Pies in the Sky: Unique pizza offerings around Tahoe region
There’s a reason why pizza is constantly ranked amongst the most favorite foods in America. Not only is it delicious but there’s usually a fit for everyone. From plain old cheese to the craziest of toppings, you can essentially get almost anything you want on top of your pie.
What follows is not about the most common pizzas you see everywhere. It’s not about the best pepperoni pizza or the most delectable margherita – we’re venturing out and looking at some unique offerings from restaurants around the basin.
If you’re one of those people that feel like pineapple shouldn’t be on a pizza, these might not be for you (although no pineapple was harmed in the making of this list). From crust to core and everything in between, these options are distinctive to the Tahoe pizza scene.
The Pie: Coppa
The Place: The Dog & Bear Tavern (Tahoma)
This pie might be the closest to a “traditional” pizza offering on this list. Given their most recent win as 2022’s Best New Restaurant in the Sierra Sun’s annual contest you can’t not afford to try this place out – or this pizza.
Taking the elevation of Tahoe into consideration they crafted a special 40-hour cold fermented dough that helps to keep it hydrated. The last thing anyone wants is a dried out crust, right? Well, no worries here.
Like Daniel LaRusso on the front of that canoe with Mr. Miyagi, the key to this pizza is balance. The sauce is a delicate pomodoro featuring San Marzano tomatoes and roasted garlic oil. Their cheese comes straight from Wisconsin (Grande Cheese Co.) and is a 50/50 blend of Fontina and mozzarella. Slices of coppa (dry-cured pork shoulder) are added before going into the oven.
A light toss of fresh arugula and lemon oil is done while the pizza is cooking and once removed from the heat, is added on top. Lastly, fresh grated Parmesan is laced around the crust giving you a salty and chewy last bite for each slice.
The coppa brings in a hint of spiciness and goes hand in hand with the peppery arugula. The cheese helps to bring everything together but it all sits on the shoulders of the crust. Don’t let the simplicity fool you – this pizza is packed with flavor.
The Page: thedogandbear.com
The Pie: Zucca
The Place: Lake Tahoe AleWorX (South Lake Tahoe/Stateline)
I’m not certain if the Mugnaini wood ovens in their two locations are the key to the pies at AleWorX, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Firing a mixture of apple and cherry wood, these ovens are maintained around 700 degrees, which can make for some quick cooking (the Zucca goes for about five minutes). The finished product delivers those amazing charred pockets of crust that wood fired ovens are famous for – but enough about the crust.
The uniqueness of this pizza starts with a butternut squash puree that serves as a great alternative to your traditional sauce. A trio of cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, and provolone) is added along with bacon, fresh fennel, and a drizzle of sage oil. Once the pie emerges from the fire, the outer crust is lightly brushed with garlic oil.
The juxtaposition of the sweetness from the puree and the savory from the bacon, sage, and fennel, is on full tilt. The cheeses give you creamy and salty flavor along with a great stringy pull with each slice.
If you really want to send this pizza into orbit, make sure you grab some of their house ranch dressing. It’s one of the things they are best known for.
The Page: laketahoealeworx.com
The Pie: Acapulco Gold
The Place: Lake Tahoe Pizza Co. (South Lake Tahoe)
When you have a pizza that has been on a menu since 1977, it has to be doing something right. The family-owned Lake Tahoe Pizza Company will be celebrating their 50th anniversary slinging pies in 2023, so the flavor of this offering is rooted in history.
But, this pizza is unlike any of their others. Their play on a taco pizza features special corn blend dough. The blend of cornmeal and flour is what helps this pie hold up in their specialty cooking pans for “hand-cooking” in their heat-regulated ovens. Very little oil is used in the dough due to the oven temps so what you end up with is a crust that might be closer to bread than traditional crust, leaving it super light and airy.
A house-made picante sauce gives you the base layer and then a whole slew of ingredients are added (spicy ground beef, onions, bell pepper, olives, sharp cheddar, and mozzarella). Once out of the oven, fresh slices of avocado and chopped tomatoes are added. With the deeper sides of the cooking pan, a fold-over of the crust in a pie technique gives this a very unique look.
