I'm starting to find some good pizza places in the Twin Cities. Some of them are eclectic - Pizzeria Lola immediately comes to mind (click here to see the entry on Pizzeria Lola) - while some are old school, such as Fireside Pizza (click here to see the entry on Fireside Pizza). And then you have the fun places like Psycho Suzi's (click here to see the entry on Psycho Suzi's). But a number of locals swear by the pizza at the original Red's Savoy Pizza in St. Paul. On a recent trip to the Twin Cities, I sought out Red's Savoy in St. Paul to give their pizza a try.
The original Red's Savoy opened on E. 7th Street in St. Paul in 1965. Earl "Red" Schoenheider came up with a secret recipe for his pizza sauce that became a favorite of thousands of Twin City area pizza fans for years. Over the years, fans of the pizza at Red's Savoy convinced him to open other locations around the area. Not wanting to spread himself too thin, Schoenheider began to franchise Red's Savoy locations around the area and there are now 9 additional places to get Red's Savoy pizza in the Twin Cities (one is located just across the St. Croix River in Hudson, WI). Interestingly, there is also a Red's Savoy Pizza in Omaha.
In talking to some of the locals about Red's, I found that many think there is a distinct difference between locations. There was some inconsistency between the different restaurants and Schoenheider brought in a franchise overseer a couple years ago to make sure there is a consistency between all the locations. However, people still tell me the best is the original location on the east side of St. Paul.
The original Red's Savoy Pizza is located at the corner of E. 7th and Lafayette Rd., just north of where U.S. Highway 52 meets Interstate 94, and just east of where I-94 and Interstate 35E meet. (see map) So, it can be said that all roads lead to the original Red's Savoy. I found the place and parked in the parking lot directly behind the building (there's also a parking lot on the east side of the building. Red's Savoy Pizza isn't much to look at - it's a squat building with windows that are dry-walled from the inside so no light gets in. The facade features a wood shingle front that has "Liquors" and "Restaurant" flanking the Red's Savoy logo.
When you walk into Red's Savoy, you encounter a low-ceilinged, dimly-lit bar area that looks like it hasn't been updated since 1970. (All the interior pictures that I took of Red's Savoy Pizza didn't come out.) The dining area at Red's Savoy is off to the side and features a colorful mural along the long wall of a Italian waterfront scene with gondola boats and a pretty Italian young woman holding a large pizza. There were a couple seats open at the bar and I took a seat there. They have a pretty good beer selection at Red's Savoy - both on tap and in bottles. I had to get a Grain Belt Premium.
The bartender, a nice middle aged lady with a bit of sass, got the attention of one of the servers and she brought me over a menu to look over. They have two sizes of pizza at Red's Savoy - the regular (10") and the large (14"). In addition to their homemade pizza sauce, they also make their own Italian sausage at Red's Savoy. In addition to pizza, Red's Savoy also has burgers and sandwiches at the 7th St. location, as well as your typical appetizers and salads.
I ended up ordering my usual sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza - a 10" regular size. My server said it would be about 15 to 20 minutes. While I waited for my pizza I took a look around the bar area and noticed that they had about 6 to 8 flat screen televisions. At least three of them were tuned to security cameras in the parking lot. The area around Red's Savoy Pizza in St. Paul is a little iffy, but I didn't feel threatened in the least. It could also be that the cameras are in place because the 81-year-old father of former Minnesota U.S. Senator Norm Coleman was caught having sex in the parking lot with a 38-year-old woman about 7 years ago.
Sure enough, less than 20 minutes after I ordered, my pizza came out. It was a misshapen pizza, topped with copious amounts of sausage chunks, pepperoni slices, large slices of mushroom, and crowned with a slathered mass of caramelized mozzarella cheese. The pizza was cut into square party cuts and served on a piece of waxy paper on an old-style cafeteria tray. I got a large kick out of the way it was served. I sent a picture out via Road Tips Twitter account and the guy behind the Slakingfool restaurant and food blog site replied, "What a glorious looking mess!" The pizza did look great.
The first bite of the pizza revealed a nice tangy sauce that had a little spicy bite to it. It wasn't sweet at all like some pizza sauces can be. It had a nice balance between Italian seasonings and the spicy flavor. The sausage had a nice taste to it, as well.
The crust on the pizza was thin, but not crisp. Actually, it was pretty bland in comparison to the sauce and sausage. And the mozzarella was rather pedestrian. For as much mozzarella cheese they put on the pizza at Red's Savoy, I would have thought it would have had a little more pizazz. But it didn't detract from the overall taste of the pizza.
As I was making a significant dent in my pizza, a guy waiting to pick one up sat down next to me and had a beer. He asked me, "Is it good?" I said that it was. It was very good. He said, "It's the zest from the old pizza oven that they use here. That oven has had tens of thousands of pizzas cooked in it and it each pizza picks up that essence." I'm a big believer in the taste of pizzas that are cooked in old pizza ovens. Those are usually the best.
I was able to eat all but about three or four of the party cut squares. The toppings and cheese were so massive that it filled me up rather quickly. My server got me a small box and I took the remaining pieces back to my hotel room. I put them in the fridge in my room and had them for lunch after a morning meeting the next day. They warmed up nice in the microwave, but the crust had gotten a little soggy.
Overall, the pizza I had at the original Red's Savoy Pizza was very good. The sauce is an acquired taste, but I liked it. And I liked the neighborhood tavern feel to Red's Savoy. I'd be a little gun-shy to try a pizza at any of the other locations after having the original in St. Paul. But if they have truly gotten their franchises in order to be more in line with the original, it may not be exactly like the original Red's Savoy, but it could be close.