Visited on Saturday, March 19th with Jake, Allison and Newman
Ben's ReviewSince our friends Jake and Allison live three blocks from the new pizza place in south Minneapolis, Pizzeria Lola, we had been meaning to make it over there to try it out. Last Saturday we finally got together, and Newman was even in town for the WCHA playoffs, so he joined us in trying it out.
The server commented on our "diverse" table because of our varying state shirts
We walked to Lola from Jake and Allison’s as it was a rather nice day out, and after the winter we’ve had, it felt good to be outside. Annie enjoyed using the Ergo again after a long hiatus. [Editor's note: Not really that long of a hiatus since we used it in some stores and in Mexico, but whatever - she still enjoyed it]
Since Lola doesn’t open until 5pm, Jake had called around 4:45 to try to get us on the list, since there were five adults and one toddler. It is amazing to me how busy this place gets so early in the evening. We arrived a few minutes before five and they were already open and I would estimate that one third of the tables were full. Fifteen minutes after we arrived the place was packed and people were starting to line up behind the bar. Jake mentioned that the bar/waiting area resembles Al’s Breakfast in Dinkytown; people awkwardly have to stand directly behind someone sitting at the bar. Not the best environment for the people waiting or the people at the bar, but what can you do? It will certainly be better in the spring/summer/fall when people can wait outside instead.
They serve wood fired pizza at Lola and the oven is right in the middle of the restaurant. It’s a beautiful centerpiece as it’s lined with soft looking copper that fits in well with the wood-lined walls. The can lighting is interesting as well, they used tomato sauce cans to house the bulbs, and I thought I heard someone say that Lola got the cans from Punch Pizza.
The pizzas at Lola are on the small side, so for five adults we ordered four pizzas to share. We got a plain margherita pizza, the Lady Zaza, the Boise, and the Sweet Italian. The pizzas came out in a reasonable amount time, enough time for us to chat a bit and enjoy our beverages (they had Furious on tap, always a plus). Newman was excited about the Mexican coke, but then proceeded to order a regular fountain coke, justifying it because he was going to have several refills (he drank probably three cokes).
I tried the Lady Zaza first which has kimchee sausage, peppers, and green onions. This was surprisingly spicier than I thought it would be, but it was delicious. The crust is excellent and reminds me of Punch Pizza, which is to be expected. Next I had the Sweet Italian, which looked like a more traditional pizza with red sauce, sausage, onions, peppers, and cheese. These two were definitely my favorite, though none of the pizzas were bad. The margherita was good, but they are too sparse for my liking, Annie seemed to enjoy it. The Boise is a potato pizza, as the name implies, and it was tasty, I actually had several of these pieces because we all ate our fill and they were still on the table. That was my cue to help out.
By the time we had finished our pizza it was even fuller than before, with a large line of people at the bar and people milling about outside. Jake, Allison, and Erin all ordered dessert while Newman and I watched them eat it. I tried a bite of Erin’s vanilla ice cream (Mexican vanilla, not that inferior Madagascar vanilla) and it was absolutely fantastic. I was amazed at how good it was, and now I’m reminded to seek some of that out at the store sometime.
We headed out the back entrance to give the photo booth a try. You can buy a ticket for $3 which gets you a photo booth session. The booth takes three pictures and then prints them on a strip for you to take home, or you can cut it down the middle and hang one of the sides on the wall, where they have a sizable collection growing. We opted to leave one of ours, we’ll have to find it next time we go back.
I enjoyed Pizzeria Lola very much and I intend to go back this summer when it’s nicer out, since we have friends that live so close anyways.
Service: Service was great, the manager stopped by to check in on us as well.
Food: Great pizza, excellent vanilla ice cream.
Drinks: The bar is just beer and wine, but they have a good selection of beers. I’m not sure how they got to have Surly, I had heard there is something like a three year waiting list or something.
Ambiance: Certainly a family place, as it’s located right in the middle of a residential area. People were friendly and welcoming.
Convenience: Lola is located right on Xerxes, so there is some bus service. Plenty of parking in the blocks right around the restaurant and easily walkable.
