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18. Fireside Pizza

Classification: Traditional

Location: Richfield, Minnesota

There was really nothing extraordinary about our visit to Fireside Pizza, and yet it delivered a deeply satisfying experience that those who came of age in the 70s might appreciate. I think every town had (or maintains) its own version of the wood-grained, dimly lit pizzeria that served as a melting pot of "young people." That vibe and tradition remained in full force when Swen and I stopped by in June of 2013, but alas, it's now been gentrified and re-branded by some well-meaning proprietors who were possibly hoodwinked by some smooth-talking marketeers. I haven't, and probably won't visit the newly-christened Fireside Foundry, but I hope they turn unprecedented profits and win multiple James Baker Awards as they re-imagine what hometown pizza looks like for the next generation. But something will have been lost on that journey.

In addition to the pizza, which I'll address shortly, two other things stood out during our visit: 1.) the live music performed by a local Cat Stevens wannabe on the opposite side of the restaurant, and 2.) the unusual tree growing out of the middle of the restaurant. It's precisely how I've always imagined it would be like sharing a pizza somewhere in the Shire with Tolkien himself. If they'd really brought things to completion, there would have been Hobbits playing pan flutes and a wait staff of Dwarves and Elves, but I'm just nit-picking.

The pizza was nicely rendered, and served up in a semi-private booth that offered just the right amount of podcasting separation while maintaining a well-centered space in this robust pizza community. Fireside's was a typical thin crust pizza that was almost artistic in its uniform spreading of toppings, fanning out nicely into the contours of each square-cut slice, and using quality ingredients that in the end, became more than the sum of its parts. Swen and I agreed that a return would be in order, but tragically, that day will never come. (9 of 10 stars)

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