Finding pizza is easy; finding good pizza is another ordeal altogether. I’ll admit, I thought I was pretty much done with gobbling pizza when I graduated from college. Sometimes, though, I still get the spark of a craving. Not for a greasy mound of cheese on puffy bread, but for slim, crunchy, New York-style pizza. Longtime Jacksonvillians might know where to go, but relative newcomers – like me – can easily become overwhelmed by the plethora of local pizzerias.
I always come back to Renna’s Pizza. Or maybe it’s Renna’s that comes back to me. Long-standing restaurants have a habit of staying with you, like that little nudge in your mind telling you that it’ll always be there.
Renna’s has three locations: Argyle Forest, Mandarin and Jax Beach. I decided to cruise on over to Argyle, the pizzeria that’s been a presence there for more than 20 years. Giuseppe (aka Joe) Renna left Bari, Italy in 1976 and opened his first shop in the former Philips Mall – he’s been building on that successful venture ever since.
It has a casual and welcoming ambiance, so it’s easy to assume that Renna’s offers the same strip-mall experience as its lesser competitors. Don’t make that mistake; Renna’s is a couple cuts above the typical pie house.
As a creature of habit, I usually order the same toppings: pepperoni, bell pepper, and banana pepper. For this Renna’s excursion, I went all out, keeping my favorites and adding a few more. My friend and I split the veggie pizza, but we made it definitively non-vegetarian by adding pepperoni. We also substituted banana peppers for the olives.
The veggie ($16.50 for a medium) includes Renna’s homemade-style sauce, mushrooms, olives, onions, green peppers, fresh tomatoes, and garlic. These crunchy toppings are tossed over NYC-style thin crust and covered in cheese.
What I love most about this method is how the cheese and sauce slide off when you pick up a slice. This might seem like a weird reason, but there’s just something about having to catch your toppings and dump them messily back onto the crust. With NYC-style, it’s less about the crust, and more about how the dough serves as a palette for the artistry of the toppings.
Word from the wise: Rather than choosing breadsticks for a side, opt for Renna’s garlic knots ($4.50 for 10). You won’t miss the fussiness of deep-dish pizza after eating 10 of these little delights! Our garlic knots were baked fresh – warm, airy, and flavorful. Garlic and herbs infused each bite, and you just naturally must dip each one in marinara sauce. The knots were the best part of the meal. I could eat 10 of them. Oh, wait, I did. (Just kidding; I shared. Sorta.)
We wrapped up the the scrumptious meal with dessert, in an effort to counteract the garlic breath. My friend and I split a cannoli ($4.50). Ricotta cheese and chocolate chips spilled out of a shell generously dusted in powdered sugar. If that image isn’t enough to make you want a cannoli, you’re crazy.
Renna’s is a Jacksonville staple, with a thumbprint richer than even its cannoli. The pizzeria has three shops in the area, so you have no excuse for not going. The next time a pizza craving hits, head to Renna’s. The friendly folks will welcome you with pies of cheese, toppings, sauce, and flavors that’ll linger on your taste buds until next time.
Read about many more of Rebecca’s local dining adventures at somewhereinthecityjax.com.