When my family wanted our favorite take-out pizza, we used to have to drive more than halfway across town. The closest place to get our pie-of-choice was in the Nokomis neighborhood, halfway to St. Paul from where we live. Obviously they didn't deliver this far, so we either had to eat in or pick up.
Eating in was fine, if a little out of the way and requiring some planning, but picking it up was always a bit of a letdown. I'd call to order, and even if I left the house immediately after, it was always under the warming lights by the time I arrived. This was sometimes the case even when I called from the road.
Then, in my rush to get the pizza home before it cooled, there was more than one occasion when it arrived with all the cheese and toppings piled in one side of the box, having slid off as a result of one too many hastily-taken corners.
On one of these drives, Max spotted another, much closer pizza place from the back seat and asked me why we never went there instead. "If we did, you'd know why," I answered.
But that imperfect solution became moot last year, when Carbone's Pizzeria opened a shop right here in Southwest, at 3724 West 50th Street.
Let me tell you what Carbone's means to us. My wife worked at a Carbone's in the northern suburbs when she was in high school. Anyone who has ever worked in food service (and a lot of people who haven't) knows that the fastest way to get sick of your favorite foods is to work where they're made, but Carbone's remains her favorite pizza even all these years later. And Max and I love it too.
Carbone's makes thin-crust pizza, generous with toppings and just the right amount of zesty sauce, cut into square pieces that not only are perfectly manageable for small hands but also result in plenty of the "inside" pieces kids love. Beyond that, it's free of gimmicks like stuffed crust or dipping sauce, standing out by virtue of pure flavor. To me, all but the most exotic pizzas are just as good cold, but something about Carbone's requires you to reheat the leftovers to experience anything like the full alchemy of the experience.
The Southwest Carbone's also solves the perennial challenge of parents eating out, namely the difficulty of dealing with bored kids in a quiet dining room. It does this by the simple expedient of not having one. Technically, the tiny pizzeria is pick-up or delivery only, but in the warmer months it provides a small collection of patio furniture on the sidewalk where you can enjoy your pizza next to the miniature parking lot. That way you don't have to worry about keeping your offspring away from other diners' tables; just moving cars.
That's assuming you want to stick to pizza. They also offer other dining options, as difficult as that may be for my wife to understand. I once enjoyed their delicious and economical gyros lunch special, and probably will again as soon as possible, now that I'm thinking of it.
We're well within the Southwest Carbone's delivery area, of course, but we have yet to take advantage of that fact. We prefer to go pick it up. On foot, if it's warm enough. We figure that walking back and forth will burn up the extra calories we take in by enjoying more pizza than maybe we should. Even if we don't have to walk to Nokomis any more.