If you’re any sort of Minneapolitan at all, Dulono's Pizza needs no introduction, and nor does the pie, but I’ll briefly do so anyway, for posterity. I won’t pretend to have deep, un-severable ties to the pizzeria (as an East Sider, I’m geographically tethered to Savoy, regardless of how far I roam) though I do have many good memories of the place.
ICYMI, the 60-year-old restaurant (and until 2014, regular bluegrass music venue) announced on Sunday that operations in Uptown were done. The chain's locations in downtown Minneapolis, Woodbury, and Mahtomedi will live on.
A Dulono’s pizza pie is arguably Minnesota’s own pie. Square-cut, low or no-yeast crust that’s more cracker than the crisp-chew of the far more en vogue Neapolitan style, moderate-to-heavy mozz, no Parmesan in sight except in the shaker that rides sidecar to the red pepper flakes.
Sauce is ultra-savory and applied in God’s own amounts – abundant enough that you actually taste it, sparing enough that the crust stays sturdy at the edges and supple at the middle. The crisp crust pieces with rivulets of sauce peeking out like a starlet’s red lips are the most coveted.
Like all the best things about food, pizza is best when it’s acting normal. Neopolitan-style pizza is divine, and I like it as much as anyone else does. But just as an Italian doesn’t want to sit down to a Dulono’s pie when they're seeking pure comfort, I’m not seeking “oo” flour, fresh basil or burrata, good as all of that is. There’s no paralysis while standing in line at Dulono’s deciding on whether you want doppio or bufalina.
When a Minnesota dreams of her last pizza, this is what she dreams of. And when a place like Dulono’s (or Savoy, or Ronnally’s, or Carbone’s) closes, it rips out a piece of your heart. You want them to exist into eternity.
This is the pizzeria of a Gen-Xer's childhood, especially if your family was of a certain middle-to-low income bracket. Almost everybody can afford a pizza. This would have been considered an outing, and everyone, even the adults, would have been in a very good mood. The biggest argument would be over onions, and they’d gladly put the polarizing toppings on half.
These places almost inevitably have carpet on the floor, wood paneling on the walls, an under-maintained Lion’s Club gumball machine at the front door, a jukebox, and a 75-year-old waitress. She’s a waitress, not a “server.” Don’t get it twisted. Beer by the pitcher and cheap, crappy wine in a box served in a too-small glass (yes, the wine is crap and there isn’t enough of it!) rounds things out.
My aunt loves telling and re-telling a story of a 5-year old me, standing up in the booth, and bellowing to a full pizzeria: “Where’s that f**king pizza?!” I was only repeating what my uncle had just muttered. They both crumpled into peals of laughter. Well over thirty years later, the memory is indelible.
I guarantee that on the morning after Uptown Dulono’s closing (technically they’re moving operations to their downtown Minneapolis location) far more Minnesotans are feeling a hole in their dining hearts than when La Belle Vie or even Nye’s went dark.
If-the-ages-could talk carpet and the gumball machines and the beer by the pitcher will reassure you that only one thing is about to arrive: pepperoni with sausage and onions on half, and eight inches of mozzarella stretching straight into your mouth hole.
The only thing left to do is sink a little deeper into that booth and let the mozzarella melt soothe your worries away.
RIP Dulono’s Uptown.