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Best pizza: The Cloverleaf

Winner in 2017's Best of Tacoma

It is the crispy, St. Louis-style crust that stands out about The Cloverleaf pizza. Photo credit: Christian Carvajal

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Almost all pizza is at least pretty good, so it takes a special breed of pie to rise above the norm and earn the adoration of our discriminating readers. The first bite makes it clear how The Cloverleaf's distinctively crunchy crust launched this Gritty City institution into the party-food stratosphere.

This isn't the droopy, gargantuan Star Destroyer of a New York-style slice, nor is it the oily crust of a pan pizza. Its consistency is more like the cracker-y crispiness of a St. Louis-style crust, yet even that doesn't do justice to a Cloverleaf pizza. If you haven't tried one already -- and, given The Cloverleaf's dominance in our poll, it's likely you have -- you'll just have to swing by and draw your own comparisons. (Or, for that matter, it does deliver.)

The Cloverleaf bills itself as a pub rather than a pizzeria, and that's reflected on its diverse menu. Yes, there's the satisfying Nurd or O'Brien meat pizzas and a vegetarian option, but you'll also find alfredo chicken, taco, margherita and even breakfast varieties. Then there are pages of non-pizza menu items, from fresh salads to massive sandwiches to nachos to chicken quesadillas to 22 burger toppings with fries or potato salad. Wash it all down with premium wines, coolers, mimosas, sangria or frosty microbrews and domestic beers on tap.

Cloverleaf Tavern was founded in 1950 by Mike Ball and Pat Noble, then passed through a series of owners till New Year's Day 2004. That's when Debbie Manke, now Brese, bought the joint and emphasized its family friendliness by rebranding it as The Cloverleaf. Its pizza recipe arrived via 1960s owner Larry Turco, whose last name is immortalized as The Cloverleaf's carnivore pizza, the Turco.

"Believe it or not, there are some people in the world who don't like pizza, so we have to accommodate them," said Brese proudly.

We asked her how often The Cloverleaf had won our "Best of Tacoma" pizza award, and why it has succeeded for more than 60 years.

"We win awards often," she acknowledged, listing numerous plaques and trophies, "and it's because our crust is unique ... We like to say we're consistent, ‘cause we try our hardest to be. It's just a fun place to be."

The Cloverleaf, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 6430 6th Ave., 253.565.1111,

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