Situated on 52nd and Leavenworth, there’s a new pizzeria on the block. Lyle’s Pizzeria has quickly captured the attention of pizza aficionados across Omaha. Much like Pavlov, the chefs at Lyle’s will have you salivating, before the chime of the door, at the decadent aroma of bubbly, perfectly charred sourdough crust.
The exterior of the dry-cleaner-turned-pizzeria is adorned with a lively mural designed and painted by local artist Jeff Sedrel. The mural highlights everything Lyle’s stands for: delicious pizza, a thoughtful wine selection, and a shared love for dogs.
Gazing up longingly at the pepperoni slice and robust red wine pour are two big puppy dog eyes, belonging to the original Lyle, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This heartfelt homage ignites curiosity for those driving past and brings a boundless puppy-like energy to the neighborhood. Though Lyle has crossed the rainbow bridge, his image became the centerpiece of the establishment, giving him new life.
Co-owner Jeanette George is one of the many creative minds behind the restaurant, and she wears multiple hats at Lyle’s. As the executive chef and general manager, she developed and fine-tuned the pizzeria’s menu and ideated the overall design, branding, and concept of the restaurant with the help from JH Design Omaha. From the beginning, George knew she wanted to employ the concept of “third spaces” for Lyle’s.
“It’s not home, it’s not work,” George says. “Lyle’s is where you go in between.”
A third space can look different for everyone. For some, it’s a church or gym, for others, it’s a coffee shop or neighborhood library. But at its core, a third space is a familiar, communal place, where people regularly gather, relax, or bond over a shared interest. In Lyle’s case, that shared interest is pizza.
There’s something to be said for crust that keeps its crunch, no matter where you bite. At Lyle’s, you can rest assured—this sourdough is never soggy. While Lyle’s makes all their baked goods in-house, from scratch, George attributes their sourdough successes to Stephen Bartolomei, co-owner and head baker at Lola’s Café in Dundee.
George let us in on a little-known secret: The former Max I. Walker building in which Lyle’s resides came with a basement, which they outfitted as a full bakery where Bartolomei can work his magic. Lola’s leases the space from Lyle’s, and in turn, Lyle’s buys their sourdough for the pizza upstairs.
“It’s a really nice, symbiotic relationship,” George beams.
Using Bartolomei’s sourdough starter from a mother he developed several years ago, the two worked tirelessly all summer before Lyle’s opening, experimenting with the fermentation and hydration levels of the dough until they reached perfection.
“There’s been some ongoing education about what sourdough pizza is, and the speed and pace that we’re going at,” George explains. “It’s a real pastoral way of making pizza, and it’s a process.”
Customers who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of sourdough may feel a bit eager while waiting for their pie to come out of the oven initially, but once they take their first bite, they understand why sourdough crust is worth the brief wait. George often hears customers proclaiming that they’ve never had a crust like this before.
While the current menu only includes seven pizzas, George has plans to expand the menu once her chefs find a comfortable groove. Hand-stretching dough takes a lot of repetition to get right, and not everyone who waltzes in the kitchen knows how to work with sourdough, as it is constantly evolving.
“Sourdough is a living thing,” George explains. “Each day it gets a little bubblier, and there are just aspects of it that you have to learn by doing.”
If the allure of sourdough isn’t enough to entice you, visit Lyle’s for the atmosphere. The open bar and kitchen offer a level of transparency that you can’t find just anywhere. From your table, you can watch your pie stretch with each toss into the air. The sleek black and white tile decor exudes a classic pizzeria charm, while the carefully chosen vintage photographs adorning the walls evoke a sense of nostalgia and local pride.
George pulled each image from the Durham Museum and Omaha World Herald archives. Through pictures of dogs and their owners, the walls of Lyle’s tell a story of Omaha’s rich history, creating a connection between the past and present.
On the wall above the booths, there’s a photo from the fifties of a little boy laying on a bench in Memorial Park, petting his dog. Another photo captures an intimate moment between mom and pup; she leans down to give her dog a kiss, and the dog gazes up, eager for the kiss to be planted.
“What a picture of what life has been here in this neighborhood,” George says emphatically.
Other photos include a woman riding a Vespa through the Old Market, and an aerial shot of a traffic jam in the fifties.
“With all the sleek, cool cars, these pictures look like they could have been taken in Italy, but they’re not,” George laughs. “This is Douglas County.”
Let one thing be known: Lyle’s is more than a place to savor a mouthwatering slice of pizza. It’s a place where friendships are rekindled and where sparks fly over a glass of wine, igniting new romances. It’s a place where families eagerly engage with strangers, exchanging slices and creating bonds that just might last a lifetime. It’s a place to appreciate the history of the lovely city you call home. Last, but certainly not least, it’s a place where furry friends are welcomed on the forthcoming patio, ready to enjoy any fortuitous morsels that may find their way to the ground beneath their paws. It’s not work, it’s not home, it’s Lyle’s Pizzeria.