Winning combinations

We get it, Armatage neighbors. You’ve been starved for a relaxed neighborhood restaurant for too long. When someone finally opened up a pizza joint in November, you made sure the owners had good reason to stay open.

You’ve filled the booths, tables and bar and then waited for a half an hour for a seat while drinking Fulton Beer and quizzing the pizza baker as he slides pies into the wood-fire oven.

Of course, the people wouldn’t be showing up if the pizza at Pizzeria Lola, 5557 Xerxes Ave., wasn’t pretty darn good.

Chef Ann Kim has put together some interesting combinations that will expand pizza lovers’ horizons. How about a couple cracked eggs over your pizza? Or butternut squash?

I had to try a pizza with prosciutto on top of ricotta, mozzarella and roasted garlic with sprinkled arugula on top. It’s called the Iowan, and thankfully it includes no corn.

The crust is the best part. It’s a little crispy on the outside, but doughy in the middle. The mozzarella and ricotta made a great mix.

The pizza’s light but flavorful. It’s not going to make you feel like you have a brick in your stomach the rest of the night.  

The Boise has potato, fontina, caramelized onion and rosemary. The Forager has roasted seasonal mushrooms, truffle cheese and truffle salt. How about provolone and mozzarella topped with Berkshire bacon and roasted pineapple? That’s the Hawaii Pie-O.

The most interesting, though, is The Sunnyside. Pecorino cheese and cream topped with guanciale leeks and, yes, two eggs.

For starters, try the roasted cauliflower with Calabrian chili. The cauliflower is crunchy and spicy, but not so much so that you can’t go on eating the whole plate.

It’s been busy in Lola’s during its first couple months. But don’t be put off by a short wait for a table. Head to the back of the restaurant, where there’s a bar looking into the kitchen area as well as the big, copper-sided wood-fired oven in the middle of the restaurant.

That’s what I did, and I was able to grab a couple seats and eat dinner at the bar. This gives you a nice view of Kim as she prepares the pizzas, and then the baker as he reaches in with a big stick to tend to the oven.

Talk to the guy. He’ll explain to you how he fires up the oven a couple hours before the place opens, even though it’s still hot from the previous night. He stacks up logs in the middle, gets them burning and then he spreads them around the outside. Pizzas are in and out quick, so you don’t have the long waits that normally come with ordering a pizza.

If you can’t get a seat at the bar, Lola’s got its own little entertainment — a photo booth in the back where you can get your picture taken and then post it on the wall near the bar.

The restaurant sells beer and wine from the bar.

A few things to be aware of: Pizzeria Lola is only open for dinner, though Kim has said she wants to expand to lunch and brunch on the weekends. The menu is fairly limited, but you can design your own pizza and Kim has plans to expand that as well.

Pizzeria Lola

5557 Xerxes Ave. S.