Pagliai's Pizza Iowa City Really Delivers

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When you have a teenager, it seems like pizza is a staple in your home. Let’s face it, when you are making it yourself, you can use up leftovers in a creative way, and your family is no wiser in how you re-purpose the food. When you go out? It is important to me that they use fresh ingredients, and Pagliai’s Pizza Iowa City passed the quick test about whether they used fresh or canned mushrooms on their tomato pies.

Pagliai's Pizza Iowa City Really Delivers cover picture showing the front of the restaurant, a table, and a slice of pizza

We were in Iowa City because Miss Sarah was touring the campus to decide if she wanted to go for their early entrance college program through the University of Iowa’s Buckbaum Honors Academy. We have been to the area several times over the last few years, and it looks like a lot more time will be in our future. We are going to have a Hawkeye in our family of Badgers!

One great thing about college towns is the simple fact that there is a lot of food, and they keep it close to campus. All of those students like a little variety from the standard dorm fare, and so do the staff and faculty. Pagliai’s Pizza (pronounced Pah-lee-eyes) proved to be a campus area fixture that served up good food, in a neat location.

Pagliai’s Pizza Iowa City Really Delivers

Let me start by saying this place serves pizza. That’s it. No garlic bread, no salads, no desserts. They found one thing they do really well and just roll with it. The menu is simple: 3 sizes of pies, a variety of toppings, and two specialty pizzas. You can have a pie made while you wait for dine in or take out, or grab a pre-made one to take back with you and bake off at your convenience.

The Simple Decor Works

From looking at the outside of the building, the interior is larger than you would initially think. The retro wallpaper that adorns the walls makes me think of a flocked Victorian print but in Tuscan colors. Add in classic black vinyl booths, and you have a place that not only students, but their visiting parents would be happy to spend a little time in.

You can watch the pizzas being made with the open plan/style kitchen. Instead of hand-tossing their dough, it is rolled out through a vintage machine, to guarantee uniform cracker-style crust consistency. Then the toppings are generously hand laid for your masterpiece.

General Thoughts

Having had a restaurant and catering company of my own, I tend to be a tad pickier than the average diner. I notice things like dirty ceiling vents, sub-par ingredients, sticky menus, and more. Pagliai’s Pizza Iowas City was immaculate, down to practically polished chrome fixtures.

The service was friendly and fast. We had water, plates, and silverware in front of us in less than two minutes from sitting at a table. Questions were answered quickly, and then our order started to arrive.

The Food

Crispy thin crust. Sauce and cheese that makes it to the very outer edge of the tomato pie. Generous amounts of toppings. Fresh mushrooms instead of canned. A sauce that isn’t too sweet, nor too bitter. It all added up to a delicate balance of flavor.

The Wisconsinite part of us cringed at the lack of Parmesan cheese on the table with the other offered toppings. Hey, we are cheese-heads, for a reason! They had salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic salt instead. The hubster and I tried both of the later, and are still in disagreement as to which was better.

They do have a beer and wine license, with beers both on tap and in bottles, along with a nice selection of Pepsi products. We were offered free refills, which isn’t always a thing.

The Bottom Line on Pagliai’s Pizza Iowa City?

This no-frills, but great tasting pizza gem has been around since 1957. For a reason. Over the 63 years, they have gotten their craft down and keep doing what they know they do well. Pizza. Next time you find yourself in Iowa City? Give them a try!

Other places we have eaten in Iowa City

Other great pizzas we have tried in our travels:

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