Pizza is arguably America’s most varied and beloved dish, one whose devotees are some of the most opinionated, and yet it remains one of the most accessible foods there is. Even the country’s most expensive and esteemed pizza temple is within reach of the average person’s budget. Every red-blooded American grew up with his or her preferred regional style of this national fascination, knowing it as the definitive best. Today, there’s better pizza, more knowledge about it, and interest in it everywhere. That accessibility and loyalty makes for some tremendously spirited debate.
Considering the passion pizza inspires, responsibly declaring America’s Best Pizza can be challenging. But The Daily Meal doesn't shy away from the challenge. For our third annual pizza ranking, we again sought the nation's best pies and slices, considering more places than ever in our quest for the best. We researched and added 275 more pizzas and recruited a group of 30 more experts to weigh in than for our 2013 list. Some 700 pizza spots were considered by 78 panelists, comprising The Daily Meal’s in-house pizza experts and city editors, American chefs, restaurant critics, bloggers, writers, and pizza authorities. We compiled the data, and although there could only be one winner, there is plenty of seriously good pizza being made across America, including in Austin.
3. The Backspace’s Pepperoni Americano Pie
With a pedigree that includes a degree from the CIA, and stops at The French Laundry and Café Boulud, it’s not a huge surprise that chef Shawn Cirkiel’s restaurant Parkside has been a huge success, but culinary degrees and high-falutin’ restaurant experience doesn’t necessarily mean you can make a great pizza. Lucky for Austin, Cirkiel does, serving pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick oven from Naples at a temperature of 900 degrees. There are six pies on the menu at The Backspace featuring toppings like fennel sausage, roasted peppers, picante salame, and roasted mushrooms, but according to the restaurant, the most popular pie is the Bianca: a pizza with arugula, mozzarella, ricotta, and Pecorino Romano. However, it was their Pepperoni Americano pie that snagged the #92 spot on our list.
2. Via 313’s The Detroiter Pizza
One of three Austin pizza spots to narrowly miss last year’s list that made it this year (The Backspace and Home Slice also ranked), Via 313 specializes in the Detroit-style pizza that its owners, brothers Zane and Brandon Hunt, loved eating at Cloverleaf, Loui's, Niki's, and Buddy's (where the style originated) when they were kids. They opened their customized pizza trailer on East 6th and Waller (in front of the Violet Crown Social Club) in 2011 and haven’t looked back. For the uninitiated, consider Detroit-style like a Sicilian slice — semi-thick, but with a light and airy crust (similar to focaccia) formed from baking it in industrial steel pans that also allow for the cheese to be baked all the way around. There’s a delicious caramelized edge and two large strips of crushed red tomato sauce that add an immediate flavorful touch. Via 313 offers 16 different pies with all the classic toppings you’d imagine, but they suggested starting with The Detroiter, which hosts mozzarella, white Cheddar, tomato sauce, and a double portion of pepperoni. It’s a favorite around the country, too, as it placed #71 on our annual compilation.
1. Home Slice Pizza’s Pepperoni and Mushroom Pie
What do you get when you combine a former food editor of the Austin Chronicle with a passion for pizza? One of the most heralded pizza spots in Texas. Jen Strickland must have had to forget everything she’d learned about the pitfalls and craziness of opening a restaurant during the decade she spent covering them for the Chronicle and Texas Monthly in order to take a leap of faith and try to open one with her husband Joseph Strickland and partner Terri Hannifin. Or maybe she just knew the New York City slices she ate while attending NYU would inspire her own pizzeria to greatness (there is a certain invincibility those slices can make you feel while eating one walking down the street Saturday Night Fever-style). The end result at Home Slice Pizza has been a South Austin smash hit: New York-style Neapolitan thin crust slices and pies that just might inspire a South Congress strut, Tony Manero-style. The pepperoni and mushroom option came in at #55 on our list and scored the highest out of all the pizzas in the city, which makes it the best pizza in Austin according to our survey.