Thin crust, thick crust. White sauce, marinara sauce, salsa. Fontina cheese. Mozzarella. Meat. Veggie.  Square slice, pie slice. The options are endless when it comes to pizza. And restaurants throughout the Great Rivers & Routes region have become destination points for pizza connoisseurs.
 

Johnson's Corner, Alton

Want a Thanksgiving Dinner pizza complete with turkey and all the trimmings? How about a Chili Cheese Dog pie?
Creative, tasty pizzas are hot menu choices at many locally owned and operated restaurants, including Johnson’s Corner, 2000 State St., Alton.

“We like to mess around with a lot of different ideas for our pizzas,” said Andy Prehn, chief pizza chef at Johnson’s Corner, 2000 State St., Alton. "We do a special pizza of the month and sometimes they go over real well. And other times it’s just fun to experiment.”

Johnson’s Corner added personal pizzas to its extensive dining menu six years ago as a way to expand options for families, said Jimmy Johnson, owner of the popular neighborhood pub and restaurant. “Nothing goes better with pizza than beer and we got the beer down. We decided, let’s try the pizza thing.”
 

Andy Prehn throwing a pizza crust at Johnson's Corner, Alton


Now, the restaurant sells more than 400 pizzas a month and that number tends to go up during the winter months. From a popular mushroom pizza with white garlic crème sauce, truffle oil topping and fontina cheese to the meat lovers and supreme pies, Johnson’s focuses on using completely fresh ingredients. All crusts are made by hand and the cheese is shredded in house.

“Our fresh ingredients help us stand out,” Jimmy Johnson noted. “The pizza trend has taken off and that’s exciting for us.”
 

Wood fired pizza at Roper's Regal Beagle, Godfrey

That same philosophy holds true at Friday's South in Uptown Collinsville, which is famous for its huge thin crust creative pizza concotions, Dig in to a Philly Cheesesteak or Pig Ranch pie. Sample the Tomato Basil or Honey Mustard Chicken. The Friday's South Taco Pizza uses salsa as the pizza base which makes the pizza taste like an open face taco.

Other notable pizza restaurants include:
Locals flock to Roma’s Pizza, 121 E. Bethalto Dr., Bethalto. The restaurant has a long-standing tradition of serving some of the most highly rated pizza in the region.  (618) 377-5800. Or check out Dewey's Pizza in Edwardsville. Located along historic Route 66, this iconic restaurant takes its pies seriously. Try the Porky Fig with its fig jam base and topped with mozzarella, fontina, prosciutto, camelized red onions and gorgonzola. Edwardsville is also home to famed Peel Wood Fired Pizza. Build your own pizza from a list of incredibly fresh ingredients or try a specialty pizza. The chefs at Peel keep the menu fresh with creative, new pizza blends each month. Tony’s Restaurant in Alton features weekly pizza specials and is famous for its sweet marinara sauce, the base for each pie.

Pizza on Route 66

While taking a jaunt down the southern leg of Route 66, make it a point to satisfy your yen for pizza at these savory restaurants:

Edwardsville: There's no shortage of places to indulge in a craving for pizza in Edwardsville. Neopolitan pizzas are on tap at Sugo's Spaghetteria, 243 Harvard Dr. Bella Milano makes their pizza's from scratch and a favorite is the BBQ Chicken. The Foundary Public House is home to flatbread pizzas including the popular Fajita Flatbread. Invent your own pizza at Edison's Entertainment Center while enjoying bowling, laser tag and more. 222 Artisan Bakery has six different specialty pizzas on the menu. Panteras has an express pizza buffet for anyone with a larger than life appetite. EdgeWild has Happy Hour pizzas on tap for budget minded diners. Check out the pizza's at these restaurants as well: Big Daddy's, Gilliganz Bar and Grill and The Cabin at Judy Creek.

Staunton: Cavataio's, 101 S. Edwardsville St. Here's a "must try" pizza -- the spicy chicken supreme features over six savory ingredients including mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, spicy chicken, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. Build your own pizza at Little Italy's Pizza, 305 W. Main St.,

Collinsville: Uptown Collinsville is home to some great pizza spots. Go to Mungo's for its S.M.O.G. pie (short for sausage, mushroom, onion and green pepper). Old Herald Brewery & Distillery has three tangy, sweet and savory pizza's on the menu. Sloan's Pub House has an amazing meat lovers pie. The Horseshoe Lounge at 410 St. Louis Rd., outside of the Uptown district, offers a five topping veggie delight pizza.

Litchfield: Look no further than Nancy's Pizza, 13 Thunderbird Circle, for your Chicago-style pizza fix. Order a favorite or try Nancy's specialty deep dish including Nana's Special, Uncle Tony's and Chicago Beef. Also in Litchfield is Gianni's Pizza and Italian Market home to the Vinny Special. Topped with grilled chicken, bacon, tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, Italian garlic butter sauce and ranch dressing, it's a pizza lover's dream pie. Be sure to stop by Pizza Man and Ice Cream Man, 301 W. Union Ave., for the meatiest pizza around! The Panther Special is full of flavor with Canadian sliced ham roll, Old World pepperoni, Italian sausage, real bacon and fresh ground hamburger.

And There's More!

Cruise along Route 66 to Virden and stop at Dicarlos Pizza Restaurant. The Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza has a big of spice with its mildly spicy ranch sauce, grilled chicken, bacon, red onions and blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. In Carlinville, Reno's, located on the city square, has mouth watering pizzas including the Erika's Favorite -- a blend of four distinct cheeses.

Looking for a wood-fired specialty pizza? At Roper’s Regal Beagle, in Godfrey, diners can watch their pizza cook in the brick oven located just inside the restaurant.
Greek, mushroom and a special DIY 12-inch hand tossed pizzas are part of the menu at Great Rivers Tap and Grill, 3559-B College Ave., Alton. The restaurant is part of the Best Western Premier St. Louis Alton hotel so guests can enjoy their pizza, beverages and newly renovated rooms in one spot.
Pizza as comfort food? Absolutely! And Mac’s Downtown, 315 Belle St., Alton, offers personal pizzas made to order. Be sure to check out their Monday and Tuesday pizza specials.
 

Joe's Pizza and Pasta, Godfrey
Bite into a thick crusted, secret recipe deep dish pizza at Joe’s Pizza and Pasta, 5775 Godfrey Rd., Godfrey, and delight the tastebuds. An extensive pizza menu highlights the choices available.

Additional locally owned pizza options: High Flyers Grille, 16 Terminal Dr., East Alton; Town Club of Alton, 2400 E. Broadway, Alton; 1880 Pizza & Pasta House, Jerseyville; Marco’s Pizza, 897 E. Edwardsville Rd., Wood River; John's Pizza, 102 Olive St., White Hall; Gianni's Pizza & Italian Ristorante, 209 S. Main St., Hillsboro; Alfonso's Pizza, 514 N. Main St., Carrollton