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Village Pizzas By Emma's unassuming exterior

It's easy to miss Village Pizzas By Emma. There's just a door, a window, a sign—all tucked inside the back half of the Big Olaf Creamery on Bahia Vista, right in the middle of Pinecraft, Sarasota's Amish and Mennonite community. Big trikes with baskets on the back sit next to a bike rack beside a largely empty parking lot that faces Yoder's Fresh Market. A red sign bearing the magic word—"pizza"—hangs directly above the entrance to Village Pizzas' tiny kitchen, beckoning to the hungry.

"Everyone smells like sunscreen!" a server remarks as I wait in line. If only. While the guy in front of me wears the red skin and white smear of a man who's clearly been enjoying the beach recently, I'm stuck working today. (If you consider eating pizza "work," I guess.) The vacationing dude in front grabs his pie to go and splits, but after a stressful meeting, I'm looking for a quiet midday getaway, so I'm going to take down my 'za here.

The pizzas here come in sizes that range from a personal, 8-inch pie ($3.70-$5.99) up to a 16-inch sharer ($9.19-$16.49), with most of the combos and toppings you expect. There's sausage and pepperoni, of course, plus ground beef, chicken, bacon and a whole lot of vegetables to choose from. Check the "Pinecrafter," a true meat feast, with bacon, ham, pepperoni, sausage and ground beef. My ventricles quiver at the thought of processing all that animal fat, so I opt instead for the "veggie delight," tricked out with a 50-cent addition of sausage.

As the staff gets to work ladling on my tomato sauce, I decamp to the small wooden deck attached to the rear of the building. Five plastic tables rest in shade provided by blue beach tents. A couple more tables sit in the sun right next to the Big Olaf building's blindingly white concrete blocks. A breeze ripples the plastic of the canopy overhead. Other than that, the only noise I hear comes from a truck idling in the Yoder's parking lot across the way. As I wait, a man with a foot-long white beard and black suspenders munches on a burger, while a woman in a bonnet next to him does the same. He drinks Arizona iced tea; she prefers Gatorade. This deck is perfect, a peaceful respite despite the traffic moving left and right on Bahia Vista right nearby. I take out a book, breathe a deep sigh and wait.

My 8-inch pie is handed over through a waist-high window. The pizza comes in a Styrofoam box lined with red and white checked paper. When I pop the lid on the plastric, I get a big whiff of banana pepper, a topping I normally shun. But for some reason, the scent hits me just right this afternoon. I'm eager to dig in.

Honestly, the pizza's just fine. The crust is thick and doughy, lacking the crack and pop of our city's top doughs. But the toppings are generous and flavorful and I'm enjoying this super-chillax back deck way too much to sulk over a $5.75 pizza.

As I eat, I watch locals walk and bike up to the neighborhood's iconic post office, just across Yoder Avenue from where I'm sitting. Corkboard that hangs on the outside of the post office is plastered with messages, notices and photographs. A flyer advertises hymn-singing get-togethers. Another offers "safe, non-motorized" trips to downtown Sarasota and Venice. A third asks if anyone wants to trade tickets on the Pioneer Trails buses that connect Pinecraft to Amish and Mennonite communities in Ohio and Indiana. A slice at Village Pizzas, a cone at Big Olaf, a browse of those post office messages—for me, that's a more-than-OK lunch break.

Cooper levey baker emopao

Village Pizzas By Emma is located at 3350 Bahia Vista St., Sarasota. It is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday during the summer and 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday the rest of the year. For more info, call (941) 373-1878.

Follow Cooper Levey-Baker’s never-ending quest for cheap food on Twitter. Email him at cooperl@sarasotamagazine.com.

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