Secrets of the Best Pizza

Secrets of the Best Pizza

NEW YORK STYLE, SICILIAN OR CHICAGO, IT’S HARD TO PICK A FAVORITE

PHOTOS AND STORY BY MARIA IANNUCCI

Polk County may be a long way from New York and Chicago, but pizza is no less important to us. What’s better: square or round? Pepperoni? Mushrooms? Goat Cheese? Cranberries? The topping options are endless. Flavored crust? Sauce to dip in? Use a fork and knife, or eat in a traditional fold-over? We visited four local pizza establishments to see what makes pizza different, dynamic, and delicious.

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Located in Downtown Lakeland, Palace Pizza Downtown is a family-owned restaurant under second-generation ownership. Open since 1997, brothers Gianni and Sal Schiano took the original Palace Pizza, its only location, and are carrying on its Italian tradition and innovation. While they continue to serve scrumptious New York and Sicilian style pizza at their restaurant, Palace recently purchased a food truck, complete with a wood-fired oven. Their mobility allows the Schianos to serve customers their traditional fare in the restaurant, while sometimes offering wood-fired pizza from the truck during special events like First Friday Downtown, food truck rallies, and special or private events. Any way you slice it, Palace Pizza Downtown is a fixture with an unfaltering standard of making it the right way.

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At Pizza Connection in Auburndale, there’s history in the recipe that’s been used for decades. Pizzas are offered cut in small squares for easy eating. Their signature thin crust is said to be very consistent, ensuring that you’ll always get the deliciousness you expect. “We’re known for our crispy crust,” said Mala Rutledge, the owner of the popular restaurant. Their style of pizza-making is so popular that there are many requests for Pizza Connection to expand. This familyowned business employs, of course, family. Rutledge’s son, Cole, is often behind the counter carefully making pizzas and monitoring the oven for the right moment to serve it up fresh and hot. Rutledge can be found helping customers as they select from a range of toppings that include ham, ground beef, sausage, pepperoni, and bacon, plus a host of vegetables chopped to just the right size.

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In business in South Lakeland for almost a year, Antico’s owner Tonya Demirhan shares her secret to great pizza. “We don’t use oil in our dough,” said Demirhan, who uses many ingredients imported from Italy such as their flour and canned tomatoes from which they make their sauce from scratch. Their pizza is made with a thin crust and cooked to order. The menu features almost 20 signature pies, including the Cinque Formaggi. It’s made with Grana Padano, mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, and Gorgonzola topped with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano. Just a few minutes in the wood-fired oven leaves their pizza crisp and delightful. Some pizzas are topped with unusual ingredients, such as fresh clams, rosemary potatoes, or cranberries. Antico’s also offers gluten-free and vegan pizza options. As Demirhan said, “It’s about quality, not quantity.”

 

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This chain of restaurants is big on flavored crusts and makes its pizzas fast, fresh, and just for you. Hungry Howie’s has several locations across Polk County, making it easy to call in and pick up an order, order online, or walk in and make your choice. In business for over 40 years, the restaurant makes every item fresh, starting with that crust. “Crustomize” your order for free; choose from 8 mouthwatering flavors like sesame, butter, ranch, Cajun and garlic herb. Affordable and a good value, their pizza is made from only the freshest ingredients, such as 100% mozzarella cheese. The company offers convenience and a good deal on a delicious and enjoyable meal.