Thursday, August 7, 2014

Best pizza in the Twin Cities comes from a Korean pizzaiola

By Phyllis Louise Harris
August 2014

The current issue of Mpls/StPaul contains a list of their choice of 52 best pizzas and names Ann Kim of Pizzeria Lola creator of one of the top four Chef Driven pizzas. What exactly does that mean?

For one thing it means an immigrant from Korea who went to college in New York City and came back to Minneapolis to be near her family has created one of the best pizza restaurants in the Twin Cities. Who would have thought?!

But, she didn’t just come back and open an award-winning restaurant, she came back not knowing what she wanted to do and decided a pizza restaurant would be good because “most people like pizza” as she once said. Evidently not everyone likes all pizza because the first thing she did was taste the pizza in Minnesota and decided she did not like it at all. Instead she wanted the flavorful, chewy, thin crust pizza she found in New York City and to learn how to make it she went to the International School of Pizza in San Francisco. Not content with just going to school, Ann became so skilled at making the wood-fired artisan-style pizza she became one of only ninety certified pizzaiolas in the U.S. and was offered a chance to return to the school as an intern.

Instead, Ann wanted to open a restaurant. Here is where Lola comes into the picture. While Ann and her partner Conrad Leifur were walking their dog Lola in south Minneapolis near 56th and Xerxes they came upon a “for rent” sign in a window next to the French restaurant CavĂ© Vin. And, the rest is history? Well, almost.

For the next year she had to create a menu, test dozens of recipes, put together and train a team, furnish the space and order a special wood burning, brass pizza oven from France. Lola’s Pizzeria opened in November 2010 to rave reviews. Among the customers’ favorites was an odd pairing of flavors for Lady ZaZa pizza featuring Korean kimchi that Ann’s mother, Young Kim, makes every week and house-made Korean sausage. While some of her other pizzas have more traditional toppings Ann continues to test unusual combinations such as Korean barbecued ribs with arugula and sesame/soy-chili vinaigrette or the pizza topped with two sunny-side-up eggs. The menu lists 16 choices along with starters and desserts and wine and beer.

Business became so good they expanded dinner hours to include lunchtime and all through the afternoon seven days a week. Area critics continued to rave about her pizza with lots of “favorite” listings and she was featured on cable TV’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Ann’s story is also included in “Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875” published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press and in the EMMY® winning television show, Asian Flavors now running on tpt’s MN channel. (See links below.) Business continued to boom and she opened Hello Pizza a few miles away in Morningside. Her concept is also in the Delta’s airport terminal with yet another pizza place.

It has been great fun to watch her idea take on a life of its own and become so successful. Congratulations to this hard working, talented lady who found a way to put her skills to work and give us an exceptional culinary experience. It is just one more example of what can happen when you set a goal and do everything possible to make it happen. I don’t think Ann ever thought her idea would be anything but a success. What would you do if you knew your idea would be successful?



Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, now in bookstores and on

Buy online:  Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875  

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at: