Pizza: the ooey, gooey, cheesy, tomato-based temptress...much like ancient sirens of Greek mythology, she calls to me. If there is one guilty pleasure on earth more delightful, I cannot fathom. Whether it comes frozen from a gas station freezer, or directly out of a wood oven in Naples, I will eat it. Luckily, Billings is home to many different styles of pizza; from Chicago deep-dish, to New York-style, to my all-time favorite, wood-fired pizza Margherita, Billings boasts a respectable variety of pie to try. For my money, here are a few of the best:
3925 Grand Avenue
As a child, I visited my family in Miles City on a regular basis. No matter the occasion: Christmas, Easter, or family reunions, nothing got me more excited than the fact that we would be making our regular pilgrimage to the Airport Inn Pizzeria. There was something special about this pie, something completely different than any other I had ever tasted. The meat was minced, the cheese was layered thicker than its competition, and the dough was crispy… nothing could compare for 10-year-old me. Flash forward a solid 20-plus years and 100,000 pizzas later, I caught wind of a new establishment in Billings, Carbone's Pizzeria and Pub. A family member told me it was like the flavor from the Airport Inn. Skeptical as I could be, longing for that nostalgic taste, I gave it a go. For a second, I was brought back to my childhood. The taste was similar, yet it had its own distinct appeal. Carbones’ website states,
“The Carbone’s brand is not a pizza with everything. We are not all things to all people. Our neighbors love us because we love our neighbors. We appeal to hard-working people because we are hard-working people. We don’t care what color your collar is, or if you even have a collar — you need to eat. We believe pizza is fun, but real food. We believe that real food is real love. We speak to our customers honestly and with a sense of humor and humility. Although, we are not timid or shy about speaking up for great work and serving amazing pie. We are a pizza that is authentic, a good value and loaded with passion. We prepare food for our friends, our neighbors, and our extended family — it must be special, it must be right — it always is.”
I believe, on a very real level, that Carbones genuinely cares about their customers. They want you to have a great experience every time. For that reason, along with a piece of nostalgia, I continue to go back.
Suggested order: 14” traditional thin crust combination.
1430 Country Manor BLVD
Just a stone’s throw away, you will find one of the best wood-fired pizzas in all of Billings. For a place that features local, farm-to-table ingredients, and is known for its upscale modern American dishes, Local Kitchen and Bar is doing something special with their pies. I should start by prefacing that this is not your normal, run-of-the-mill, Americanized pizza. If you are accustomed to Pizza Hut or Dominos as your go-to (not that there's anything wrong with that…I’ll destroy the pick 3 for $5.99 each day of the week) this may not suit your palate. For me, it’s perhaps the closest Billings will get to a traditional Neapolitan style “za”. The crust is soft, almost fluffy, with a perfect char on the bottom, put there from the blazing hot, wood-fired oven. I stay standard with the toppings, which are honest: house made red sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil… that’s it, no frills. Ok, sometimes I’ll opt for the pepperoni (which I think is the best version in town). Ok, I’ll be totally honest, I order either plain cheese or Margherita alongside a pepperoni every time. Paying homage to the OG Neapolitan pizza is where Local succeeds. It is all about the quality of ingredients, not quantity.
Suggested order: Classic pepperoni and plain cheese…trust me, you want both.
3189 King Ave W.
When I am not in the mood for sit-down dining, craving some late-night carbs, or hosting a watch party for a big game, Pie Guys Pizzeria is my go-to for delivery/takeout pizza. An outright great pizza in its own right, Pie Guys may just be the best option available to enjoy in your own home.
What makes Pie Guys unique is their dough. While many establishments use instant yeast, they use an all-natural sourdough starter. For bread lovers, you will also want to add an order of Pesto Styx to your order. You can hear the heavens calling with each bite. Pie Guys also sources a great deal of their ingredients locally: Redneck Sausage from Kalispell and Wheat Montana Flour from Three Forks, just to name a few.
These guys have proven, for years, that they are an excellent (if not the best) option for delivery and will have my business for many more to come.
Suggested order: 18” Combo Nation, Large Pesto Styx, 20 Piece Wings (House and Thai Peanut) …this will more than satisfy a large family, or a group for the game.
2048 Grand Avenue
*Since the writing of this article, Village Inn Pizza Parlor no longer stands in its original location, (it pains me to write that). Out of respect, I have included them in my list. Rumor has it that from the ashes the phoenix (or recipes) will rise in a new location at CJ’s Garage, a forthcoming establishment from the new owners of CJ’s Bar and Grill.
If you are from Billings, MT or have spent a significant time here and haven’t tried Village Inn, then you have yet to earn the moniker of “local”. I remember passing by the old A-frame as a kid and thinking it looked like something out of a picture book, like an old Swiss ski lodge. The taste of the sauce is so unique that I can’t quite put my finger on what differentiates it from the others. It is completely different from any other local pizza place in town. What made it so special is that nothing about the building, the menu, or the recipes had changed in over 50 years. If you talk to anyone who grew up in Billings, they will reminisce about going there for a slice back in the 70s. I remember playing the same vintage arcade games while I waited for my pizza back in the 90s.
While things may have altered slightly since the pandemic, Village Inn was one of the only pizza joints that still featured an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. It boasted a decent salad bar, with select side items, but the pizza was the star. For dinner, you would still order the pizza directly from the counter, off a relatively limited menu of 6 specialty pizzas, or you could build your own. If you are like me and are a glutton for pizza, my suggestion was The Heavyweight… a 4 and quarter-pound behemoth covered in pepperoni, beef, salami, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and olives all topped with Italian sausage. This monster was intended to be shared by a family…but hey, I wouldn't judge if you went at it alone.
Suggested order: The Heavyweight, or for a more reasonable meal, the 14” Marshall Special
1502 Rehberg Lane
Suggested order: The Wise Guy