It’s a fantastic time for pizza in this country. The classic Neapolitan style is now widespread, while Roman al taglio pizza has landed and is quickly proliferating. There’s more fascination with pizza than ever, and diners are increasingly seeking out America’s own regional styles. Some are now claiming that that Chicago is not just a deep-dish cliché but rather America's greatest pizza town; Buffalo has seen increased attention for its own little-appreciated style; bar pies and the New Haven style have spread; Detroit continues to motor its way onto pizza menus nationwide; and a few determined, energetic joints are even powering a renaissance in New York City slice culture.
This has all contributed to making it even more difficult than ever to rank the country’s best pizzas, but once again we’ve accepted the challenge (read our full methodology and meet our panelists here) and rounded up the 101 best pizzas in America.
SJ TY L./Yelp
Micucci Grocery was opened in 1951 by Leo and Iris Micucci, and has been family-operated ever since. It’s more sandwich-counter-meets-deli-meets-dry-goods store than pizzeria. But the reason to visit is in back, up the stairs to the left where “slabs” of American-interpreted Sicilian-style pizza are baked and shelved.
The word slabs, doesn’t do these slices justice — a curious hybrid, they’re nowhere near as heavy as most descriptions convey. Half-again bigger than the conventional Sicilian and just as thick, though wetter and more doughy, Micucci’s slabs may not be authentic Italian, but they feel like an idealized iteration of the focaccia you’ve always sought, but never experienced.
Each is about 6 inches long. There’s an uneven cornicione (the ring of crust along the edge of the pizza), not much different from the rest of the slice, except drier for not being covered by the brush of sweet sauce and an incomplete layer of mozzarella over the rest of it. “Pillowy” and “airy” have been used to describe these pizzas. Imagine a fluffy, light focaccia — an inch high in some places but no thinner than one-third of an inch anywhere — that’s doughy and wetter than most with layers of bubbles. There’s a scattering of Italian herbs with cheese rivulets and sauce undercurrents around raised puffy sections of dough and crispy cheese, especially the edges.
It’s not pizza in any other traditional regional American sense, nor can you say it’s precisely Italian. But there’s something intensely right and satisfying about it. Consider the warm, airy pleasure of freshly baked dough without much crust to speak of, the tang of sweet sauce, and the salty pull of just-melted cheese, and you get the idea of a fresh Micucci slice.
La Nova is a Buffalo legend, and is celebrating more than 50 years in business. Sure, it’s gotten its name out there by doing everything from sponsoring local pro sports teams to giving away thousands of T-shirts, but the pizza is also spectacular. There are at least 21 toppings to choose from and 19 set specialty pies, including square pies, thin-crust pizzas, and “The Big Joe” 30-inchers, but stick to their classic round pie, which (in typical Buffalo fashion) is loaded with more sauce and cheese than you might think necessary as well as an ample amount of pepperoni, which curls up into little “cups” and chars slightly as it cooks (thus the distinctly Buffalo pizza term “cup and char”). Consider leveling-up your crust for free with sesame seeds, onion, garlic, Cajun spice, or Parmigiano-Reggiano. And order barbecue wings, too — La Nova is famous for inventing this style in the 716 as well.
Though it flew under the radar for a few years, Inferno’s secret is largely out. In 2017, The Washington Post named Inferno the best Margherita in the D.C. area, and in 2018 Washingtonian included it among its list of their 100 very best restaurants. Chef Tony Conte honed his chops as executive chef of D.C.’s Oval Room and executive sous chef at New York’s Jean-Georges before decamping to the D.C. suburbs to open his vision of an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria. The centerpiece of the casual restaurant is a custom-tiled wood-burning oven, which turns out a roster of pies that changes seasonally based on what’s fresh and local. If you want to hug the baseline, stick with the classic D.O.C. Margherita, simply topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte, olive oil, and basil, but be sure to order at least one other pie: the pizza with ember-roasted potatoes, roasted onions, and smoked mozzarella. Inferno is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and stays open on other nights only until the kitchen runs out of dough.
If you’re serious about New York City pizza, at one point or another, you’ve read something written by Adam Kuban, founder of the now-defunct pizza blog Slice. He’s like the Manhattan pizza version of Chester Copperpot from “The Goonies,” only he made it out alive. Kuban may be the OG pie blogger now, but there was a time when the Slicemeister was a pizza padawan — chomping crusts, scarfing slices, and learning what made New York City’s above-average slices. Pizza Wagon helped set that standard, something that it’s been doing a few blocks from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (which only predates it by two years!).
