1929 pizza & wine co-owner amy herren photo by carmen troesser

Best New Restaurants 2023 // No. 4 1929 Pizza & Wine

This pizza restaurant in Wood River, Illinois, represents a triumphant return to the Metro East for Amy and Matt Herren. The Herrens each made their mark on the Metro East food scene in the 2000s with their own venues – Amy with Fond, Matt as the co-founder of Goshen Coffee Roasters and Edwardsville’s 222 Artisan Bakery – before spending most of the past decade traveling the world. Informed by all their experiences and adventures, 1929 brims with an industrious, infectious verve, serving food characterized by simple yet thrilling flavors.

1929 is only open for service three days a week, but the work takes six days. Although the schedule is busy, Matt said the restaurant’s format allows space for a degree of fine-tuning he never had time for with his former bakery. “If I learned any particular lessons from 222 [Artisan Bakery], I don't feel like we ever did anything well enough,” he said. “There wasn't enough time to focus on doing one thing to the absolute best of my or my staff’s ability.” At 1929, he only has two responsibilities. “To make really good bread and really good pizza dough,” he said. “I can take my time to truly dial it in to as close to perfect as I can get. And then I wake up the next morning and try all over again.”

The pizza dough is made from a levain starter and cold-fermented over three days. It’s a ritual that demands early rises and obsessive attention to detail, but this is who Matt is. He can regularly be found tweaking 1929’s HVAC system to ensure the temperature inside the building stays consistent while his dough is resting and proofing. “There's a lot of fluctuations with the temperature inside the building, which we used to see on our Ameren bill, because I want to keep the fermentation very consistent,” he said.



mushroom pizza at 1929 pizza & wine // photo by carmen troesser


So many of the ingredients used here are either produced in-house or grown in the Herrens’ garden when in season: The mozzarella is hand-pulled in the restaurant every day, the sausage is made in-house using meat from Rensing’s Pork & Beef, while the Herrens grow kale, garlic, tomatoes, eggplant and more. The pizza itself is wood-fired, with a generous, chewy outer crust, but it isn’t designed to emulate Neapolitan pizza or any other specific style. The Herrens have eaten a lot of pizza in a lot of places, and 1929’s pizza is the aggregate of their favorites. “It’s the pizza we wanted to make,” Amy said.

The mushroom pizza exemplifies everything that’s good about 1929’s pies: It usually features a blend of cremini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, along with a Parmesan cream sauce, Fontina, freshly picked thyme and chives and finally a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Each pizza on the menu is listed alongside a recommended wine varietal for pairing, but you don’t need to order a bottle: house red and white wines are available by the glass for a very affordable $6.

The menu’s tight focus enables consistency and quality, but a weekly rotation of specials and seasonal variations on items like the bruschetta and cannoli keep things interesting. When tomatoes are in season, the bruschetta might look very traditional. In fall, the tomatoes were rotated out; one recent iteration was topped with diced beets, feta, chives, lemon zest and olive oil. “We’ve been doing a butternut squash [bruschetta], we’ve done broad bean and the last green beans out of our garden,” Amy said. The Herrens take it as a compliment when customers tell them to add a certain pizza special to the permanent menu – but that doesn’t mean the customer’s wish will be granted. “They’ll say, ‘I would eat this every week,’ and we go, ‘Nope – just this week!’” Amy said.

As if all this wasn’t enough, each Friday and Saturday, one table per night is held for the reservation-only chef’s table experience, a seven- to nine-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Amy does all of the cooking, while Matt does the wine pairings. The current menu includes a winter caprese, scallops with spaghetti squash and cauliflower puree, ravioli with sauteed greens, ricotta, pesto broth and Parmigiano Reggiano, steak frites and more. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” Matt said.

Amy Herren jokes that she teases customers sometimes, offering them extra napkins and reminding them, “It’s just pizza, after all.” Nothing could be further from the truth.