Since I started to go to Kansas City years ago, I've never really felt that there was any pizza joint that truly knocked my socks off in terms of having really good pizza. I was telling one of my Kansas City area dealers that one time and he said that I really needed to try a pizza at Waldo Pizza sometime. On a recent trip to Kansas City, I stayed out in Lee's Summit on the southeast side and there happened to be a Waldo Pizza that was walking distance from my hotel.
I'd actually tried to get into the original Waldo Pizza off of Wornall at 75th St. in the Waldo neighborhood in south Kansas City on one previous occasion, but the place was packed and there would have been a 45 minute wait for a place to sit. This location has been open since the mid-80's and definitely flew under my radar in regards to pizza places in Kansas City. Phil Bourne - the owner of Waldo Pizza since 1993 - started out at the original location in 1991 as a dishwasher, working his way up to being a delivery man, then getting to wait tables. When the original owners had enough of running the place, Phil gave them an offer to buy Waldo Pizza. They accepted and Phil's been running the place for 22 years.
Susan Sims and Donna Vaughan were fans of the original Waldo Pizza and felt that the Lee's Summit area needed a good St. Louis-style (thin crust) pizza place. They bought an already successful pizza establishment and turned it into a Waldo Pizza franchise. They opened the Lee's Summit location in 2004.
The Lee's Summit location is in a strip mall back from N.E. Douglas, a main street in that K.C. suburb. (see map) It was later in the evening - around 8:30 - when I went inside and there was a sparse crowd in the place at that time. There was a small bar toward the back of the dining room, a game room off to the side and a handful of booths along the wall. I was greeted by a young man by the name of Drake who was sporting a T-shirt that said, "Corporate Pizza Sucks". I immediately liked the place.
I took a seat at a booth on the side of the dining room. On the walls were a number of pieces of artwork including this portrait of Kansas City-based blues guitarist/singer Samantha Fish. I've seen her play a couple of times - she's very good - the first time when she was still a teenager and beginning to make a name for herself.
The hallway going toward the restrooms was filled with 70's and 80's era album covers that were pretty interesting to see. In the men's room, a number of jigsaw puzzles that had been put together were on the wall. It was kind of funny to see jigsaw puzzles in the men's room.
As I said, the pizza at Waldo Pizza is primarily of the thin-crust variety, but they also feature a hand-tossed and a honey-wheat crusted pizza. Waldo Pizza also features gluten free and vegetarian options with their pizzas. They feature 15 different types of cheese to put on their pizzas, over two dozen meat or seafood toppings (including crab meat, smoked turkey, lamb sausage and Spam), and over 30 different types of veggies to put on a pizza (including roasted corn, zucchini, egg plant, as well as almonds and pine nuts). The Waldo pizza usually comes with a tangy tomato sauce, but you can also get an alfredo sauce, a taco sauce, blended pesto, or a buffalo chicken sauce.
Their St. Louis-style pizzas come with a four cheese blend - mozzarella, provolone, provel, and cheddar. The thin-crust is glazed with garlic butter and topped with the house tomato sauce. I asked Drake if I could just get mozzarella on my pizza. "Uhhh... I'll have to check," he said in a monotonic voice before he walked away. I was kind of dumbfounded because it said that you COULD get mozzarella - and only mozzarella - on the pizza if you liked. He came back moments later and said, "Yeah, we can do that." I figured he must have been new.
I ordered up a small (10") thin-crust Italian sausage sourced from Scimeca's Sausage Company, a family-owned grocery store/Italian food purveyor that has been in the Kansas City area for over 75 years. I also got some mushrooms and pepperoni on the pizza. It had a crispy crust that was cracker thin (some people don't like that thin of a crust but I do - I'd rather taste the toppings than the dough), large slices of pepperoni were on top of the fresh mozzarella cheese, and the sliced fresh mushrooms and chunks of Italian sausage littered the pizza. This was a very good pizza - one that easily passed the "Does it Taste Good with Beer?" test. It went very well with the Boulevard Double Wide IPA that I was enjoying that evening.
The very thin crust pizza is not everyone's favorite, but I thought the one I had at Waldo Pizza in Lee's Summit was outstanding. The fresh ingredients and toppings were a definitely plus with the taste of the pizza. Drake's service was a little confusing and he was very neutral in his demeanor, but that didn't take anything away from the spot-hitting pizza. After years of searching for a good pizza in Kansas City, Waldo Pizza has become my favorite pizza in the area.