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50. Dino's

Classification: Traditional

Location: New Hope, Minnesota

I have no recollection of the taste, quality or consistency of this restaurant. It has no online footprint, and no known photographs exist to the general public. It is, for all practical purposes, a ghost pizza. And yet it played a key role in my developing tastes. Oddly, I ordered chicken during our family's first few visit here, sometime in the late '60s. I think the tomato sauce kinda freaked me out, but I feel like I grew out of that phase of tepid resistance, thanks in large part to Dino's.

The photo above is a close facsimile of Midland Shopping Center, circa 1968, where Dino's sat comfortably wedged between the barber shop and the old Coast-to-Coast hardware store. It wasn't as glamorous as shopping a few miles north at the "upscale" Crystal Shopping Center, but Mom allowed us to ride our bikes to Midland since we didn't have to cross as many busy streets. Like all pizza places, Dino's offered in-home delivery, but this was before the invention and perfection of the modern corrugated container that's been a workhorse for decades. No, their pizzas were delivered on a circular cardboard tray inserted into a paper bag that rose and expanded like Jiffy Pop. This is pretty much how I got my start.

Armed with so little information, it's futile to provide an accurate assessment, so instead I decided to drop it in the middle of this list as a symbolic signal to its vitality, seeing that it's essentially the birthplace of my pizza affections. I feel as though a historical marker would not be inappropriate. (7 of 10 stars)

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