Pizza joints are a mainstay in Utah County. Be it five bucks a pie or pizza brought to your door by a struggling college student, you’ll never be short options when it comes to a quick, cheap meal. But if you want something different that tastes fresh, and, dare I say it, even gourmet, head over to Pizzeria 712, my newest favorite place in Orem.
I heard about Pizzeria 712 from an article in Salt Lake Magazine. I’ve found SL Magazine’s recommendations to be right on the mark, so when I ended up in Utah County around lunch time with my kids in tow, I thought I’d give it a try. But finding the location turned out to be harder than I thought.
Pizzeria 712 is not a stand-alone operation. But it’s also not in a strip mall. Do not look for flashing neon lights or a short cartoon character dressed in a toga spearing a slice of cheap pizza. First of all, Pizzeria 712 is not that kind of place. Second, Pizzeria 712 is housed on the bottom floor of a half-finished condo development that resembles a bombed-out building in Europe. Call it a casualty of the recession, if you will. Had it not been for my kids, I would still be driving back and forth in the general area where it seemed this restaurant should be. “Mom, there’s a sign,” one of my sons yelled when I made my fourth pass. Sure enough, strung across the bomb-building was a banner with “Pizzeria 712” printed in huge letters. We meandered through the empty parking lot until we finally spied a cluster of cars, a few benches and young trees, and the treasure we were looking for.
Immediately, you’ll sense that Pizzeria 712 is going to be delicious. Its small dining area is clean and uncluttered, decorated in neutral colors and charming paintings. What’s more, it’s filled with the kind of quiet natural light that lends itself to heartfelt conversations and contemplative eating (wish I could say the same about my house). It reminded me a lot of San Francisco eateries, where the furnishings are modern and understated and the clientele quiet. Yet, for all its big-city sophistication, Pizzeria 712 is still family friendly. (We are, after all, still in Utah, AKA the kid factory.) When I walked in with my kids, there were no heavy sighs or rolling eyes from the waiter, just good service from start to finish. It also helps that the kitchen and dining area are separated by a chest-high counter, making it possible for kids to watch the chef spin dough on the tip of his finger, toss it into the air, pile it with toppings and then slide it into a brick oven the likes of which you only imagined in Hansel and Gretel. My youngest found the process so entertaining; he sat on his knees so he could see the whole show.
I’ll be straight with you. Pizzeria’s menu has a few exotic items on it, like pizza with potato and rosemary. I watched my children to see how they would react. “Don’t they have Hawaiian pizza here?” my youngest asked. “Yeah,” my middle child piped in, “or pepperoni?” They flipped the menu back and forth, searching for their old standbys. As for my oldest, he studied the menu like an archaeologist deciphering an ancient language scrawled on the side of a cave. Meanwhile, the heavenly smell of melting cheese and simmering tomato sauce awakened my stomach, which at that moment growled loudly. Luckily, our waiter happened by at just that moment.
“Do you have just cheese pizza?” I asked, figuring that if all else failed, I could order myself a small, gourmet pizza and then head to McDonald’s for the kids. “We have the margarita,” he answered. That sounded suspiciously alcoholic to me. But then we found out that it was just cheese with basil leaves on top. That seemed safe enough to the kids, especially when the waiter told them the leaves so big they could take them off if they didn’t like them. A few minutes after ordering, the waiter brought a plate of pita bread and hummus. We each took a triangle of homemade pita, soft and pliable in our hands, and scooped it in the hummus. Though they’ve never had hummus before, my kids declared it delicious. I agreed. And I would have had more, but the kids swarmed the little appetizer plate like angry hornets, so I just watched. Besides, I wanted to save my appetite for the pizza.
Turns out, that was a good decision. I can honestly say that I nearly swooned with the first bite. So did my children. My middle child moaned, “Oh, oh, oh” so many times while he ate that I finally had to tell him to keep it down. (It was a little too reminiscent of the restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally.) With each successive bite I was met with a new flavor, and I did my best to decipher what exactly made it so good. When I finished my first slice, I concluded that everything made the pizza good, from the crust to the toppings. The fresh, bright sauce must have been made with garden tomatoes straight from the farm, not the grocery store (though this is not confirmed, just conjecture). The chewy, dense crust was made from scratch and kneaded by hand—that I had witnessed for myself. And the cheese—which was silky, not rubbery and chewy—must be the product of some very happy cows nibbling on clean grass in a big open field. As for the basil, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been plucked from a live plant moments earlier. While I chewed thoughtfully, enjoying the party going on in my mouth, I decided right then and there that if I had to choose my last meal on earth, this would be it. And then I would choose it as my first meal in Heaven.
320 South State Street #185 Orem, Utah 84058 801.623.6712
Orem, Utah 84058