There may be no food on earth that’s more beloved than pizza. Because honestly, what’s not to like? Bread, sauce, cheese, an unlimited assortment of toppings… it’s really the perfect food. And while it might be easy to think that you can’t get good pizza outside of certain parts of the United States and Italy, in reality there’s a whole world (literally) of great pizza out there. We’ve rounded up the ten best cities on earth to find great pizza, and a lot of them are places you might not expect.
Pizza, as we all know, has its roots in Italy — ancient Rome, to be exact. It most likely got its start as focaccia (called panis focacius by the ancients), and modern pizza originated in Naples. Tomatoes were considered poisonous by many until the late 1700s, but by the early 1800s Naples’ poor were adding tomato-based sauce to their flat bread, and once tourists to the area caught on to this new invention, they spread the gospel all throughout the world. [related]
The first person to combine the Golden Trio of ingredients — tomato, mozzarella, and basil — remains a bit of a mystery, but it was first popularized by a man named Raffaele Esposito, a baker at a Neapolitan restaurant called Pizzeria de Pietro. Legend has it that when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy visited the restaurant in 1889, Esposito created a pizza in her honor topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil, meant to evoke the colors of the Italian flag (red, white, and green). She loved it, and the name he bestowed on it — pizza Margherita — stuck.
Pizza didn’t really catch on as an international food until the early 1900s, when Italian immigrants began landing at ports far and wide. They began selling their native food, and once the natives tried it… well, just imagine what your response would be if you were to try pizza for the very first time today. Like all other foods, the locals put their own touches on it, and today there are different styles of pizza all over the world.
In order to assemble our ranking of the world’s best cities for pizza, we took a look at major cities throughout the world, especially ones that attracted lots of Italian immigrants, and sized up their pizza scene. We looked at the amount of highly-regarded pizzerias there, whether they’re home to any award-winning pizzaioli, and if they’ve really been able to make pizza their own, either by creating a variation that’s worthy of acclaim in its own right, appropriating the traditional Neapolitan style, or both. Most important was a high concentration of truly great pizzerias; Chris Bianco may be turning out some world-class pies at Pizzeria Bianco, but that’s not enough to singlehandedly put Phoenix in the running. We didn’t include Chicago because — as Jon Stewart put it best — it’s not a pizza, it’s a casserole, and the city’s non-deep dish pizzerias aren’t anything to write home about. [pullquote:left]
It goes without saying that today we live in a golden age of pizza. Not only are there regional and national variations all across the world, chefs are putting their own spin on it and creating insanely delicious flavor combinations seemingly every day. The traditional Neapolitan style has also reclaimed its foothold, with chefs from all corners of the globe focusing on sourcing the highest-quality ingredients possible in order to make a pizza that even Queen Margherita herself would be proud of (There’s even a committee, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which has set strict rules for what can be called a truly authentic Neapolitan pizza).
We searched far and wide, from South America to the South of France, from the U.S. to Australia, so read on to learn which ten cities are home to the world’s best pizza.
10) Sao Paolo, Brazil
Great pizza, in Brazil? You better believe it. Italians are the largest immigrant group in the city (more than double the Portugese population), and they opened the city’s first pizzerias in the late 1800s. Today, there are almost 9,000 pizzerias in Sao Paolo alone, but we all know that quantity doesn’t equal quality. Thankfully, the quality of most of the pizza here is also quite high; leading pizza spots include Margherita Pizzeria, Casa Bráz, and Camelo. The pizza-eating experience in Sao Paolo is also unlike any in the world: pizza is served rodízio-style, with waiters bringing around many different varieties with toppings ranging from the Portuguesa (topped with mozzarella, ham, onion, hard-boiled eggs, peppers, olives, and oregano) to corn, potato sticks, and even beef stroganoff. For dessert, don’t miss the Nevada-style, topped with banana, cinnamon, and meringue.
9) Melbourne, Australia
If you need convincing that Melbourne is a great pizza town, look no further than Johnny Di Francesco, who runs the city’s 90 Secondi restaurant. Earlier this year, he bested 600 entrants from 35 countries to win the Pizza World Championship in Parma, Italy, and one taste of his Neapolitan-style pizza will most likely have you convinced that it’s the best in the world as well. But one great pizza does not a great pizza town make: Melbourne is chock full of them. Scoozi is one of only three pizzerias in Australia to get the seal of approval from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana; the wood-fired oven at La Svolta turns out thin, crisp pizzas with toppings ranging from the traditional to one topped with pumpkin, pancetta, gorgonzola, and red onion; and at DOC, which has several locations, chef Tony Nicolini is turning out truly exquisite, crisp and chewy pies.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.