This is a simple menu: large, small, square, white, or "special" pies, and standard toppings. And the Sicilian gets props, but if you’re making a trip to Bay Ridge or swerving off the Gowanus Expressway to hit it, you’re grabbing a plain slice — not too greasy, crispy but still bendable, thinner than usual, and that classic bright orange you get when sauce-and-cheese alchemy happens.
This Vegas outpost, one of some 14 pizzerias California pizza king Tony Gemignani owns, doesn’t skimp on pizza preparation. There are at least four ovens (a 900-degree-F wood-fired Cirigliano Forni oven, a Rotoflex gas brick oven, a Marsal gas brick oven, and a Cuppone Italian electric brick oven) the pizza champ uses to send out his signature pie styles (Napoletana, classic Italian, classic American, Sicilian, and Romano), of which there are many impressive iterations in each category. Your goal? Try to score one of the only 73 Margherita pies made daily using Tony’s award-winning recipe.
Zoli's was originally a New York-style slice joint opened by Cane Rosso's Jay Jerrier in 2013, but according to Jerrier, it folded after a run-in with “evil real estate developers.” Whatever happened, it was apparently all for the best, because Zoli’s (named after a dog), reopened under the guidance of 30-year pizza vet Lee Hunzinger with a full bar, desserts, an expanded menu (including an homage to the underrated Upstate New York delicacy chicken riggies and a unique take on SpaghettiO's) and a spirit of experimentation and commitment to quality that you don’t find everywhere.
There are 12 pies with playful names that can be part inside joke, part homage and part good-natured ribbing (cold cheese on a Pizza Loves Emily!). There are grandma pies on Wednesday, and then there’s Meatzilla Monday, a huge, double-crust pizza stuffed with soppressata, sliced meatballs, pepperoni, Italian sausage, and (obviously) cheese, that’s then ringed with garlic knots that make up the crust. It’s all topped (post-bake) with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni (according to Eater, each slice weighs two pounds!). If all of that sounds like too much to handle, start with the Spangler: mozzarella, sauce, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
Guy Fieri and Food Network Magazine have turned Joe Squared into a required road trip for fans of Flavortown, but it’s also a checklist spot for pie trekkers hoping to hit the best pizzas in every state. No one in Maryland, you can argue, serves a better pizza. Owner Joe Edwardsen introduced locals to his square, sourdough-crust, nearly matzo-thin pies in 2006, a style that bucks the typical connotations this shape suggests. They’re not pan, grandma pizza, or Detroit-style pies, but thin-crust pizzas that are just square and cooked in a coal-fired 800° oven for a minute. Why square? Joe has explained that he likes pizza with edges and that pizza boxes are square, which seems both logical and hard to argue with.
For the pizza nerds who made their way down to Philly’s Fishtown to visit the now-departed Pizzeria Beddia, which in 2015 Bon Appétit called the “Best Pizza in America,” there may be something familiar about Luke’s Craft Pizza. It’s a 450-square-foot shop that’s open for carryout four nights a week (they're closed Monday through Wednesday), it can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour and a half for a pie, there are rules about the pies (no half-toppings), only 50 pizzas a night are made, there’s no table service (you can eat at their two-top or on their bench outside though) and they close when the dough runs out.
Most importantly, the pies are good. And they look good. That likely has something to do with this being a family-owned pizzeria run by Luke Davis and his wife, Brittany, and the time Luke put in working at renowned South Carolina pizza spots EVO, Monza and Coastal Crust. Here, toppings are choose-your-own-adventure. You choose a base for your 14-inch pie (crushed tomato, creamy ricotta, olive oil and garlic) then pick from 12 toppings that range from house fennel sausage, speck, cremini, and Casalingo salami to Castelvetrano olives. Or opt for the seasonal special they strive to do every week — check Instagram and Facebook for a picture and description of the pizza to find out what’s in the works.
Jay Langfelder became known in the 716 because of the pies he was slinging out of his O.G. Wood Fire food truck, which he drove with an oven inside that weighed a ton. Jay said the “O.G.” stood for “one goal,” making the best modern American Neapolitan pizza but the truck meant limitations. When his brick-and-mortar opened in late 2017, he had the setup needed to meet his high expectations and leave behind the OG name to become Jay's Artisan Pizza.
