Norcini opened at the end of 2019 in Strang Hall by the self-taught chef Chad Tillman, a master butcher with over twenty years of experience. The quick and casual spot offers sandwiches and “artisanal” pizzas inspired by the Neapolitan tradition—the dough is cold-fermented for seventy-two hours before being hand-tossed and wood-fired, but it takes on unconventional toppings. While the pizzas will often feature seasonally cured meats, Norcini’s creations have also included a Slap’s BBQ pie and a mac and cheese-topped pizza, but the crab rangoon pizza is always on the menu. It’s topped with cream cheese crab filling, mozzarella, crunchy wonton scraps and a bit of green onion, plus two Calabrian chilis crossed at the center, beneath which another layer of flavor, the sweet chili sauce, oozes out. —Mary Henn
Back in 2005, when local chain Spin opened, Neapolitan pizza was still something of an oddity on these shores. A lot has changed in almost twenty years, and Spin has adapted not by clinging to its bonafides, which are respectable, but by emphasizing its fast casual side—banishing obscure Italian words from their menu and adding items like a Cobb salad. There are, at present, fifteen Spins, including locations in Texas and Nebraska, but most are in the KC area. Spin’s pizzas come out fresh and fast and are heavy on toppings compared to traditional Italian pies, making them perhaps better-suited to meat-loving Midwestern audiences. —Martin Cizmar
Il Lazzarone is one of fewer than a hundred spots in the entire country to earn certification as authentic Neapolitan pizza from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. The original project from noted local pizzaiola Erik Borger opened in the River Market in 2015, firing pies in imported Acunto Mario ovens. Ingredients are often imported here, and red pies are made with San Marzano tomatoes while white pizzas are made with perfected ratios of mozzarella and olive oil. Each maintains the customary leopard-spot char around the edge. The simple ricotta pizza is one of our favorites, topped with fresh garlic, basil, oregano and mozzarella, then finished with tiny pools of whipped ricotta. Not everything is traditional at Il Laz, though—the Nutella pie is topped with bananas and sugared strawberries. —Mary Henn
1889 Pizza Napoletana
Another local Neapolitan pizza joint, 1889 is cozied in a strip mall in KCK. 1889 was started by Kelli and Jason Kolich, who met while studying abroad in Italy and bonded over their shared love for Italian culture and food. The wife-husband duo opened 1889 in 2014 and trained under world-renowned pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani. The crust here is a tad softer and a little less chewy than the crust at Il Laz, and the menu is a bit more adventurous—see the Prized Pig pizza with smoked pulled pork and barbecue sauce, for example. Of course, the menu also has signature Neapolitan pizzas like the margherita and quattro formaggi. But we think the Honey Bee is the way to go. It’s made with fresh pear slices and gorgonzola, then drizzled with local honey and topped with arugula. —Mary Henn
After twenty years in Brookside, Jake Imperiale’s pizzeria and deli, Bella Napoli, is an institution. The Neapolitan pies tend toward the soft and puffy, though you’ll occasionally get some leopard spotting. On Monday night, pies like the Fumoso Bianco with smoked mozzarella, speck, caramelized onions and arugula are just $7—arrive early or you may have to wait for a table. —Martin Cizmar
Martin City Pizza & Taproom
If you happen to be out south in the suburb of Martin City, which has grown exponentially in the last decade, you’ll probably find yourself pulled into one of its best draws: Martin City Pizza & Taproom. At this pizza-centric taproom, which also has locations in Lee’s Summit and Mission Farms, you’ll often find live music being played to a packed bar singing along to cover bands. The pies are as much of a draw as the potent IPAs: Order the Chicken Spanakopita pie with garlic Alfredo sauce topped with chicken, artichoke hearts, spinach, feta, EVOO and parmesan. —Katie Henrichs
Mary Henn is a national award-winning writer with an MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is the current associate editor at Kansas City magazine.
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