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37. Donatelli's

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Classification: Traditional

Location: White Bear Lake, Minnesota

When buying a car, there's much to consider: affordability, comfort, reliability, efficiency, safety, and practicality, and of course, smell. But it often boils down to how you feel when driving it. But I can recall many times as a youngster sinking deep into the back seat cushions of an older relative's late-model sedan and finding it curiously comforting. Never the type of auto that I'd choose for myself, I remember a mysterious value in those vehicles preferred by the earlier generation. Well, Donatelli's is the Buick Regal of the pizza world.

Think about those car-buying attributes listed above and you've perfectly captured Donatelli's: affordability, comfort, reliability, efficiency, safety, practicality, smell. I've visited numerous times, but always in the familiar role of backseat passenger, never engineering a trip myself, and instead relinquishing the driver's seat to Swen, Paul, Johnny or Steve. Its suburban strip-mall location and throwback dining room is purely oldschool, with traditional red-checkered tablecloths and rich dark woods that are dimly lit by mock-Tiffany overhead lamps. It is comfortable and with ample headroom; sensible yet with a hint of understated luxury. Without fanfare or calling undue attention to itself, the the pizza is also a timeless classic—as representative of thin crusted tavern cut, Minnesota-style as you can find. I've always left very satisfied.

We've podcasted here. It's hosted buddies' reunions and church group gatherings. It has a genuine universal appeal for pretty much any occasion. While you might encounter a slow-pitch softball team or a band of stormy petrels from the neighborhood, families are the backbone of the clientele. No matter who you are, when you're at Donatelli's, we'll all be sharing a Buick ride together. (8 of 10 stars)

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