UPDATED Wednesday, December 24, 2014
If you're an Ankeny resident, you likely know about the Leaning Tower of Pizza in the Uptown neighborhood. What you may not know is that the pizzeria started in Des Moines in the 1960s, before pulling up stakes and moving to Ankeny the next decade. I fondly remember their phone book ads featuring Snoopy as the World War I flying ace, but never had the pleasure of trying their pizza. My dysfunctional family rarely ate out.
Not being one to make the trip to Ankeny often, I optimized my time and spent the morning at Topped Doughnuts [see blog post], followed by a White Russian and a shot of Jim Beam with a beerback at the Yankee Clipper before venturing to Leaning Tower for a lunch.
Seated inside the small confines of Leaning Tower's dining space I ordered up a house salad for starters and a large pizza with one half Potter's, the other half Piperoni.
The house salad consisted of Iceberg lettuce, a few shreds of cabbage and carrot, croutons, pepperoni, peperoncini, and a tomato wedge. The creamy garlic house dressing was zippy, garlicky, and would make a great dip for crudités.
The Potter's side of my pizza was loaded! I appreciated the generous amount of green pepper and the meatiness; the house sausage is quite flavorful. Other toppings included ham, pepperoni, mushroom, onion, celery, green olive, and enough mozzarella to cap such a hefty build. The Potter's is a juicy mouthful, and well spiced with a little zip.
The Piperoni half is a pepperoni lovers dream, sporting two layers: one on top crisping under the heat, and one under the cheese exuding its flavorful juices into the already spicy sauce. Banana peppers added a vinegary bite that cut through the mozzarella and cheddar, the latter accounting for the pizza's garish hue.
The crust is quite thin, but still sturdy enough to hold all the toppings while tender enough to chew. The volume of juicy toppings on the Potter's paired with the inexplicable cardboard disc the pizza was served upon do not make for a good combination: the moistened crust wanted to adhere to the cardboard. I highly suggest running a fork underneath right away to keep the pizza from sticking. The Piperoni suffers less from its stay on the cardboard but warrants an inspection nonetheless.
Afterward with the majority of the pizza untouched, I hauled the boxed-up remainder on a two-and-half mile trek across southeast Ankeny to the nearest bus stop with the earliest pick-up time. I thought loafing around Uptown until the first afternoon bus pickup in the neighborhood, but worried that my leftovers might pass the point of safe eating. But the fifty minute trek in the sweltering heat – with little shade and packing a couple pounds of pizza – damn near killed me. I've got to remember I'm not thirty-something anymore, nor even on the back side of forty. My more-than-full belly certainly didn't help either.
On a return visit in 2014, I learned a lesson from my previous visit and ordered up a pair of small pizzas instead of splitting two kinds on a large. Each was perfectly prepared for their respective builds, with no juicy build-up as I had experienced on the Potter's.
On one I ordered the Harrington, named in homage to the family that has operated the Leaning Tower since 2001. With sausage, pepperoni, cheddar, mozzarella, and zesty sauce, its a close kin to the Piperoni. On this visit I was able to better appreciate Leaning Tower's thin but study crust. Its crisp and holds up well to the plentiful toppings, but the flavor runs a little lean. The cheddar on the Harrington adds an extra bit of fat to round out the pizza.
The build on the Veggie is essentially a Potter's sans the trio of meats. Heaped upon with mushroom, onion, green olive, green pepper, and celery, its no slouch for toppings nor mozzarella cheese.