Pizza! Pizza! Omaha Culinary Tours features tasty samples of local eateries

Editor’s Note: The following locations are closed: Salt 88, Bene Pizza and Pizza Shoppe. Still open: Dante and Big Fred’s Pizza.

Big Fred's

If I were to ask you to pick one food item you identify with Omaha, would what you say? Steak? Most likely. How about pizza? No? Well, after a tour of local pizza eateries, we could change our minds on that.

We participated in another fun foodie tour with Omaha Culinary Tours. The targets this go-around were five local pizza restaurants.

We met at Salt 88 in northwest Omaha. The restaurant may not be the first one you think of when someone says pizza, but don’t be fooled. This restaurant offered a great choice for us to start with.

The cuisine for Salt 88 is “Mediterranean with an American twist.” You can have a steak, pasta, fish/seafood and pizza.
Salt 88 pizza

We sampled a slice of the Jo Geez pizza. It is made with a bit of olive oil on the crust. It is topped with goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, oregano, fresh mozzarella, and the main item – tomato filets. The tomato is slice small enough and is soft enough that most people wouldn’t notice they are on the pizza.

As we sampled the Jo Geez, my daughter Mallory mentioned to the hostess working with our group that she isn’t a tomato fan, but enjoyed the pizza. I added that as anti-goat cheese person, I really enjoyed the pizza. Neither ingredient overpowered any part of the pizza. Mallory even noticed a slight garlic flavor to the crust.

Salt 88 got its named because one of the owners supposed saw a bag of Epson Salt, and liked the word salt. The 88 is considered a lucky number, so they added it. Salt 88 is a sister restaurant to Hiro 88, which is a few hundred feet away. Hiro specializes in sushi.

Salt 88 wine

Salt 88 has an extensive wine selection – 160 types. It received a “Reward of Excellence” from “Wine Spectator” magazine.

Diners get an outstanding surprise after each meal – a flavored cotton candy. Ours was green apple. You could taste the sweet apple in the cotton candy. Well done!

Cotton Candy

One thing I really liked about the restaurant was its set-up. Purple and blue acrylic chairs highlighted the dining area. The Purple chairs were in the area of Salt where it tends to be dark. The blue chairs helped brighten the open dining area, with its white art deco walls.

Salt 88

The restaurant has sound boards in place, to help muffle the sounds of people talking. It helps guests carry on conversations without background noise.

For more information on Salt 88, please visit

We boarded our tour bus and headed to our second destination – Bene Pizza and Pasta. The pizza joint is also located in northwest Omaha.

Bene has been open for more than 13 years. The owners opened it because of a family love of cooking and pinball games.

Bene Pizza

Bene has an arcade room with retro pinball machines featuring Indiana Jones, The Simpsons and the NBA with Michael Jordan as a Chicago Bull. Not to be too “old,” the arcade includes pinball games that spotlight The Walking Dead and Iron Man. The arcade has other games, too, but pinball machines seem to be considered retro.

Pinball machines at Bene Pizza

On to the pizza. We had a combo pizza – sausage, pepperoni, black olives, green peppers and onions. I love how they sliced their pizzas into squares. I’m into that for some strange reason. I think it’s cool. All of us made the mistake of having a couple of slices. We should have paced ourselves better. But, the pizza at Bene was too good to pass up a second slice.

Bene Pizza

Bene is a fun place to visit and enjoy pizza and games. I went there long ago for a work function, as I remember we all had fun there.

For more information on Bene, please visit

For our third stop, we traveled a few minutes to the Benson area. This area in north central Omaha was once an undesirable area, because of years of neglect.

However, it has undergone a renaissance of sorts over the past few years. It’s considered a hot bed for Omaha music and art. Area organizations sponsor a “First Friday” art walk through the neighborhood.

The Pizza Shoppe

We visited the Pizza Shoppe. The restaurant is located in a former blacksmith shop. The blacksmith shop was built in 1905. It became a hardware store during the 1940s. The Pizza Shoppe opened in 1995.

Besides serving some outstanding pizza, the restaurant supports local artists by hosting art shows, concerts and comedy shows.

We had a variety of pizzas to taste. My favorite was The Bomb – with Alfredo sauce, chicken, Canadian bacon, Pepper jack cheese, bacon and jalapenos. I loved the jalapenos. They really added to the flavor of the pizza.

The Pizza Shoppe

The others we tried were: The Garden (black olives, green peppers, mushrooms, red and white onions, artichoke hearts, roma tomatoes, feta and mozzarella cheese), five cheese roma (mozzarella, feta, cheddar, Romano and parmesan cheese) , Hawaiian (Canadian bacon, pineapple, bacon and mozzarella) and the Original Roundtable (hamburger, pork sausage, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, mushroom, black olives, onions and extra mozzarella cheese).

For more information on The Pizza Shoppe, please see

Our fourth stop was in familiar territory – Big Fred’s. This is an Omaha institution for all things Italian. The restaurant was opened in 1965.

We tried the “Gooey Roonie.” It is a pizza baked inside a double crust of their pizza dough. Ours had seasoned hamburger, tomato sauce and onions. It reminded me of a Stromboli when it was sliced. It’s named after the owner’s grandmother. It’s served in only two places – Big Fred’s and Cascio’s Steakhouse (brother and sister).

Big Fred's

We’ve had pizza from Big Fred’s before. They make outstanding pizza.

Big Fred's Pizza

The restaurant has grown over the years. Our table was in the original location of the building. As Big Fred’s expanded, it added a larger bar area and then larger dining areas.

Big Fred's Pizza

One of our fellow tourists mentioned that she could remember sitting on the “heated benches” outside when she was younger. They are lights, but wide enough for people to sit on, so they were referred to as the “heated benches.”

The restaurant markets its own brand of salad dressing. You can pick up a bottle to go.

Big Fred's dressing

For more information on Big Fred’s, please visit

Our final stop was in west Omaha at Dante’s Ristorante Pizzeria. The five-year-old establishment serves Neapolitan-style pizza. To be certified as a Neapolitan pizza maker, the restaurant needs to use specific flour, tomatoes and cheese.

Dante's Pizzeria

Dante’s uses a wood-fire oven to bake pizzas. It takes about 90 seconds to bake a pizza at about 800 degrees.

The pizza was excellent. We had Margherita pizza, which consisted of basil, mozzarella cheese and olive oil.

Dante's Neopolitan Pizza

Dante’s is considered one of the best pizzerias in Omaha by the Omaha World-Herald and (Trip Advisor).

For more information on Dante’s, please see

As we rolled ourselves to the bus after finishing our last stop, our guide asked us which pizza was our favorite. Salt 88 seemed to be the consensus top choice, with The Pizza Shoppe not far behind. In all honesty, each place had its plusses, and very few minuses. It was a great way to spend a few hours on a chilly Nebraska Saturday afternoon.

We have taken quite a few tours through Omaha Culinary Tours, and we’ve yet to be disappointed. I recommend checking out their tours. You’ll likely find one that fits your budget and your interests.

We are planning to buy tickets for their December holiday tour – “Cookies, Carols and Cocoa.” Hopefully, we will see some of you on the bus.

For more information on Omaha Culinary Tours, please visit their website at

Here is a list of previous tours we’ve been involved with:

Disclaimer: Thanks to Omaha Culinary Tours for the complimentary tour. However, all views and opinions are ours.