There are nine 12-inch pies made with imported Italian mozzarella and cooked in a 900-degree wood-fired oven. There’s the obligatory marinara and Margherita pizzas. The quattro formaggio and Amanda (fontal, gorgonzola, chile flakes, and homemade chile honey) are holdover favorites from the truck. But the Nduja, with garlic, basil, fresh mozz, fontina, red onion, Berkshire ‘nduja and Calabrian chile honey… oh, yeah. These aren’t strict Neapolitan pizzas — Jay uses ingredients like California tomatoes instead of San Marzanos — but if you’re looking to trade Buffalo’s signature cup-and-char for leopard-spotting, you won’t find anything more legit. Be sure to check his Instagram for his (usually) once-weekly Detroit-style pies.
The nation’s capital, long a pizza wasteland characterized by over-the-top jumbo slices, has been bootstrapping itself into pie relevance in recent years. Consider Timber Pizza Company one recent example of how. Despite not knowing anything about pizza when they started, somehow, business partners (and formerly despondent corporate sales folk) Chris Brady and Andrew Dana have established themselves as one of the preeminent pizzerias in town. It’s a tale of two men who thought learning pizza would be the lowest barrier of entry into the culinary world, who then went on to trial-and-error themselves to success, first by lugging a pizza oven to venues starting in 2014, then going brick-and-mortar in 2016.
These are artisanal-looking pizzas with the kind of gray and ashy, crispy corniciones you don’t see on the ever-popular Neapolitan pizzas still sweeping across America. Look for red, white, and green pizzas at Timber. Their most famous pie may perhaps be the Green Monster, topped with pesto, fresh mozzarella, feta, zucchini, and kale. But you can't go wrong with the essentials, and it's hard to be more beautiful than Pretty in Pepperoni, their take on a classic, with tomato sauce, a provolone-and-mozz blend, fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, and basil.
If not for its blinking globes, you’d most likely miss Margherita Pizza’s green awning. After all, this narrow, brightly lit slice spot, opened in 1966 in Jamaica, Queens, by Sicilian-born Stefano DiBenedetto and childhood friend Frank Gioeliand, isn’t much to look at. And it’s a napkin-blotter’s pizza grease nightmare: There’s twice as much cheese as crust and oil dripping down your wrist after just two bites. But if you’re game for shrugging off a search for the perfect ratio and indulging in the deliciousness of a sloppy New York slice, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better. Walk up to the long counter (no stools), ask for a slice, and you’re delivered a cheesy sliver of pizza heaven. They come hot, quick, and almost always with a cheese pull for under $3.
Sometimes it’s best to let a place speak for itself. So it is with Michigan institution Cloverleaf Pizza, whose website notes: "In 1946 pizza wasn’t being served at many places in Detroit but soon many took their first bite of what is now famously known as Detroit-style pizza when Cloverleaf founder Gus Guerra and his wife Anna (Passalacqua) first introduced her mother’s recipe — the thick-crusted, square pie topped first with a layer of cheese followed with a layer of tomato sauce — at their first bar Buddy’s Rendezvous. Gus Guerra sold Buddy’s in 1953 along with his pizza recipe and purchased Cloverleaf Bar in East Detroit, now known as the City of Eastpointe. Cloverleaf has grown from a small neighborhood bar which Gus described as looking like 'a little white farm house' into the Eastside institution it is today."
It’s not impossible, but making the 101 best list with two different pizzerias in the same year does take some extra sauces. So give it to Delancey’s pizza maven Brandon Pettit for snagging another entry with Dino’s Tomato Pie. Pettit’s custom brick ovens scorch seven variations on Sicilian-style and 18-inch round pies. But the Sicilian is the way to go. It’s airy and an inch tall with a crunchy undercarriage and sides crispy with blackened cheese. All that savory flavor contrasts nicely with a generous and sweet twice-saucing.
Michael Sohocki had already achieved a level of renown in San Antonio with his Gwendolyn and Kimura before deciding to build his own brick pizza oven and open Il Forno in 2016. It’s already been hailed as the best pizzeria in town, with added perks like an in-house charcuterie program and mozzarella they make from local milk. The best way to experience what’s been accomplished here is to order the Entero, a bubbly, lightly charred crust topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and house-made pepperoni, coppa, and sausage. (If you like spicy stuff, add some of their homemade Chinese pepper-infused oil!)
