Serious Eats contributor Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel from the road, this time in Omaha. —The Mgmt.
La Casa Pizzaria
4432 Leavenworth, Omaha, NE 68105 (map); 402-556-6464; lacasapizzaria.net
Pizza Style: Thin crust rectangular pies with buttery crust are the norm; double-crust pies also available
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Half-century old Omaha institution offers a unique, very good pizza
Price: Large (10” x 15”) with two toppings, $15.14
I have some important advice for anyone planning on taking a trip to the College World Series: Wear purple. When LSU is in the CWS (which is pretty much every year these days), hundreds of Louisianans make the 1000+ mile drive to Omaha, Nebraska, to cheer on their favorite baseball team. While flying might be easier, cars are required to bring along the stunning amount of food and cooking supplies that go into what must be some of the more impressive tailgating on the planet. And that brings me back to the "wear purple" suggestion: The people who bring the food may not speak a version of English that most Americans can understand, but they are happy to share their food with anyone and everyone who is there to support LSU baseball.
Since all my purple clothes were still in Chicago, I had to find some other dining options while in Omaha over the weekend. In that quest, I encountered a couple of misses, but La Casa Pizzaria was a definite hit. The Omaha institution has been serving up unique pies since Joe Patane opened the place in 1953.
Since then, they have expanded their original location, which I went to, and they have added a second restaurant.
When I called to order my pizza, I told the person who answered the phone I had never been to La Casa before and asked for his recommendation. He suggested their version of a Margherita, which consists of their thin crust brushed with garlic olive oil, topped with homemade tomato sauce, diced Roma tomatoes, fresh basil, oregano, mozzarella, and a touch of Romano cheese. I said that sounded good and that I would like that, but with sausage as well. Unfortunately for me, La Casa has a policy of not allowing any additions to their specialty pizzas. I would not budge on my need to try the sausage, so I opted for a regular thin crust pizza with sausage and mushroom.
He asked if I wanted Romano, mozzarella, or both and I opted for the mixture. It turns out that when La Casa was founded, the only cheese available was Romano and it remains the default cheese there to this day. I thought that all Romano might be a little overwhelming so I went with the blend. I'm not sure whether the all-Romano topped pie would have been too much, but I do know that the mozzarella/Romano mixture was excellent. The mozzarella provided the creaminess and the Romano provided just the right amount of tanginess to make a thoroughly enjoyable cheese topping.
The homemade sauce was evident in each bite, but did not provide much flavor other than a good, basic tomato taste. Fortunately, the salt in the Romano cheese helped make up for the lack of seasoning in the sauce. The sausage was also on the bland side, although it was still very good. It seemed fresh, was well-represented on the pie, and added a nice amount of chew and fat to the pizza. The mushrooms were fresh, but were not sufficiently numerous to make much of a difference.
The crust had a good amount of butter in it and that will never get a complaint from me. The cracker-thin bottom crust was crisp, but came across as much more chewy thanks to the thicker layer of cheese. It was very good, but not nearly as good as the cornicione, which was incredibly crisp and flaky and had nice hole structure. The buttery, crispy cornicione, when eaten with a little of the tangy blended cheese mixture, tasted like fresh cheese twists, something I can't remember ever experiencing in my pizza-eating life.
Was my La Casa pizza better than the pot of gumbo I saw some LSU fans making that was so big an oar was needed to stir it? Perhaps not, but this was some very good pizza that I would be more than happy to eat regularly.