Food is so personal, eating is such an intimate act, and old Vegas is so fondly recalled that the volume of banter when I tackle old-school places like the Alpine Village Inn or grub like the Monte Cristo sandwich surprises even me. Because pizza is a universal food and everyone with internet access is a critic, I’m sure some of you would give this column zero stars (if you could), but here goes nothing.
With some memory-jogging courtesy of a 1982 edition of the Yellow Pages (four full-size pages of mostly local pizza joints!), plus some consistent name-checks by readers, I was able to craft a concise (and definitely incomplete) list of faves: Carbone’s, in a Charleston Boulevard A-frame building that became Frank & Fina’s Cocina, then gave way to a car wash; Venetian began on Fremont Street, and when it moved to Sahara Avenue (where Herbs & Rye is now), it had a side door for pizza pickup only; Tower of Pizza, with two Las Vegas Boulevard locations, one near the 24-hour (!) Odyssey Records and one across from the Aladdin, behind whose beautiful neon sign reportedly ran a loan-sharking operation; and UNLV fave La Pizzeria, whose TV tagline (“Hey, Louie! What’s the story?”) was as well known as the jingle of its home, Maryland Square.
Tellingly, several fondly remembered spots were on East Charleston, a once and future hub of local commerce, including Larry’s Pizza Palace, serving thin, cracker-crust pies from an always-crowded checkered-tablecloth spot; the less-fancy Terina’s Pizza slung 2-for-1 Detroit-style pizza from a repurposed 7-11 (if you miss Terina’s, founder Matt Mooney has uploaded a YouTube series on how to make it at home); and the Pizza Bar was a fave stop in the Charleston Plaza (our city’s first indoor mall), whose deep-dish square pies paired well with a movie at the Fox Theatre.
Notably, a few classics have survived the onslaught of the chains. The Bootlegger began on Eastern Avenue south of Tropicana Boulevard, and featured the adjoining Maria’s Pizza. The pizza menu continues at the new Bootlegger, where I suggest ordering the Basilico. Ferraro’s forged a reputation as a quality Italian deli and pizza spot on Sahara Avenue, and now not only has an upscale Italian restaurant on Paradise Road, but several Pizza Forte locations in casinos. In 1982, Boston Pizza had three locations, but the Las Vegas Boulevard location survives. And Carmine Vento’s Villa Pizza (1976) and Chef Eddie’s Verrazano Pizza (1978) are the archetypical New York joints, loved by every kid who grew up riding their bike or skateboard for a Saturday slice.