Di Noko’s Pizzeria in Nokomis, Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

You wouldn’t necessarily expect good deep dish pizza from a neighborhood pizza joint in South Minneapolis. You certainly wouldn’t expect it from a place with a gargantuan delivery zone that stretches from Uptown to downtown to Bloomington and Richfield. In fact, you might not even expect it from Chicago, since the very idea of deep dish pizza — an almost lasagna-like two-inch layering of red sauce over a heavy band of cheese and a thick (and potentially pepperoni-stuffed) crust — flies in the face of received East Coast pizza wisdom, which worships at the altar of the Thin Crust.

And yet, the delivery-and-takeout-only Di Noko’s Pizzeria is making good deep dish, and driving it all over creation.

Speaking personally, I’ve had enough run-ins with bad Chicago-style pizza to give up on it — it tends to be a gloppy soup of crap cheese and over-sweet sauce, fit only for a Hefty sack. Even the stuff in Chicago proper can seem overpriced and overhyped. But when local chowhounds began whispering sweet nothings about Di Noko’s pizza, it seemed odd enough to check out.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Quality deep dish pizza: confirmed. Di Noko’s 12″ deep dish ($13 + $2 a topping) has a strong point of view. The sauce is balanced, not oversweet, and it’s defined by chunks of tomato married to a pleasantly spiced flavor. The sub-sauce cheese layer is substantial but not unpleasantly gooey, and like all of Di Noko’s cheese, it has a real dairy kick that makes it a joy to eat. In a nutshell: Di Noko’s deep dish is the kind of pizza that will turn skeptics into converts. The only minor knock is that it takes 45 minutes to make, but that’s the nature of the beast.

And while the whole pie works well, the cheese is the lynchpin. Owner Rich Moore, who bought Pizza Joe’s in July of 2010 and turned it into Di Noko’s in November of that same year, credits the team at Burnett Dairy Cooperative in Alpha, WI.

Becca Dilley / Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin

If you’ve been to the Burnett Dairy Cooperative and met their master cheesemakers (see above: Steve Tollers, left, and Bruce Willis), you know that they mean business; that quality shines through atop Di Noko’s pies.

As for toppings: Following the chowhounds’ lead, we tried the pepperoni and sausage deep dish pizza and were pleased with both toppings, but particularly with the latter. The sausage was tender and moist and had a fennel kick to it that was a fine counterpoint to the tsunami of sauce upon which it rode.

The overall package prompts a query: Why deep dish pizza … in Minneapolis?

“I was inspired by the pizza that I used to love getting over at My Pie,” said Moore, referring to the pizza place that used to co-exist with the Edina location of the Original Pancake House. (When the brunch / lunch hour ended, the restaurant would turn over and do dinner service as a pizzeria featuring Chicago-style deep dish.) Moore goes on to explain that the shop’s name is a tip of the hat to Cafe Di Napoli and also a salute to the Nokomis neighborhood.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Di Noko’s thin crust ($9 plus $2 a topping for a 12″, $11 plus $3 a topping for a 14″) is also a pleasure to eat and far less of a commitment. For a mere $13, a Di Noko’s deep dish may provide the most food bang for the buck in the cities … but then you’re locked into to eating it for a solid week, unless you’ve got an army on hand. The crust on the thin variety is simple and Midwestern — no fancy carbon-kissing, and it’s mostly chewy rather than being a complicated chewy-crispy hybrid. But the sauce is still balanced (although far less chunky than that of the deep dish) and it’s still topped by that same Burnett Dairy Coop cheese. Add toppings with some meaty depth and acid — we tried pineapple and Canadian bacon — and you’ve got a tasty supper on your hands.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Wings tend to be an obligatory afterthought at pizza places, and they taste that way. But even Di Noko’s wings ($5.49 for six) are worth ordering. The buffalo wings we ordered had a Frank’s Red Hot-like heat to them — mildly spicy, yes, but balanced with some vinegar bite and spiced depth. The chicken itself was moist and tender, and while the exterior of the wings could’ve been crisped up more aggressively, the overall package was pleasing.

Were Di Noko’s simply a humble neighborhood eatery with a 10-block delivery range, it would be worth noting, but ultimately just a Nokomis curiosity worth visiting on the way to or from the airport. But their willingness to drive pie wherever it’s needed could be the secret weapon that turns them into a local pizza superpower — or it may just run their delivery guy completely ragged. Time will tell. In the meantime, this writer, a Longfellow resident, has a new favorite neighborhood place to order pizza from. It just happens to be located in a different neighborhood.

