So it’s under a crushing weight of expectation we must consider Hello Pizza, the new casual slice concept from Lola’s diminutive dynamo Ann Kim. But the comparison is tenuous because, aside from pizza and ownership, the shops are 180 degrees apart. In the Ann Kim symphony, Hello Pizza is the reserved adagio that follows Lola’s lively allegro. It’s as if she considered what Lola had blossomed into and asked what it could do without.
It’s probably best to not even think of Hello Pizza as a restaurant. It’s a slice shop in every sense — rows of communal seating, ordering at a counter, slices at the ready or take a number for a whole pie. The menu only strays from pizza by way of three salads and two subs. The signature topping combinations don’t push any boundaries and the ambiance hardly suggests destination dining.
But Hello Pizza is not different from Lola where it counts the most: The pizza is damn good stuff. If that’s your sole criteria for a visit, you do indeed have a new slice in town to seek out.
Its space off France Avenue near 44th has been done up like a middle school cafeteria on a spaceship, but the kind of spaceship that people in 1960 thought would exist in 2013. It’s minimal, streamlined and unceremoniously chic.
Single slices ($3.25-$4.50 for a 1/6th of an 18” pie) sit preening at the counter, and the best of the bunch is the Hello Rita ($3.50). It’s your classic pizza margherita with just the right amount of sauce and stringy ovals of fresh mozzarella. It’s also the slice that most illustrates Hello Pizza’s ethos: basic restraint. We’ll give a close silver medal to the Hello Trinity ($4.25) and its gloriously chewy hunks of house-made fennel sausage.
You may have heard their slices described as “New York-style” and, here, we must make a distinction. These aren’t NY street slices — the massive, floppy triangles dripping with cheese and grease that warrant an irresponsibly large handful of napkins. Their more accurate Gotham doppelgänger is Grimaldi’s, due mostly to the star of Hello’s show: the crust.
These pies sport a beautifully carbon-speckled undercarriage, crunchy but still tender with just enough integrity to make slice folding unnecessary after the first bite. The upper crust and toppings more closely recall the thin, elegant slices at Broders’ Cucina Italiana.
Hello’s signature pies are mostly riffs on classic combos. So we were glad to find that the Smokey The Pig ($22) successfully pulls off some topping intrigue. It features prominent rings of applewood-smoked onions, with a dotting of bacon and mozzarella. A layer of adobo barbecue sauce and a tinge of maple syrup bring some sweetness, while a sprinkling of rosemary adds a much appreciated high note.
The salads are basic — in contrast to the divine market salads at Black Sheep — but very solid for what they are. We enjoyed the Daily Greens ($7.50), a spring mix with blue cheese, pepitas, those same aggressively smoky onions, and a peppery sherry vinaigrette.
If you go the sandwich route, skip the classic sub in favor of the Korean Cowboy ($9), essentially a meatball banh mi with shreds of daikon, carrot, and pickled onion hovering about an endearing mixture of tangy gochujang barbecue sauce and garlic aioli.
The point of contention among our tasters was whether Hello Pizza is the kind of place you’d drive out of your way for. These are slices your East Coast friends can’t sneer at, no doubt. But we’ve found it can quickly become a frantic hive of activity, making it a less than ideal spot if you’re looking to relax, linger, and savor a meal.
But on the flip side of the same coin, props to Kim for organizing such quick service without sacrificing quality. It’s awfully refreshing that Hello Pizza can have you seated, fed, and out the door in roughly the time it often takes to get a table at Lola.
That will likely continue to be the case even if Hello Pizza becomes fully crowd-saturated in the months to come. Just weeks into service, Kim already has the shop running at full throttle, turning over tickets at a furious clip. Even during dinner rush, the queue gets subsumed no less quickly than it forms.
Hello Pizza is perfect for its neighborhood and a worthy addition to the metro pizza scene as a whole. In sum, we’ll skip the obvious Jerry Maguire line to answer the question tacitly posed by Lionel Richie’s face on the kitchen door: Hello, is it me you’re looking for? Well, now that you’re here, yes it is. Absolutely.
East Coast-inspired pizza by the slice
3904 Sunnyside Rd
Edina, MN 55424
OWNER / CHEF: Ann Kim
BAR: Beer & Wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No / No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: Slices $3.25-$4.50, Whole 18″ Pies $16-$22, Subs $9