While just about anyone can make a pizza, a successful ‘za achieves a precarious balance of flavors and textures — each component must shine without overwhelming the others. With a number of consistently lauded pizzerias in the metro area — and three heavy hitters within a five-minute radius of the heart of Nordeast (Black Sheep, Pizza Nea, and Punch) — competition is tough. That said, strong preliminary performance may afford Broadway St-based Element Pizza a niche in the artisan pizza market.
At the center of any pizza, sauce can quite literally make or break the pie. Element offers three options: napoli (oregano tomato sauce), margarita (basil tomato sauce), and bianco (sauce-free). Both tomato-based concoctions are well-balanced, savory options with a noticeable hit of fresh herbs and lightly garlic-accentuated flavor.
The Element ($10), a riff on Punch’s Borgata, swaps out the salty saracene olives for a liberal sprinkling of basil and arugula (there’s no apparent “three-leaves-per-pizza” standard in play here), which add a bright, fresh taste. While lightly roasted eggplant and juicy sun-dried tomatoes are the stars of the show, a smooth, flavorful olive oil and fresh mozzarella round out the stronger flavors to create a more unified pie.
The Wind ($9.50) — a blend of prosciutto and the same arugula and basil — leans a tad salty, with the prosciutto elevating the otherwise pleasantly seasoned sauce and cheese to an assertive level. The Water ($8.50) is a better bet — pungent red onions balance the mild sodium of the anchovies to create an addictive contrast. Fire ($10.75), a spicy sausage / roasted red pepper / chevre / basil pie, wasn’t nearly as spicy as its name suggested — the chevre cooled the heat of the crumbled sausage — but offered a nice change of pace in terms of texture.
Element’s only real downfall? The crust, a pleasantly thin-yet-chewy hybrid with plenty of char from the wood-fired oven, lacks flavor. While the sauce and toppings burst with flavor, the crust couldn’t hold its own. As one member of our party remarked, “the crust should have enough salinity to stand on its own.” In our visits, any crusty ends were best repurposed as a vehicle for a steaming order of triple cheese spinach and artichoke dip.
Overall, though, few people order a pizza to tear off the crusts and eat them plain — and, when topped with sauce and toppings, Element’s pizzas may be able to compete with the business’ more established competitors. Harmonious flavor combinations, fresh ingredients, and friendly service combine to make Element a viable new neighborhood pizzeria for the northern part of Nordeast — one that I’ll continue to frequent.
BEST BET: Try the pizzeria’s namesake, the Element: Flavorful olive oil rounds out the juicy sun-dried tomatoes and roasted eggplant, while a liberal sprinkle of arugula and basil brightens the flavor.
Wood fire pizza in Northeast Minneapolis
96 Broadway St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
OWNERS: Ismail and Sue Karagoez
BAR: Beer and Wine
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-12