Iowa City Pizza: Mesa, Falbo’s, and Pizza P.O.D.


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Pizza is far from uncommon in Iowa City. There’s a dizzying array of potential places to treat your taste buds to cheese, meat, and vegetables piled atop cooked dough. I endeavored to try to taste the lion’s share of local and mostly local offerings.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I tried to find the specialty at each eatery and, price permitting, test it against more traditional fare.

This week I perused the town’s highest visibility pizza: by the slice.

Mesa Pizza

Mesa is nestled in the heart of downtown, staying open late to take full advantage of its location. Colorful art adorns the walls across from the relatively plentiful indoor seating. I ordered a slice of the mac and cheese pizza and a slice of the pepperoni and sausage.

Though expensive — each piece is $3.75 — the slices are large and generous as far as toppings go. The crust is good and serviceable, if bland at times. The pepperoni and sausage is above average but nothing special, and there is not anything particularly noteworthy about the sauce, either — though basic toppings are not the hallmark of Mesa’s success.

Its wild specialties are the real draw. Macaroni and cheese is a magical combination of layered cheese and, admittedly slightly overcooked, noodles. Replacing the forgettable tomato sauce with more cheese is a genius move, which feels appropriate. Other combinations include gyro pizza, quesadilla, and bacon cheeseburger. Mesa is worth your time if you are willing to give your palate a little bit more of a workout than usual.

Falbo Bros. Pizzeria

A frequent late-night stop despite its shop being a few blocks outside of downtown, Falbos is the only pizza place open almost as late as Gumby’s — that is, around 3 a.m. every day. Good music is generally bumping, and the slices are some of the cheapest in town at $2.50 each. Sparse and functional, the space is standing-room only.

I ordered a slice of the tomato, basil, and garlic pizza. Falbo Bros. delivers exactly what you want in a late-night snack: pure indulgence with zero pretension. The crust is thick, hearty, and soft with grease — eating it is eminently satisfying.

Layered above the crust is a mass of salty, rich cheese, that feels appropriate on such a dense slice of pizza. Despite somewhat lackluster tomatoes, the more well-endowed flavors of basil and garlic combine spectacularly. The grease is occasionally overwhelming, suiting the strong flavors of the pizza perfectly. An unpretentious and frank option for pizza.

Pizza P.O.D.

Originally Pizza on Dubuque, it since moved around the corner and down the street from its old Dubuque Street location. The little storefront is quirky and plays good tunes while you examine its offerings. I had a slice of the Cajun Chicken with Onion and the plain cheese.

Its whole-wheat crust, crispy with a welcome weight, is the star of this particular show. The richness and robustness of flavor is noticeably different from white-bread crusts. Cheese here is average, if maybe a little salty. The Cajun chicken is good, well-spiced, and generous in its portioning. The accompanying onion is flavorful and enhances the texture of the slice greatly. Its freshly made calzones are also quite the treat. Despite the same high-price point as Mesa Pizza, P.O.D. is a late-night option well-worth a try if only to experience a whole-wheat crust.