Iowa City Pizza: Sanctuary, Basta, Mill, Forbidden Planet, and Gumby's


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Pizza is far from uncommon in Iowa City. There’s a dizzying array of potential places to treat your taste buds to cheese, meat, and vegetables piled atop cooked dough. I endeavored to try to taste the lion’s share of local and mostly local offerings.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, I tried to find the specialty at each eatery and, price permitting, test it against more traditional fare.

This week I tried a late-night hang-out, some sultry sit-down spots, and a combination concert venue and bar.


An extremely cozy and well-tended establishment, it is one of Iowa City’s lesser-known gems. Its patrons are generally of legal age and friendly. The fireplaces, wood furnishings, and armchairs create dignified comfort. I ordered the Sanctuary Special, which is adorned with sausage, smoked ham, pepperoni, onions, green pepper, and mushroom.

Sanctuary’s crust is soft but with backbone. A little hard at the edges, the portions under the cheese cradle the bevy of ingredients magnificently. The cheese itself is thick and creamy but unobtrusive. It aims the spotlight squarely on the stellar ingredients. My favorite thing about the toppings, besides the pepperoni, is their hand-crafted feel. For instance, the peppers looked and tasted as though they were prepared to order instead of being left to languish for hours in a prepped plastic pail. Similarly, the onion, thinly sliced, maintains its full-bodied flavor while adding a welcome crunch. The homemade sausage brings a nice slow-burning spice to the whole ensemble.  It is a classy and flavorful experience that should not be missed.


Basta aims to provide its customers with authentic Italian dining. All its pizzas are cooked in a brick oven, and the menu makes a point of designating the pedigree of ingredients. I ordered the Salsiccia, a pie topped with handmade Italian sausage, San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil.

Mozzarella sits atop the pizza in circular patches in the Italian style. The cheese is excellent, if perhaps a bit sparse. Sauce and sausage dominate the remainder of the pie, with sauce generally being overshadowed by the abundance of meat. The sausage is very well-spiced and only overwhelms when placed thickly. Basil adds a phenomenal accent to the rich flavor of the sauce and is the finishing note to an exceptional bouquet of flavor. Basta’s crust is second only to Wig and Pen in excellence. The brick oven lends it a delightful smoky flavor and crisp, yet supple, texture. Intricate and, for Iowa City, relatively unique flavor interactions to make this pizza truly exceptional.


This local concert venue, bar, and restaurant is fun to eat at thanks to its great layout and outdoor patio. The area in back opens up to host a variety of events from concerts to poetry readings. I ordered the Green Thumb pizza, topped with pesto, tomatoes, green and red peppers, onions, garlic, mozzarella, and asiago.

Cheese was what most impressed me about this pizza. The flavor is amazing, and its consistency especially nice. It manages the difficult task of firmly holding the ingredients together while avoiding the pitfall of having overly large clumps of cheese come away with every bite. All the vegetables were well prepared, exhibiting a healthy — but not overripe — crunch. Pesto works well in combination with the other toppings without asserting its flavor too much. The Mill’s crust is oily and crisp in the best possible way, creating a strong frame for the robust ingredients. However, it does lack a little in flavor compared with the rest of the pizza. An above average pizza from a great local venue.

Click here to read reviews of pizzas from Airliner, Wig and Pen, Sam's, and Pagliai's.

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.