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Our country’s love affair with pizza knows no bounds. Pizzas are everywhere, and for the most part they are — how do I put this delicately? Crap. Too much dough, way too much cheese, boring sauces, greasy pepperoni. What’s not to like, except everything?
It was with trepidation that I saw Klavon’s on our restaurant review list, another pizzeria added to the mushrooming collection of pizzerias in our midst.
If you don’t know where this is going, let me spell it out. I was dead wrong. Klavon’s knows pizzas, the spices and textures that hold one’s taste buds in a loving embrace.
I am married to someone who is not a big fan of pizza. But after two visits to Klavon’s, Judy became something of a convert to this Worshipful House of Pizza. And I am sitting next to her in the same pew.
The Pizza Margherita with natural-casing pepperoni ($13) adheres to a tried-and-true principle of fine pizza-making: Less is more. This pizza doesn’t overdo the amount of dough, sauce and cheese. Instead, fresh basil and olive oil are allowed to shine. The pepperoni? I almost decided against it because most pepperoni is pretty much a gaggle of spicy grease coins.
Against my better judgment, I opted for Klavon’s pepperoni. It was relatively lean and greaseless by pepperoni standards, and it offered a nuanced flavor that left room for the smell and taste of basil, which is truly one of the finer herbs to be found.
Judy’s Bianca Bacon pizza ($12) was even better. Garlic, applewood bacon and caramelized onion made up a trio of stars in this dish, with a fine supporting cast that included a white Italian cheese called scamorza, ricotta and Pecorino Romano.
The Bianca Bacon was in a photo-finish with a Detroit-inspired pizza called the Eastern Market ($17), named after the Motor City’s distinguished shopping district.
The best part of this Detroit-inspired dish is the white sauce bursting with garlic flavor. We are huge garlic fans, and I pretend that the health benefits of garlic counteract all the things that aren’t good for me like lard, bacon and Doritos. Anyway, the garlic in the Eastern Market is front and center, and that suits me just fine. The crust on the edges was crisp and crunchy, as it should be.
For those not yearning for Klavon’s pizza, I recommend the beet and quinoa salad ($10.50). There’s plenty of fresh taste and tang in this salad, and it’s far healthier than, say, Doritos.
Some of the non-pizza fare was OK but not jaw-dropping. The Smokehouse Burger ($11) was fine, served medium as ordered on a brioche bun. Beneath bun and patty was bacon and, surprise, some pickled onions. Nice touch.
Likewise, the fried calamari appetizer ($9.50) was basic but far from stellar. If it were part of a movie’s credits, it would be called Assistant Gaffer.
Klavon’s resides far from Lansing’s urban hub. Opened earlier this year, it’s located on a patch of land bordering U.S.-127 southwest of Mason. Its neighbors include a Meijer store, a credit union and a gas station. In this respect, it shares the look of another Klavon’s, which anchors a little strip mall north of Jackson.
While the setting is less than eye-popping, the interior of this new Klavon’s sparkles like a newly waxed car. The decor is spare, with seating spread out in different rooms, including a second-floor dining room. Worth a look is the large aquarium located at the east end of the bar.
There is no mistaking the energy of the place, with servers in constant motion. On both visits, we found the service prompt and courteous. And both times, Klavon’s was bustling with customers.
A bit off-putting for me, a tried-and-true codger, were the menus. They are electronic. They come with no instructions. They are like an outsized cell phone. Judy had to show me how to “turn” the page, and how to find the prices.
Klavon’s menus are certainly no big deal for those who don’t long for the days of crank-powered phones and oil lamps. The saving grace of Klavon’s electrified menu is that, as far I know, it blocks all robo calls.
— Mark Nixon
What is it that makes one pizza better than another? I think there is a set of variables that we can all agree upon. The crust, whether your preference is deep dish or thin and crispy, has to have an appropriate texture. The toppings have to be high quality. The slices have to retain some structural integrity when you pick them up, unless you’re going for that folded-over New York style slice. Aside from that, I think most pizza-lovers like a lot of different varieties, depending upon what’s being offered to them.
I’m ready to make a bold statement, after 37 years of research. Detroit-style pizza is my favorite. It’s got a thick, crunchy crust, and the corner pieces are the best to maximize the amount of crust that you get. Locally, the most common dealer of Detroit-style pizza is Jet’s, but Klavon’s is the new kid in town and their contributions to the pizza game cannot be overlooked.
The Detroiter pizza at Klavon’s is in a league of its own. I actually learned how to make Detroit-style pizza last year, thanks to an infallible recipe from the Zingerman’s cookbook, so I know why those edges are so crispy and irresistible. Cheese is sprinkled around the perimeter of the pizza pan or butter is basted onto the edges, melting into the crust and becoming crispy while the pizza bakes.
Klavon’s pizza edges could be boxed up and sold as their own product and I’d buy them, no question. The texture is on point and the aroma coming from the box on my 20-minute drive home from Mason almost forced me to pull over. The Detroiter is topped with little pepperoni slices, peppadew peppers (they aren’t spicy, don’t worry), lots of melted cheese and dollops of creamy ricotta, and two thick stripes of red sauce down the center, as is traditional in Detroit-style pizza. If you haven’t had it before, you have to try it.
The pistachio and sausage wood-fired pizza is also worth a try. Although the over-the-top decadence of the Detroiter is the way to my heart, I’ve got a big heart. This pizza is completely different, and while it doesn’t have that shatteringly-thin crust that I sometimes favor, the wood-fired pies at Klavon’s have a perfectly chewy, floury texture. This particular pie doesn’t have red sauce, which lets the lightness of the pistachio pesto come through.
Another favorite of the She Ate household is, against all criticisms, a Hawaiian pizza. There is nothing wrong with a bit of sweetness coming from pineapple on a pizza, especially when it’s perfectly balanced by the richness of ham and bacon. But really, once a restaurant has perfected so many varieties of dough preparation and texture, it could decide to do away with all toppings and still continue to operate a gangbusters, albeit strange, business. All you’d have to say is cheese-only pizza on anything from thin crust to deep dish to calzone and I’d put on my leggings to meet you there.
Interestingly, while Klavon’s is just now making their move into the Greater Lansing market, its reputation is known statewide. During a recent conversation with a client in Marquette, she asked me if I’d ever eaten at Klavon’s, being that I live in Lansing. Thus began a 15-minute treatise on the pizzas, the calzones, the cool iPad menus, the beautiful layout of the new Mason restaurant, and everything that either of us have ever ordered. I’m sure that the other participants in our meeting though that we were insane, but I had met a soul sister.
She sang the praises of the peach chicken salad, so I had to have it. Lo and behold, a pizza restaurant also serves a bangin’ salad. This one had fresh, dark, leafy greens, a hearty helping of grilled chicken, chunks of creamy feta, more cheese, tortilla strips, and a slightly spicy chipotle ranch dressing. The menu shows several other salads that I’m interested in trying, if only I can tear myself away from the pizzas. (Chances are slim.)
We’ve also become superfans of the pepperoni pinwheels, which are perfectly savory, cheesy bites of mini pizza. I even tore one into bite-sized bits for Baby She Ate, who devoured it slowly as he experimented with crayons on his paper placemat. In short, there is a new Lawrence family favorite restaurant.
— Gabrielle Lawrence
Klavon's Pizzeria & Pub
Mon. - Thurs. 11AM-9PM
Fri. & Sat. 11AM-10PM
318 W. Kipp Road, Mason
klavons.com, (517) 604-6565