Di Noko’s Pizzeria
Delivery and take-out pizzeria in Nokomis, Minneapolis

5501 34th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55417
612.727.2424
OWNER: Rich Moore
HOURS:
Sun 3pm-8pm or open one hour before Vikings games
Mon-Wed 3pm-9pm
Thursday 3pm-10pm
Fri-Sat 3pm-11pm
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $9-17

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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18 Comments

  1. Great article… very accurate information. I would only add that the sauce is what really sticks with me…as it combines a sweet and spicy flavor I have never tasted anywhere else!

  2. I miss My Pie.

    And oh man, before it was Pizza Joe’s, it was Ginelli’s, by far my favorite pizza of the late 90s. They might still have a location in the Mpls Skyways, but it was never the same after they went cheap on some ingredients.

  3. I’m happy to see DiNoko’s featured here. I agree with Rob–the sauce is amazing! I’ve only tried the regular crust, but it’s become my favorite S. Mpls. pizza spot.

  4. Spot on review!

    We have been spoiled to have Di Noko’s Pizza close by. Their sauce is delicious, and the flat crust with Canadian Bacon and Pineapple with a side of wings has become a staple in our home when we feel the need to splurge.

    As a quick side note, they donated several pizzas to our national night out last summer and provided gift certificates as well.

    It makes me even more happy to know that they use a coop for their cheese.

    I’m glad that Di Noko’s is part of our neighborhood.

  5. Karlitto's01/07/2012Reply

    My Pie in the day. Green Mill in the day. All the shit pizza between then and now. This just might get me out of St. Paul. Thanks for the heads up!

  6. I am absolutely spoiled by Di Noko’s also.

  7. It’s so great to hear about this. I wrote a paragraph about their old incarnation a couple years ago and compared it to better-than-chain-pizza but for a better price. It was good and consistent, but I didn’t like how things were shaking up with the change. It sounds like Di Noko’s has really got their game together now and I really look forward to trying them the next time I’m in the area.

  8. Christina01/14/2012Reply

    Fantastic. We has the first try last evening. We waited a very long time because of all the publicity and let me tell you it was worth the wait. We had a sausage and onion deep dish and I’ve never had better ( and I lived on Chicago for 18 years ). The sauce is amazing. Thanks Rich for taking my call last night and for Teresa too. Great stuff.

  9. Fallenfree03/01/2012Reply

    James are you from or have you lived in Chicago? This deepdish is not even close. I moved to the twin cities in 1992 and have never found a place that does it right. True Chicago style pizza is supposed to have a completely cooked flaky crust. This was almost totally raw dough. The sauce was good, but you have to get the crust spot on. This truly was not even close.

  10. Author

    Fallenfree, I grew up in Madison and used to hang in Chicago all the time. While I appreciate that you have a “perfect Chicago deep dish” lodged in your head, that’s as mythical as the perfect New York bagel or San Francisco sourdough – there is no holy text. That the crust on this sucker varies from your Chicago ideal doesn’t discredit it – the quality and ratio of ingredients is killer, and it certainly holds its own against the deep dish I used to eat down there. If your point is that the crust isn’t the outstanding feature of this pizza, I’m with you, but crust isn’t the point of deep dish to begin with. East Coast is about the crust. Chicago’s about the cheese.

  11. Rich! I can’t wait to order another pizza soon!!!

  12. we tried their regular style pizza a while back as it’s located within walking distance of our house (we dug Pizza Joe’s for the most part previously).

    neither my wife and I were overly big fans of their sauce, which is a bit on the sweet side (or was on our pizza anyway), and the price is rather high ($18 for a one topping large). Pizza Joe’s or Fat Lorenzo’s sauce both have/had a nice zesty tang to them.

    neither of us are big deep dish fans, but i’d be willing to give theirs a shot at some point, but moreso I just wish their pricing was a bit better compared to other options near us.

  13. The crust and cheese are really great but for me the red sauce was VERY sweet. Sadly, too sweet for this girl. I plan to return to try the other sauces but beware that the red (to me) tasted positively sugary.

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  2. [...] first read about Di Noko’s here.  With a significant other who hails from just outside of the Chicago area, a review about good [...]

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  4. […] (Here we part ways with Moore; we’ve had Di Noko’s deep dish delivered, and enjoyed it greatly.) “It’s a more fun experience when you sit down and it’s […]

  5. […] temperature outside was at an all-time low, but the bar was set high. We knew you could take Di Noko’s out of Nokomis, but could you take good pizza out of Di […]

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