milone’s godfather and former employer.
Both locations are small with limited seating, so carry-out is often the best (or only) option, though delivery is available from the south KC location and is being tested from the original location now too. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention another Sicilian treat Johnny Jo’s makes especially well: cannoli. The cream-filled pastry shells are available in their traditional form, dipped in chocolate or in Butterfinger.
This pizzeria with locations in the Crossroads and at Mission Farms offers style and substance—or should that be sustenance? Thanks to chic designs by KC architecture firm El Dorado, the restaurants can accommodate both laid-back lunches with coworkers and more intimate special occasions. Pizzabella nails Neapolitan-style classics marinara and Margherita, but we can’t resist some of their more creative pizzas, including one topped with fingerling potatoes, Gorgonzola, radicchio and a balsamic glaze, and another that boasts roasted leeks, pancetta, roasted onion, goat cheese and parsley. Don’t even try to leave without ordering the antipasta dish featuring Brussels sprouts dressed with pancetta, cranberries and almonds then pan-roasted in the pizzeria’s wood-fired oven. Think you don’t like sprouts? You just haven’t tried Pizzabella’s yet.
Martin City Brewing Company
Although its pub has been a neighborhood favorite with families and craft beer fans since 2011, MCBC truly became a dining destination last year with the opening of its next-door pizza and taproom. The menu includes both traditional and white pizzas, available as 6-inch personal pies as well as larger sizes for sharing. Ask your server to recommend one of Martin City’s own brews to enjoy with your pizza. Our favorite pairing? The Bacon & Eggs pizza topped with garlic Alfredo sauce, fresh sage, ricotta, pecorino, two types of bacon and a fried farm-fresh egg, washed down with the coffee stout brewed in collaboration with local roasters Benetti’s.
After 39 years in the business and with 15 locations, Minsky’s needs no introduction. Unless you only recently relocated to Kansas City or just don’t like pizza (kidding—no one doesn’t like pizza, right?), chances are you’ve had a slice of Minsky’s. So here are a few things you might not know about this long-time KC staple: 1. Owner Gregg Johnson also co-founded the national chain Godfather’s Pizza. 2. The Minsky’s moniker came from a famous burlesque club of the same name in 1920s New York City. 3. Minsky’s is the unofficial official pizza of KC Magazine photo shoots—taking a break to share a cheeseburger pizza with our photographers, stylists and models has become a tradition, whether we’re in studio or on location.
Spin! Neopolitan Pizza
Opened in KC in 2005, Spin! has expanded rapidly over the past decade, launching seven additional spinoffs (see what we did there?) around the metro, and in other states. The fast-casual concept—place your order and pay at the counter before seating yourself—is a hit with families and with customers on a lunch break, but the full wine list and a menu of flatbreads and spreads to share may well entice you to linger. The menu, created in collaboration with James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Smith, includes more than 20 hand-tossed, stone-cooked pizzas made with your choice of crust, including traditional, whole wheat and what many consider the best gluten-free crust in town, and toppings that range from classic to creative. One of Chef Smith’s latest menu additions—a shrimp scampi pizza—has quickly become one of our faves.
One of the newest players in KC’s pizza scene, this independently owned pizzeria offers made-to-order pizzas starting at $5.99 that can be served in less than five minutes—making it a lifesaver for time- and/or cash-strapped students and employees of nearby KU Med. Despite the speed and price, freshness is an obsession at Topp’d; there isn’t even a microwave or freezer on the premises. Instead, owner Chad Talbott, a former Pizza Street franchisee, prepares all of the pizzeria’s dough, sauces and toppings (such as meatballs, pulled pork, caramelized onions and cage-free buffalo chicken) by hand.
Bonus! Erik Borger is offering true authentic Neopolitan pizza recipes in the River Market neighborhood at the Il Lazzarone Pizzaria. Get a closer look at his dining space that preserves this time-honored tradition.