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10. Fat Lorenzo's

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Classification: Traditional

Location: Minneapolis Nokomis

There are a lot of ways that I could frame this entry, because there's always a lot happening when it comes to Fat Lorenzo’s: 1.) it's a simple no-frills neighborhood hangout, but featuring world-class food; 2.) the amazing Italian gelato is worthy of being a stand-alone highlight, although I'm usually too full from dinner to partake; 3.) it's also a pseudo indoor/outdoor art gallery, but it leaves no question that their truest art form is in the pizza, or; 4.) they've opened a second auxiliary location (inside a VFW Post, of all places!) a few miles away, but the heartbeat of this place remains firmly rooted in south Minneapolis' Chain of Lakes area, within a stone's throw of the airport and, I believe, a fairly prominent shopping mall. As you'll see, each of these components is actually an essential element of the Fat Lorenzo's experience.

The ambience is pretty unique, and normally filled with equal measures of locals, foodies, families, cops, and a smattering of Yelpies, yet it maintains a strong local essence in a nicer-than-average walkable neighborhood, which becomes very a practical concern due the challenging parking situation. You could be fortunate enough to snag one of a handful of parking spots in the rear of the restaurant, but it's just as probable that you will need to walk a block or so. Inside, it's usually pretty crowded during the dinner hour, and its rock-hard benches hearken back to the days visiting Grandma's country church as a wiggly five-year-old. It's not designed for large groups, so don't come around with the whole bowling league because they might not even be able to seat a group of six. So with all of these disclaimers, it's fair to ask: Is it worth all the bother? Obviously, you already know the answer to that question.

Even though it has now nudged toward landmark status, I don't recall how we "discovered" this place, but it must have been twenty years ago, and we've been back many times. The exterior walls are covered with Italian-themed murals, and on the inside, the theme is elevated to an absurd level. There's not a square foot of area not covered by a painting, making it easy to overlook the relative rarity of not absent mindedly staring at something like the Fresno-Brigham Young game on a big-screen TV. So besides getting lost in the art, you'll need to bring your own entertainment, or if desperate, conversation. But make no mistake, the food is the greatest escape. I've seen the pasta and sandwiches, and they look outrageous, but pizza is king here. The largest pie is an 18" beast, cut into traditional wedges that needs to be negotiated with both hands. It's a soft, bready crust with a nice bite to the sauce and a generous balance of cheese and toppings. We have never left without bringing home leftovers, so it's best to plan for a two-day feast.

Finally, I feel the need to mention the gelato, even though I've only indulged on a couple of occasions. It's a perfect snippet of sweetness (or tartness) after the sodium-fueled dinner bender—it's almost like the Italians know what they're doing. There's always a lineup at the counter in the summer, and it really adds to the vibe. It's one of the many things that makes dining at Fat Lorenzo's really feel like an event, and it's the perfect way to kick off #Pizza100's Top Ten. Come for the culture, stay for the pizza. (9 of 10 stars)

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