Detroit natives Nick and Lydia Esparza opened this small spot in Andersonville after falling in love with the regional foods of Italy. And the couple's knowledge of the country's cuisine is apparent in their handmade pizzas.
But it's not just slices of pizza paradise at this little shop. Great Lake also sells coffee, specialty foods and greeting cards. Yes, greeting cards. Inside you'll find a long metal shelf of gourmet foodstuffs from various states: peanut butter from Michigan, tea from Wisconsin and popcorn from Indiana, to name a few. The other side of the room is more like a family kitchen with one communal table; pull up a small oak bench and meet someone new. There are also a few two-tops that you might be able to snag at the right hour.
The menu, which features four savory pies ($15-$20), might seem limited, but there are no holds barred when it comes to flavor. Take, for example, the cremini mushroom with goat cheese and tellicherry black pepper. The dough is first layered with oils and spices, topped with dollops of wine-cured goat cheese and finally covered inch to inch with an earthy layer of paper-thin creminis. The other three pizzas include a tomato and mozzarella with fresh marjoram; tomato and mozzarella with sopressata; and smoked bacon with onion and rosemary. Just reading the descriptions will have you salivating in an indecisive whirl. Be thankful there are only four (note: the menu does change every so often, so you may want to call ahead.)
The pies will change seasonally based on the freshest available produce and dairy. A list at the bottom of the menu showcases each shining ingredient alongside its supplier. It's almost enough to make you want to try this in your own kitchen—but good luck at recreating Nick's delectable dough. Deep dish? Nope. Thin-crust? Not quite. It's the kind of pizza that's best described by texture and taste, not width. As Lydia says, "you just have to try it."
Note: Rumor has it that Great Lake will begin serving Sicilian-style slices to-go in summer 2010.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Stacy Warden