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Ricco's Italian Bistro
11801 College Boulevard, Overland Park, 913-469-8405, riccoskc.com
Amore? An intimate dining room fragrant with the aroma of a wood-fired pizza oven, which burns white oak to bake the thin-crust pies.
Signature pie: The Garbage Truck, topped with pepperoni, spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms, onion, green pepper, mozzarella, provolone and house-made marinara
Noteworthy deal: Half-price pizza on Saturdays from 9 to 11 p.m.
Toppings: Two of the house pies include artichoke dip as an ingredient.
By the slice: No
Ricco's pizza crust is nearly tissue-thin and crackly, under mostly Mediterranean-style toppings. For wood-fired fans, it's worth a trip south.
704 Massachusetts, Lawrence, 785-749-0055, rudyspizzeria.com
Amore? Ever heard of Danny Manning? Like that.
Signature pie: We're partial to the Hampy — spinach, tomato, black olives, onion and feta.
Noteworthy deal: Daily specials, the best of which might be Wednesday's small $3.75 pie.
Toppings: More than you probably need on your Pell Grant budget.
By the slice: Yes
Price range: Dollar slices at last call, $22 18-inch specialty pies
Whatever other experimentation goes on among KU students (and alumni), Rudy's is where a lot of us had our first pizza trip. Maybe your spirit animal was they-never-had-this-at-Pizza Hut feta. Maybe trying a whole-wheat crust blew your Little Caesar's-addicted mind. Or maybe you always knew good pizza but didn't expect to find your new favorite in a basement restaurant with the ambience of a tricked-out 1976 Ford Econoline. However you ended up here, the perfectly chewy, cheese-heavy, sauce-rich pies at Rudy's are distinctively flavored and earnestly served, and they generate pretty much boundless loyalty.
3834 Main, 816-756-1616, santoraspizzas.com
Amore? Unrivaled affordability
Signature pie: Lasagna pie (sausage, hamburger, ricotta-herb blend, and mixture of romano and shredded parmesan)
Noteworthy deal: $1 lunch slices
Toppings: Standard Italian selections; sausage and meatballs from Scimeca's
By the slice: Yes
Price: Slices go for $1 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; a medium one-topping carryout costs $7.58.
Home to the cheapest slice in KC, Santora's caters to starving artists from the Kansas City Art Institute; midtown commuters waiting for the next Main Street bus to arrive; and late-night runover from the dance club next door. The draw here is the price; nothing about the crust, sauce or cheese will bowl you over. It's also a tiny space, with carryout and delivery only. While you wait for your slice, you can browse the charming, Olan Mills-style family photos, which dot the walls and offer about as homey an atmosphere as can be found on this stretch of Main.
Spin Neapolitan Pizza
4950 Main, 816-561-7746
Many other metro locations — spinpizza.com
Amore? One of the few KC exports other than barbecue, with good reason.
Signature pie: Salsiccia — Scimeca's Italian sausage with caramelized onions
Noteworthy deal: The Mini Mia — a 6-inch, two-topping pie and a side salad or cup of soup for $8.75
Toppings: They understand pork pairings here — apples, pecans and onion-fig marmalade are great complements.
By the slice: No
Delivery: For orders of more than $100, there's a 15-percent fee, and 24 hours' notice is required.
Price: Formaggi (cheese) is $9.95, while a three-meat pie runs $12.95.
The white pies brushed with a roasted-garlic olive-oil glaze make the toppings the star, while the pizza rossa (made with Roma tomatoes) celebrates sausage (Italian and chicken). The stone pizza oven produces a bubbly crust that crackles when bitten into. Spin has a reasonably priced and good wine list, selected with guidance from Cellar Rat's Ryan Sciara. In the spring, roll on over during the organized bike rides, which happen as often as four nights per week.