Smile Politely

Pizza does not disappoint in Champaign-Urbana

There are only a handful of things that I love more in this world than pizza. Ask those closest to me, and they will tell you that if there is a question of what to eat, pizza will always be my answer.

My family had pizza with friends almost every Friday night of my childhood, and we brought back that tradition this past year during the pandemic. I am pleasantly surprised at the range of pizza spots in town. If there was any writing assignment made for me, trying pizza from five of restaurants is it.

A side-view photo of a large, thick crust Sicilian pizza in a silver baking pan sitting on a stove top. Parts of the crust are charred, and the surface of the pizza is covered in small, cooked pepperoni cups. Some of the pepperonis are also charred. The pizza is uncut. Photo by Megan Friend.

Photo by Megan Friend.

Pepperoni Pizza | Baldarotta’s

I tried a large Sicilian take-and-bake pepperoni pizza ($23) from Baldarotta’s in Urbana’s Lincoln Square Mall. This was my first time ordering anything from Baldarotta’s, and this pizza was the shit. Baldarotta’s take-and-bake pizzas are only available on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays while supplies last, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re selling out. The pizza cooks for about 30 minutes in the oven and is well worth the wait. The crust was crispy but so soft and not dense at all, almost pillow-like. The real star of the show was the pepperoni, though. The pepperoni slices are cut thick which means that when they cook, they curl up into little pepperoni bowls on the surface of the pizza. They added so much salt and flavor to the pizza but didn’t overshadow its overall deliciousness. This was easily some of the best pizza in town.

Baldarotta’s Porketta and Sicilian Sausage
300 S. Broadway Ave
T–Sa 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m.

A photo of a large, thick crust pizza taken from above. The crust is brown and well done, and bits of pepperoni and green olive poke out from the browned cheese on top. The pizza is cut into slices. Photo by Megan Friend.

Photo by Megan Friend.

Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza | Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan

Second on my pizza journey was Garcia’s. Garcia’s was not originally on my list of places to review, but I’m glad it made it on the list. I feel like Garcia’s is a hometown favorite for many, and sometimes I wonder if it’s forgotten all the way out there on North Mattis, but they seem to be trucking along. I understand why because their pizza is always fire. I ordered a large three topping pizza ($21.33) with sausage and pepperoni with green olives on half because I live life on the edge. Their crust reminds me of a nice Focaccia bread. It’s crumbly and buttery but not overwhelmingly heavy. Their sauce is tangy and filled with tons of spices.

Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan
313 N. Mattis Ave
11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., daily

A photo of a medium-sized pizza in a carboard box. The pizza has a golden-brown crust with white cheese, red pepperoni and browned pieces of sausage. The pizza is speckled with black pepper and cut into slices. Photo by Megan Friend.

Photo by Megan Friend.

Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza | Manolo’s Pizza & Empanadas

Next, I tried a large pepperoni and sausage pizza ($20) from Manolo’s Pizza & Empanadas. The pizza was thin crust but not crispy, and the dough was perfectly chewy. The ratio of sauce to cheese was even, and the toppings didn’t weigh down the light crust which is important. No one wants their toppings falling off as they go in for a bite. We created our own pizza, but Manolo’s has so many creative options for patrons to try.

Manolo’s Pizza & Empanadas
1115 W Oregon
M-Th 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A photo of a medium-sized pizza in a cardboard box. The pizza has a thin crust with brown, crispy edges. There are large chunks of sausage and slices of pepperoni sticking out from the white, melted cheese. The pizza is cut into squares. Photo by Megan Friend.

Photo by Megan Friend.

Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza | Papa Del’s

Next was a large pepperoni, sausage, and half green olive thin crust pizza ($27) from none other than Papa Del’s. I think the key to Papa Del’s, in my opinion, is ordering thin crust. The pizza isn’t paper thin because it needs to hold up their substantially large chunks of sausage. Papa Del’s rarely disappoints; however, I do feel like their cheese and toppings slide off the crust if you’re not careful when eating. However, that doesn’t stop me from ordering from there at least once a month.

Papa Del’s Pizza Factory
1201 S. Neil St
Su–Th 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
F+Sa: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

A photo of a small, thin crust pizza on top of parchment paper in a cardboard box. The crust is light brown, the cheese is very white, and the pizza is topped with red pepperoni slices and large pieces of green basil. The pizza is cut into slices. Photo by Megan Friend.

Photo by Megan Friend.

Neapolitan Pizza | Pizzeria Antica

Last but not least was some Neapolitan pizza ($16) from Pizzeria Antica. Their pizzas are on the smaller side, so I would recommend getting a few if you’re hungry (and sharing with an equally hungry partner or friend). We ordered a pepperoni pizza, and it was thin and chewy. I really enjoyed the thin layer of crushed San Marzano tomatoes as the sauce. The flavor was simple but allowed the high quality cheese, pepperoni, and basil to shine. The ratio of dough to sauce to cheese and toppings was great. It was definitely a simple pizza but not one to sleep on.

Pizzeria Antica
10 E. Chester St
M–T 4 to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Top image by Megan Friend.

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