New in town
|By Allan I. Ross|
Now, I’d seen the sign in their window during construction claiming they were going to have the biggest pizza in town, but when I saw the flier for Toarmina’s Pizza, which opened this week at 2011 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing, my eyes just about popped out of my head: “16 FOOT LONG SLICES,” it said. What were they baking these in, industrial blast furnaces? This I had to see.
Alas, ‘twas nothing more than a quirk in semantics. “Sixteen styles of 12-inch pizza slices” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Lansing foodies had better start saving more room for the main course. Measuring a solid two feet from end-to-end, a large Toarmina’s pie is definitely the size to beat.
“Nobody else is doing 24-inch pizzas in town,” says owner Sardar Dijagah. “You get two of these, and it’s enough to feed 20 people. The biggest size anyone else does is 16 inches, and that’s our medium.”
Dijagah said he opened this Toarmina’s — a Detroit-based chain with 14 locations around the metro area and one in the U.P. — because he’d always wanted to have a restaurant. After considering his options, he decided on a pizza joint because of its likely durability in a bad economy. But with a crowded pizza market, including southeast Michigan-based heavy-hitters Little Caesar’s, Hungry Howie’s and Domino’s, did the world really need another chain?
“The big difference with us is that nothing here is ever frozen and we cut all our toppings in-house from fresh ingredients,” says Dijagah. “All the cheese is grated from blocks, and all of that makes our pizza much more tasty. Sure, you can get a Little Caesar’s for $5, but it has nowhere near the same quality as Toarmina’s. It’s just not about size here — it’s about quality, too.”
I had a chance to grab one of their random slices, and it was pretty impressive. The green peppers still had a fresh snap to them, the chicken was moist and tender, and the sauce had a distinctive sweetness to it that deftly offset the mozzarella cheese. That cheese is another hallmark of the store: the policy here seems to be “go heavy or go home.” Toppings aren’t so much nestled on top a layer of cheese as they are engulfed in it. Of course, that may not be for all tastes, but at least Toarmina’s is trying to do something different.
Toarmina’s also features calzones, fresh salads, hot wings and — get this — that old Italian dessert favorite, cannolis. Of course, they also have those aforementioned monster slices available for walk-in customers, too. Dijagah says that they deliver to anywhere within a three-mile radius of the store, which means that every frat house on MSU’s campus and every loft in downtown Lansing is now only a phone call away from a potential pizza overdose. But just a word of advice, guys: you may want a copy editor to take a look before you send out your next mailer — you may end up with some very disappointed giants banging at your door.
2011 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday;
10 a.m.-Midnight Friday and Saturday