Yeah, this sounds pretty outrageous, doesn't it? The ideal candidate
to make this judgment is the man or woman in Kansas City who
has eaten at least one slice of every single specialty pizza prepared
and sold in the city. That would not, mercifully, be me -- though I've
eaten a hell of a lot of Kansas City pizza over the past 25 years.
That number would include a popular pizza variation that I had successfully avoided for decades: one topped with pineapple and Canadian bacon. The very idea of it was repugnant to me, since it had absolutely no connection to the Neapolitan roots of this dish. Pineapple? Ham? A few weeks ago, I was tricked into tasting a piece of Canadian ham-and-pineapple pie. Not bad, but I'd never have it again -- or add it to a list of favorite pies.
5. Kelso's Billy Martin. Jeff Kelso isn't just the son of a former professional athlete and pizzeria owner -- the late Bill Kelso. He's also a former athlete himself. Most of the specialty pies served at Kelso's, his sit-down restaurant at 300 Armour Road, are named after famous sports figures, including the Billy Martin, named for the iconic New York Yankees manager Alfred Manuel "Billy" Martin Jr. (1928-89). At first glance, this pie appears to be a vegetarian creation: It's topped with mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives (sauteed with garlic). But there are circles of pepperoni scattered on top, too. Thus, the Billy Martin seems to be a lot more healthy than it really is. That's my kind of pie.
4. PizzaBella's Margherita. This classic pie may be the very first "specialty" pizza ever created; Italian chef Rafaelle Esposito created the first combination pizza of fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes -- the colors in the Italian flag -- to honor Queen Margherita. The version prepared in the wood-burning ovens of PizzaBella in the Crossroads isn't just visually beautiful. It tastes as if it's been prepared for royalty.
3. Waldo Pizza's Tex-Mex. File this pie under "Now, For Something Completely Different." The least Italian pizza around, this Tex-Mex creation is topped with either taco meat or chorizo, onion, black olives, lettuce, cheddar cheese, Roma tomatoes, salsa and roasted corn. No other pizza in town tastes quite like this one, even cold.
2. Next Door Pizza's Hope and Garlic. Next Door Pizza, reviewed this week in The Pitch, just introduced a new menu featuring several new offerings (including a "Bacon Explosion Pizza" for daredevil diners who don't give a damn about cholesterol) and a new meatless creation. The Hope and Garlic is an enticing new pie -- offered in thin-crust and deep-dish models -- topped with artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and spinach.
1. Spin's Salsiccia con Mela. There's no pizza quite as erotic as this one, made with three of the historic aphrodisiacs -- spicy Italian sausage, candied walnuts and tart apples -- that also happen to be artistic (and slangy) metaphors for a love connection. At the various Spin Neapolitan Pizza joints in Kansas City, this is a popular choice for a first date. Think about it.