The best pizzerias in Minnesota

I went on the search for the best pizza in Minnesota. Votes were collected on my Facebook page, the Twin Cities Live Facebook page, on my Twitter and by email. I shared the top 5 on Twin Cities Live.

Aurelio’s Pizza, Ramsey

Aurelio’s is headquartered in Illinois and has about 40 locations in the United States; most are in Illinois and Indiana

  • The Aurelio’s in Ramsey originally opened in Roseville, Minnesota in 1983; it was the sixth location to open
  • The Stawski family who still operates the location wanted to expand, so they moved from Roseville to Ramsey; they also operated a location in Brooklyn Park in the 1990s which has since closed

You will find gourmet pizza at Aurelio’s, with 100% real mozzarella, dough made in-house and hand-pulled sausage

  • Other ingredients, like the sauce, are Aurelio’s secret recipes, and are frequently shipped in from their Chicago suburb headquarters
  • Aurelio’s serves what many view as the traditional style Chicago-style deep dish pizza with a sweeter marinara sauce on top. However, their staple is a more thin crust pizza

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  • In addition to the pizzas, the Calabrese at Aurelio’s are big sellers. They’re like a calzone, and the Spinach Calabrese is extremely popular
  • Aurelio’s does cater to gluten-free dietary restrictions, offering a specific gluten-free crust which is made at their headquarters
  • Be prepared to wait for your food at Aurelio’s. With the style of pizza they’re serving, they take longer to cook. They’re also more expensive than a traditional pizza you would get from a delivery place, however, their 18″ pizzas feed a lot more people than you may think
  • Aurelio’s hosts an all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta buffet Monday thru Friday for only $7.99 plus tax, which is a steal

Mama’s Pizza, Saint Paul

Mama’s, located on Rice Street in Saint Paul, has been family owned and operated since it opened in 1964

  • Mama’s stays relatively simple with their selection of pizzas, however, the Flavor Explosion is extremely popular. It has sausage, pepperoni, bacon, sweet pineapple and banana peppers

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  • If you dine in at Mama’s, be weary that your pizza will be delivered to you while it’s extremely hot. I experienced it first hand. Seriously, you will need to let it cool. That’s intentional
  • Don’t bother asking for Mama’s sauce recipes. Current co-owner, Tony, is the only living person who knows the recipe for their pizzas and for the other Italian fare they serve, including spaghetti, stuffed shells and mostaccioli. The recipe was developed by Tony’s mom, uncle and grandma and has been used for decades. The other co-owner, Tony’s sister, doesn’t even know the recipe. The sauce is sold by the gallon
  • The spices for the sausage and other meat Mama’s uses are mixed right in-house

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  • Mama’s gets extremely busy on Saturdays and Sundays. I stopped by before they opened for Sunday dinner, and folks were lined up at least 15 minutes before the restaurant opened with the hope to get a table. Mama’s does not take reservations. Pizzas are available for dine-in and take-out. Delivery is not available
  • Mama’s does offer a 10″ gluten-free crust and has gluten-free pasta on the menu
  • In 2018, Mama’s saw a bigger boost in customers when ‘El Pres’ from Barstool Sports visited Mama’s when he was in town for the Super Bowl. Even though Mama’s pizza is cut in squares, it got a surprisingly high score

Meric’s Woodfire Oven and Tavern, Hampton

Meric’s is in Hampton, Minnesota, a town with less than 800 residents about 20 minutes south of Downtown Saint Paul on Highway 52

  • Meric’s stands in the spot which once was Naughty Pine Tavern, a bar serving the community for over 100 years. Naughty Pine Tavern was destroyed by fire
  • Naughty Pine Tavern was owned by the family who currently operates Meric’s. When they realized they needed to rebuild, they looked at what was needed in the area, and landed on pizza
  • Meric’s Woodfire Oven and Tavern opened in October 2018 by husband-wife duo, Michelle and Eric, which is where the name Meric’s comes from

Meric’s exclusively makes woodfire pizzas in an oven that is typically between 700-800 degrees. It takes about 2.5 minutes to cook one pizza

