POP UP Surprise

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The question has to be asked so we’ll get it out of the way up front: Is Pop Up Pizza as good as Settebello or Due Forni?

The answer is no, but it’s in the same league, and so far above the Grimaldi’s and Radio Citys of the world, that it would be pretty crumby to compare the two.

Of course, it suffers from being in a casino (quelle horreur!) and it has no cache beyond that of pizza chef/owner Michael Vakneen and his troops slaving away at their ovens, putting out superlative pies that reminded me of really good, NYC street pizza. He gets a nice, puffy/crispy crust from his dough that’s more than worth the bread you’ll pay for it.

Those are pretty stale puns I know, but the yeast you can do is laugh and admit I got a rise out of you.

Seriously, though, Vakneen, like Due Forni, takes seriously the mantra that “ingredients matter,” and you can taste the care he puts into his pizzas in the tangy/cheesy mozz/provolone blend he sprinkles on them right down to the fresh and sweet plum and cherry tomato sauce he judiciously drapes them with.

He even makes a vegan pizza (ugh!) from something called vegan mozzarella — a fake cheese-like product (made from tapioca?) that was plenty runny but lacked the lactic larrup of the real thing. But for that, the rest of the pie was a vegetarians delight: roasted ‘shrooms, artichokes and peppers mixed with sauteed spinach and that superlative sauce. Vakneen told me it’s a huge hit with the Millennials, who apparently can’t stand the thought of an actual milk product defiling the bodies they hold so dear.

Vakneen’s white pizza is also a thing of beauty: a thin sprinkling of Parmesan on the dough gives it depth, while the mozz, ricotta, spinach and roasted garlic provide complexity. It’s the sort of pizza you can happily take an extra slice of without guilt, and without fear you’ll pop a button on the way home.

As good as every pizza was (easier to do when you make the crust count), it was the thick-cut pepperoni that got our attention. One bite of this peppery treat will have you swearing off generic versions forever.

The trouble with writing about pizza — any pizza — is there is only so much you can say about the good versus the bad stuff. Mediocre-to-bad pizza can be had on every corner of our humble burg, but we’ve had a renaissance over the past five years that has brought increased awareness of what a quality pie is all about. The hoi polloi will always be fooled by the Grimaldi’s and the Radio Citys  of the world — because you can smother anything in red sauce and cheap ass cheese and the world will beat a path to your door– but the cognoscenti is growing in numbers, and debates about fermentation time, crust formation, and ingredient provenance are now part of the conversation.

Pop Up Pizza is keeping that conversation going. Once you advance to its good stuff, it is well nigh impossible to retreat to mediocrity (much like with wine).  Forget the challenging location (and the five (5)  f*cking bucks they charge you to park – redeemable but still a pain in the ass) and go see what all the shouting is about. Be forewarned however, this place will ruin you for (almost) any other pie in town.


In the Union Plaza Hotel and Casino

1 South Main Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101



9 thoughts on “POP UP Surprise

  1. Elv, if, and that’s a big if, you happen to be downtowne or near the Fremont area than this joint is worth the effort. Good but not great pizza. Frankly I am inclined to like Decarli’s Pizza better. Agree that Grimaldi’s and Radio City are way over hyped and run of the mill. Settebello and Du Fori are very good, but you get better Pizza bang for the buck at Decarli’s and great salads, and good( but not great) pasta choices.

  2. The sauce at pop up was off the chain. Sweet and tangy. They do the crust well done which I love but I’m sure they will hear gripes that its overdone. For that I say no way. The location blows. Not their fault other than choosing it but if they were in the Sahara and jones area they would kill it.

  3. Now, don’t be smug, but anyone that calls a shot, even when others go firmly against them, and then they actually prove correct……priceless talent.

    Opinion and ideals are for fools, particularly when it comes to food. It’s either good or not good ( I lament those who provide good product apathetically causing inconsistency and a ‘sometimes’ OK).

    But you called this one


    ps…l realize you’re bored, but perhaps a compare and contrast of Wicked Spoon and Bacchanal may be in order?

  4. ELV, my deepest apologies….I had a brain freeze….its Dom DEMARCO’s…9785 West Charleston…..Decarli’s is an Italinan Diner & Pizza Joint in Portland Oregon….so mea cupa my friend…sorry.

  5. The “Union” Plaza Hotel? Really? Are you sure it’s not at The Flamigo Hilton, Fitzgeralds, Barbary Coast, The Mint, The Marina or Aladdin? LOL!

  6. Mark, please dont be a bigger shmuck than you appear by your inane cooments! Grow up son.

  7. Nick, same comment above for you too my friend, dont be a schmuck with inane comments. This blog encourages helpful insights and suggestions, not little boy jabs and snide remarks.

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