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Pizza Shoppe: Dining Out, At Home

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As I approached the first location of Kansas City’s “Original Neighborhood Pizza Place,” I admired the bold red and black letters that deemed this side of the plaza “Pizza Shoppe.” The parking lot was packed but fairly quiet until I opened the door.

Inside, I was greeted by the roar of satisfied customers, a mouth-watering scent of pizza dough and spices and a friendly waitress who gave me a lingering look as if she knew it was my first visit. She sat us at a large, round table that instantly reminded me of family dinners growing up. In the first five minutes of taking a seat, my Pizza Shoppe experience felt less like testing out a new restaurant and more like coming home.

Pizza Shoppe operates 18 locations throughout Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, with more than 15 sites catering to the Greater KC metro. I was lucky enough to be dining at the Platte Woods Shoppe, Dick and Loreta Ryan’s original digs. As I glanced over the menu and sipped on a fresh soft drink, Tommy Ryan appeared in a bright pink polo and shook my hand with so much warmth that I questioned whether I’d met him before.

Tommy is Loreta and Dick’s youngest son, the owner and operator of the corporate store. I asked the story behind the homey diner in which we shared a table and he told me his parents decided to share their cracker-crust pizza with the world in 1967. “As a result of having seven kids, Dad thought, ‘What better way to feed these guys than open a restaurant?’” He described his large family and how every holiday revolved around outdoing each other’s recipes. Why pizza? “It’s a shared item,” he explained. “Customers don’t usually come to the Pizza Shoppe and order individually. It’s a community meal, and over the last 51 years, it’s what we’ve become.”

The expansive menu caters to any crowd with an Italian craving: eight specialty pizzas, five popular combos, classic appetizers, specialty salads, an array of oven toasted sandwiches, oven-baked pastas and create-your-own options. I ordered the Shoppe House Salad to start and relished the combination of fresh mozzarella, crisp salad, pepperoni slices and the iconic, creamy-pink dressing dubbed The Pink Stuff, Pizza Shoppe’s world-famous garlic salad dressing. The dressing, once created and bottled in the Ryans’ kitchen, is a vital part of Pizza Shoppe’s success. After years of customers begging them to sell their secret sauce, they relented; it’s now available for purchase at grocery stores throughout 12 states.

I listened to Tommy discuss the lengthy process of producing The Pink Stuff, but I couldn’t wait another minute to taste the legendary, colorful topping. I took a bite of my salad and immediately understood the hype. A hint of garlic enveloped in a creamy mixture of herbs and spices took an ordinary piece of iceberg lettuce to a whole new level. Customers are so obsessed with the combination of flavor that one has photographed a bottle in Thailand. Another pairs it with pancakes. Yes, really.

My companion and I could’ve easily sat and enjoyed each mouthful of salad glazed in The Pink Stuff, completely satisfied, but our waitress returned with Tommy’s self-proclaimed favorite, a pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushroom and onion pie. In one bite, I could confidently differentiate this slice, a crisp, one-of-a-kind crust, aromatic homemade sauce and a melt-in-your-mouth layer of multiple cheeses, from your average carry-out pizza.

Each element holds its own–flavorful tomatoes, savory onions, powerful spices–but blends perfectly for an overall palate-pleasing pizza, never drenched in grease or overpowered by garlic. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Pizza Shoppe uses only the finest, locally sourced ingredients. “The best ingredients money can buy,” Tommy assured me. “We’re never going to compromise on that.”

Pizza Shoppe’s walls are covered in community-cultivated items, a collection of odds and ends ranging from maps and football composites to old family portraits and a shovel. However, it’s not just junk. “It all means something,” Tommy said, admiring a family photograph. The Platte Woods location includes a sizeable banquet room just waiting to be filled with your family and friends for the next big event. The walls are decked with Trans World Airlines memorabilia from the area’s original airport. Televisions are scattered throughout, making it the perfect place to grab a pre-game premium draft, watch the game or celebrate a Little League win. Pizza-2-People catering allows customers to enjoy their favorite pizza and bring a little piece of “home” to their office or event.

Each location welcomes customers of all ages and families alike. Just as noteworthy as the food, the service is as warm as a basket of garlic bread sticks. “If you come through the door and you’re not recognized by our servers, they’re going to know you haven’t been in before. They’ll ask your name and get to know you,” Tommy said proudly. “We show our customers what it’s like to be a part of our family.” There is very little turnover, and one server just retired after dishing out dinner for 35 years. The staff operates with ease and attentiveness. You’re bound to leave Pizza Shoppe with a full belly and new friends.

Pizza Shoppe celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. In a world of constant change and new businesses that pop up and fall to the wayside, I asked, “What’s your secret?”

“We’ve sustained ourselves over the years,” Tommy replied. “We were the first on the block. My dad made sure we were the last light on until one, two o’clock in the morning.” Whether you’ve lived in Kansas City all your life or happen to be traveling down Highway 71, traveling from the airport, the glowing neon OPEN sign on Pizza Shoppe’s window beckons—Come as you are! Stay as long as you’d like! My first Cravings experience felt less like a tasting and an interview and more like a home-cooked dinner among family friends. Relish in the comfortable ambiance, the delicious pizza, the perpetual Friday night feeling. And don’t forget The Pink Stuff.

Visit for menu previews and the nearest location.

Cravings writer Meg Kraft is a Kansas City transplant from Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to wining, dining and writing, she is a social media specialist and wedding blogger. Meg and her fiancé love exploring their new home and experiencing every flavor that the KC food scene has to offer. She is a pet parent to three French Bulldogs and an avid Kansas City Chiefs fan. Her life motto: count the memories, not the calories.