I am a big fan of pizza, and would eat it for most meals if I could. I kept hearing about how great Pizzeria Lola was, but it being completely across town from us, we hadn't gotten over there yet. We finally set a date to go over and visit Jake and Allison and their pups Bella and Lola and then to go on to Pizzeria Lola. Jake has met the owner of Pizzeria Lola, who named the place after their dog. The owner apparently did not care at all that Jake also had a dog named Lola and lived 3 blocks away, which made Jake a wee bit sad, but not sad enough to not go there.
The walk over was pleasant on that nice spring day - now if only the temps would creep up to the 50s again so this dang snow would all melt! We got there RIGHT at 5, so thankfully got a table right away. Waiting a long time at restaurants really isn't an option for us anymore with Annie, so I'm glad we had the intel to get there so early and avoid what looked like very long waits later! We were seated in a booth, and placed our drink orders quickly. I asked if they had kids cups for milk, and the server said yes - they aren't little cups though, they are just full plastic cups with lids and straws - this worked ok but I had to watch Annie and help her hold the cup lest it go everywhere. We had a sippy cup but forgot it in Jake and Allison's fridge, of course! I am going to add a "kids welcome" label to the blog so people can click that to see the places we've been that I would consider toddler appropriate. Obviously you CAN bring them anywhere, but these are the places I think are better suited to the wee ones.
I really loved the decor at Pizzeria Lola - it was very centered around their pizza oven, which kept the place toasty warm. Hopefully they have powerful A/C for summertime! The oven had some fancy birchwood in the bottom, but we discovered their secret stash of oak in the back when we left through the back exit near the photobooth. Along with a few other places we've visited lately, Lola uses mismatched plates which lends a homey vibe but seems to be not that unique anymore.
Ben details which pizzas we ordered above - Annie ate mostly the Margherita, which she seemed to love, and some of the Sweet Italian. I also ate these 2, along with one piece of The Boise, which was actually my favorite of all of them. The pizza tasted completely different than it looked - cheesy and almost sweet from the thinly sliced potatoes and carmelized onions. I loved it! Annie had one bite of that one and liked it as well. She'll eat pretty much anything, though, so isn't too tough of a critic. I didn't even try the Lady Zaza because of reports that it was spicy - I figured I'd leave that one to people that would actually enjoy it.
Jake told me about the ice cream sandwich they had gotten on their last visit, so I was already planning on giving that a try. They now offer it as a "deconstructed" ice cream sandwich, so the cookies and ice cream are separate - Jake mentioned that the one he had tried before was nearly frozen solid, so this is a great move on their part so they can keep the cookies somewhat warm and the ice cream soft. They have 2-3 ice cream flavors daily, I went with the vanilla and I believe Allison went with hazelnut. Ben mentions above that they were very specific that this was MEXICAN vanilla. I previously haven't been picky about my vanilla ice cream, but perhaps I should be??
The ice cream was great, but I was disappointed in the cookies. I don't know why I bother to ever order cookies at a restaurant, when the ones I make at home are absolute perfection in every way, AND I can get them fresh from the oven since we keep the dough balls in the freezer. The cookies weren't warm or chewy, which is a cookie fail in my book. The ice cream sandwich was fine, but with crunchy cookies, you're basically just getting ice cream everywhere since you can't successfully bite through both cookies AND ice cream without squeezing the sandwich completely together, thus you don't get much ice cream in a bite. It wasn't all bad, just not what I prefer.
On the way out, we had to try the photobooth, since Ben worked on the software for it. At $3 a pop, it's a bit pricey, but was a fun souvenir for us to have, and we are now forever immortalized on Pizzeria Lola's wall o' photos.
Despite the disappointing ice cream sandwich, I really liked Pizzeria Lola. The pizza combinations were unique and tasty, and the atmosphere was fun. Because there are a number of similar pizza places much closer to our house, I don't know that we'll be back too often, but it is a welcome addition to the skimpy SW Minneapolis restaurant scene!
5557 Xerxes Ave