The best pizza places in Crawford County

My favorite places to get local pizza

Although we cannot leave campus at this time, once the campus quarantine is lifted, there will once again be an overwhelming desire for off-campus pizza. Students will be flooding Domino’s with online orders and getting it delivered to their dorm-step.

As someone who has lived in Crawford County for my entire life, this is always disheartening to see. There are so many great, locally-owned pizza places in Meadville alone that Domino’s can and should be an afterthought, reserved only for if delivery is absolutely needed.

Additionally, there are many smaller chain pizza restaurants that are also often overlooked. If you or someone close to you has a car, the options for pizza increase tenfold, and there are so many good options that many students do not even know exist. Here is an in-depth look at some of the best local pizza places, including the pros and cons of each restaurant and an analysis of their pizza’s quality.

One restaurant that a fair amount of students recognize is Vocelli Pizza. Vocelli’s is located on Park Avenue near Rite Aid, so it is very close to campus. Their pizza is more expensive than some of the other options, but their ingredient quality is almost unbeatable. They use high-quality ingredients, from the crust to the pepperoni. In fact, the pepperoni they use is of the highest quality, the kind that curls into bowls when the pizza is baked and puddles small pools of grease in the center. The cheese also bakes and develops a gentle crust in the way that only quality cheese can, so that it is still soft and chewy but also does not slide off of the crust. The sauce and the crust I would say are the most lackluster parts of the pizza, as they are mostly just complementary to the cheese and pepperoni; there is nothing extraordinary or notable about their crust or sauce, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Additionally, Vocelli’s delivers to campus, so you can get your pizza delivered contact-free to your dorm. The pizza is incredible overall, and I would recommend Vocelli Pizza to anyone who is wanting higher-quality pizza and is able to pay more for it.

If you are willing to travel a little bit more, there are two great pizza places in Conneaut Lake that are definitely worth the trip. The first is Ice House Pizza, and the second is Pizza Joe’s. Pizza Joe’s is a regional pizza chain with a fair number of stores in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio.

Their pizza is very good, with their strongest points being their sauce and the abundance of toppings on each pizza. Their sauce is neither overly sweet, nor overly spicy, and is a nice middle-ground sauce that does not leave you queasy or tasting the sauce for days to come. Their toppings are good quality, but this is one of their strong points because of the sheer amount they put on each pizza. Their large pizzas are very big, and a single pizza can easily feed a small friend group.

Furthermore, unlike some restaurants, Pizza Joe’s does not use fewer toppings on larger pizzas, or the same amount on the large ones as on the smaller ones. They do a very good job of giving customers what they paid for when it comes to the sheer amount of food that one is receiving. While their prices are a little more steep than Domino’s, you definitely get quality as well as quantity from Pizza Joe’s that Domino’s simply does not.

Ice House Pizza is in downtown Conneaut Lake. Formerly called Eagle Nest Pizza, and located a few blocks from my house in Linesville, they truly represent a fantastic phoenix metaphor. In April of 2019, their restaurant in Linesville caught fire and completely burned to the ground. It was a total loss.

Approximately one year later, in late spring of 2020, they opened their doors for pickup orders from their new location in Conneaut Lake, and are officially now Ice House Pizza. The owners are wonderful people who are always willing to donate their time, energy and food to people in need, including sometimes supplying food to local families that struggle to make ends meet.

The pizza itself is quite good, as far as pizzas go. The crust is pretty thin, and the cheese is pretty solid, but it is not solid in a way that tastes like rubber. Rather, the cheese is fully formed around the crust and every bite is full and delicious. I am personally not a huge fan of thick-crust pizza, but I also do not like my pizza to be thin and brittle.

Ice House does a good job of having a more in-between crust that is not outrageously thick but is also still substantial, although it does lean more to the thin-crust side. They also have a heavy hand when it comes to toppings, and like Pizza Joe’s, will never leave you short on pepperoni or cheese. They also have a lot of specialty pizzas, such as taco pizza and shrimp scampi pizza, which are more expensive but still awesome options for people who are feeling adventurous.

Additionally, they recently added a bakery section to their restaurant. While I have no idea what a cannoli is, my friends from home rave about them. My mother brought me a half-dozen donuts for myself and my roommates for my birthday, and they were not only delicious, but delightfully decorated as well. The prices are completely reasonable and Ice House Pizza will easily fill you up. Their menu is large, the portions are outrageous and the owners are local people who do good in our community. As with Pizza Joe’s, the biggest problem is the lack of delivery options. By all means, if you have a car and a little extra money to spend on your pizza, there is no better option than Ice House Pizza for a thin- or thinner-crust pizza.

Another good option for pizza closer to home is Pizza Villa, just south of Diamond Park in Meadville on South Main Street. Their pizza crust is made fresh every single day, guaranteeing peak softness and flavor. The crust is a large selling point for them, and in my opinion, is their best feature. The pizza as a whole is quite delicious, with a proportionate amount of cheese and toppings and a sauce that nicely complements whatever toppings are added. Their menu is substantially smaller than that of most restaurants, with their only pizza size being 12-inch round. What they lack in variety, they more than make up for in price and accessibility.

Their prices are on the lower side, given the quality of the pizza and the amount that you receive, and the fact that it is a locally-owned restaurant. However, they are one of — if not the only — local pizza restaurants that offers frozen pizzas for you to take home and bake yourself. For students with access to a kitchen or lounge with an oven, this means access to restaurant-quality pizza for multiple weekends with a single trip to Pizza Villa.

Pizza Villa also excels in atmosphere and aesthetics. When in-person dining was available pre-pandemic, it was always an experience to go to Pizza Villa as opposed to any other pizza restaurant in the area. The original Pizza Villa dates back to the 1950s, and has been a staple in the Meadville community for many years. The inside of the restaurant is cozy and inviting, with wall murals painted by an Allegheny College student modeled after the murals in the original location. The restaurant also has two sides, the second of which serves ice cream, and in particular, Marcie’s Homemade Ice Cream.

If you have never had Marcie’s Homemade Ice Cream, you are certainly missing out. Marcie’s is a locally-owned ice cream company that locally sources all of their ingredients from dairy farmers in Crawford County and the surrounding areas. The range of flavors is incredible, along with the thick and creamy taste that you can only get from homemade ice cream. This alone is worth a trip to Pizza Villa once in-person dining becomes safe again.

There are certainly more than a few other pizza places that I have not mentioned here. The ones mentioned in this article are, in my opinion, the best and most iconic places to get pizza in Crawford County. These places have the best taste, quality and overall value of any others in the area. Of course, if you are really in a pinch and need your pizza delivered, Domino’s is a valid option. Their pizza is relatively high-quality and can be delivered to any building on campus.

I have nothing against Domino’s, and will likely get delivery at least a few times this semester. However, before pouring all of our hard-earned money into a national chain restaurant, it is at least worth considering the other available options that benefit real, local people that give back to the community, especially given how good they are in comparison.