  • Michelle and Eric tell me they aren’t afraid to spend money on quality ingredients. All of their produce is fresh. Plus, they work with nearby butcher shop Greg’s Meats to provide their ham and sausage (Greg’s Meats is a must-visit while you’re in the area)
  • The Porkie Pie was a hit with me — the pizza includes sausage, bacon, basil, garlic, mushrooms and a fantastic chili honey
  • Other popular pizzas include the So Meaty, which includes sausage and pepperoni, along with the Belmont, a white pizza with smoked chicken, bacon and a pesto drizzle
  • The owners tell me they will sell just as many dry rub wings as pizzas. Get an order with their cilantro ranch dressing
  • Meric’s adds an outdoor patio during the summer months, hosting bean bag tournaments and other events
  • Eric reminded me that Meric’s is in a “food corridor” — in the next town over, New Trier, Trophy House was voted as one of the best places for fried fish in Minnesota. In nearby Miesville, King’s Place is serving a vast menu of burgers, making it a destination for many folks from the Twin Cities

Pizzeria 201, Montgomery

Montgomery is 60 minutes south of Downtown Minneapolis, just a few minutes south of New Prague

  • Troy and his wife, Diane, own a couple other businesses in Montgomery, which has a population of about 3,000 people
  • When the last pizzeria in Montgomery closed, Troy and Diane took advantage. But they didn’t have any experience operating a restaurant. However, Diane has a true passion for cooking. She told me she owns about 1,000 cookbooks — that’s after giving away hundreds more

As for pizza, their Chicken-in-a-Grass-Skirt version is extremely popular, and was recognized at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. It has garlic chicken, pineapple and pepperoncini peppers with an Alfredo sauce. It also has coconut sprinkles. I was a big fan of the vegetarian Roman Holiday pizza with fresh spinach, white onion, Kalamata olives, artichokes, tomatoes and multiple cheeses

  • Pizzeria 201 has a garden right next to their pizzeria which grows the produce used on the pizzas. Troy and Diane live on a farm and the hogs they raise are used for the sausage and bacon. Get the Hog Heaven pizza to sample the delicious locally raised meat

Pizzeria 201 owns three mobile woodfire pizza ovens, which can be rented out for weddings and graduation parties. Temperatures reach nearly 1000 degrees and can make a Neapolitan style pizza in about 90 seconds. The woodfire pizzas are not on Pizzeria 201’s regular menu. If you want to see where the mobile ovens will be, head to their Facebook page

  • Pizzeria 201 has 54 beers available, including one from a brewery based in Montgomery. They also serve wine from Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery, based in nearby Kasota
  • It’s not pizza, but you must get the pepperoncini dip appetizer. It’s cheesy, warm, and served with a crunchy baguette that’s from the bakery across the street
  • Expect to wait for a table if you stop by for dinner on Friday or Saturday night. Pizzeria 201 will deliver to Montgomery Brewing, which is in town

Pizza Barn, Princeton

Princeton is about 45 minutes north of Downtown Minneapolis

  • Pizza Barn originally opened in Princeton in 1983. At the time, it was the only pizzeria in the town. Today, Pizza Barn is one of six pizza shops in the town of 5,000 residents
  • At one time, Pizza Barn had 13 locations throughout Minnesota. However, with the struggle of finding quality management, the owners decided to close the other locations in waves

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  • The Cheese Curd Pizza at Pizza Barn is worth the trip no matter where you live in Minnesota. They use cheese curds from Ellsworth, Wisconsin, which are baked on a pizza with more cheese. The sauce is ranch dressing. It’s a thinner crust and is more buttery in flavor. It’s epic. Don’t be surprised if you end up seeing it at the Minnesota State Fair

An original at Pizza Barn is the Cowpie pizza with pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, green and black olives, green peppers and cheese

  • This year, Pizza Barn will have a food truck that will parked closer to Highway 169 during cabin season
  • Pizza Barn is a big supporter of school districts in the area. They were the pizzeria chosen by the Princeton High School football team, who won the 2019 Pizza Bowl. When Princeton plays Milaca, home to Heggie’s Pizza, the winning team gets a pizza party courtesy of the losing team. If Milaca wins, their players get Heggie’s. If Princeton wins, the team picks which pizzeria they like best. Pizza Barn was their pick

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  • Pizza Barn offers take and bake pizzas, including the Cheese Curd pizza. They also make and bottle their own salad dressings, which are used on their Italian sandwiches
  • You can order gluten-free, cauliflower crust and broccoli crust pizzas at Pizza Barn. They also carry dairy-free cheese for those who are lactose intolerant

Check out my other roundups of what’s ‘Worth the Trip’

8 Comments on “The best pizzerias in Minnesota

  1. Wish there would have been a bit more time spent on each of the winners. You were given way too little time compared to other topics on the show yesterday.

    • I could talk about the pizzerias all day, but that segment was twice as long as any other segment on the show.

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