With each bite, the flavor explodes. The addition of the creamy avocado sends it over the top. But, if you’re up to get a little higher, add some of their hot sauce and really send it.
The Page: laketahoepizzaco.com
The Pie: Pork & Padron
The Place: Old Town Tap (Truckee)
Sourdough pizza dough? I’m in. No questions asked. Well, maybe where can I take some home for myself, but that’s for a different day.
The dough for this offering comes from nearby Truckee Sourdough Company. The mother (starter) gets fed everyday so you know they’re cranking out goodness at OTT. It’s that slight tanginess of this dough that sets this apart from others.
However, the thing that really sets this off is the meat power trio. In the land of cartoon pies, this is the Porky Pig of pizzas. Pork belly, bacon, and guanciale are all featured in a bath of mozzarella and Parmesan. They are joined at the hip with pickled peppers (their house made “padron” peppers), chile flakes, and a drizzle of bacon honey (yes, bacon honey).
The pork flavor is up front and center – it doesn’t hold back (yes, this is absolutely a good thing). Then, you have a slight heat that follows from the chile flake and pickled peppers, ultimately finishing slightly sweet from the honey. It’s a roller coaster for your flavor sensors, so just throw your arms up and enjoy the ride.
The Page: oldtowntaptruckee.com
The Pie: Pear & Gorgonzola
The Place: Fireside Pizza Company (Olympic Valley)
If you’re one who can’t decide if you should be good (salad), or just go for the indulgence (pizza), this is your solution – it’s the best of both worlds. Fireside also has their dough delivered fresh from Truckee Sourdough (from their recipe) so you can expect a solid return on investment when it comes to the base of this pie.
It all starts with their garlic cream sauce, which is made in-house. A few swirls around the dough, it is then topped with slices of Bosc pears that are hand-cut to order. Fireside can belt out 500 pizzas on a busy day, so be nice to the chefs if you’re ordering when busy – those hand-cut slices take some time. Gorgonzola and red onion are added before it rolls through the oven. It’s finished off with arugula tossed in a hint of balsamic vinaigrette.
The Gorgonzola is a higher quality, which lends more creaminess and helps it to melt better for more tangy coverage. The red onion helps to mellow out the arugula and the pear adds a slight sweetness. The flavors, while simple, are bold – somewhat reminiscent of the holidays, which make this a great winter offering.
If you want to add protein, I’d recommend chicken or bacon (or both, I won’t tell).
The Page: firesidepizza.com
The Pie: Fiery Pesto Chicken & Sausage
The Place: Tahoe Tavern & Grill (Stateline)
After many years (and many dough’s), the crust for this pizza settled on a double zero flour from Italy as its main ingredient. This added element makes for strong elasticity and optimal water absorption, not to mention great taste. The base sauce consists of a house-made spicy arugula pesto that includes basil and lots of other green herbs. It’s then topped with their special five-cheese blend (mozzarella, provolone, Asiago, Fontina, and parmesan). While that sounds delectable enough that you could stop right there and still be happy, the fun is just beginning.
The shredded chicken topping is rested in a dry rub marinade before its initial oven roast and shredding. It’s joined with Cajun Andouille sausage, and freshly shaved jalapeno and green onions. Once all of that is pulled from the oven, it is drizzled with a scratch cilantro crème.
The sauces add both creaminess and a fresh, peppery bite, which compliment each other nicely. The chicken stays moist and the sausage (processed in-house) gives it just the right amount of spice that perks your taste buds, but doesn’t press.
The freshly shaved veggies add a textural component that is the prefect capper to the crust, which holds everything together in splendid fashion. One of the best things about this pizza is the ratio of cheese to sauce to meat to veggies – that and the attention to detail from all its components.
The Page: tahoetavernandgrill.com
Editor’s note: This story appears in the 2022-23 winter edition of Tahoe Magazine.
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