Is Chicago’s deep-dish thing really just a ruse? The ultimate joke on visiting New Yorkers meant to deprive them of good thin-crust pies? “Keep distracting them with the tall stuff and we can keep them as hapless as Jordan did the Knicks,” you can almost hear them whispering. OK, so maybe that’s a little too JFK-magic-bullet-theory for pizza, but Chicago’s thin-crust game is strong. Along with their chef Jeff Lutzow, husband-and-wife team Zach and Rachel Smith have made Pizzeria Bebu one of Chicago’s more recent interesting bastions of the style.
Bebu doesn’t channel Midwestern tavern-style thin crust. Their 14-inch pies are darker, crackle-crunchy rimmed affairs with a wide range of toppings and a more New York-meets-Neapolitan look. Indeed, among their 14 classics, you’ll find an "Ode to Rubirosa" (vodka sauce, nutless pesto, fresh mozzarella), an homage to the modern classic New York pizzeria in Nolita, and the White Squall (garlic, littleneck clams, bacon, parsley, lemon, and Crystal hot sauce).
But enough about New York and shades of New Haven. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for one of the 11 pies under the "Shhhhhh..." header on Bebu’s menu. Pies range from plain cheese to topping combinations like potato and rosemary or chimichurri and vodka sauce. Or snatch up a Carbonara, a white pie with caramelized onion, house-cured pancetta, egg, scallion, and black pepper.
For years, Adam Kuban pizza-blogged for Slice and Serious Eats. Since then, he has perfected his own pizza, launching a bar pie pop-up Margot’s (named for his daughter) inside another lauded pizzeria in Brooklyn, Emily (also on this list).
What is bar pie? In his own words, Kuban describes the best bar pizza joints as “beloved gathering spots that bring together generations and social classes” serving pizza that is very thin-crusted, decidedly crisp, well done but not to the point of being burned, and “large enough to share but small enough you could house one yourself.” In his characteristically humble way, Kuban will likely thank this year’s panel, and note the long road ahead to opening his own place. True. But bar pizza is overdue for a higher national profile, and Kuban is the man to raise it.
Why? Because you can tell he’s becoming a master at it. Kuban tweaks his pies and his menu with some frequency (there's one called the "Collaboroni", featuring a mash-up of Margot's host restaurant's signature "Colony" toppings: pepperoni, pickled jalapeños, post-oven honey), so it may take a little more time to definitively name one signature. We lean toward the Hot Supreme. There’s a hardcover-thin crust, a secret cheese blend, a thin sauce layer, Romano, sausage, pickled jalapeños, and shaved red onions. Man, oh man!
These are well-crafted pizza gems thin enough to fill you, and good enough to have you craving more almost immediately. But good luck getting in. Margot’s is a ticketed pop-up that sells out weeks in advance. Your best shot is to sign up for the email list, wait for an announcement, and be ready to pounce the moment tickets go on sale.
As any Portlander will tell you, Micucci’s was only Micucci’s because of Stephen Lanzalotta. By that logic, after the falling out between him and its owners, Slab, his spot in the old Portland Public Market building, is the place in Portland for pizza. Either way, “slab” is a curious word to describe these pillowy slices. Each inch-thick rectangle is a moist-in-a-good-way, fluffy focaccia topped with just-melted cheese distributed in a way that brings tectonic plates to mind. If you’re trying to make a comparison between this style and Sicilian, they’re wetter, more doughy, and bigger by about half. They’re so airy that it’s hard to believe a “hand slab” weighs a full pound (a “half slab” weighs 4 pounds and a “full slab” weighs 8 pounds).
If this is your first time, opt for Steve’s Original Sicilian-Style Pie: “Old World-style dough mixed fresh by hand” and topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone, oregano, and olive oil (you can add pepperoni for $2 per slice — do it). Otherwise, you’ll want to try the “Sfinch,” an homage to Palermo’s breadcrumb-topped street-vendor slice, the sfinciune. And if you land there on Sunday, the Hangover Wedge, featuring sausage, pepperoni, bacon, roast onion, potato crumble, roast red pepper sauce, and “cheeses.”
Going strong since 1946, Bocce Club was founded by Dino Pacciotti shortly after he returned from World War II and is today run by his son, Jim. The pizza recipe hasn’t changed much: Dough is made from scratch and hand-stretched daily, sauce is made fresh, and the cheese is 100 percent whole milk mozzarella. The place has kept up with the times, though: It was the first Buffalo pizzeria to offer takeout in corrugated boxes (1955), and the first to offer half-baked pies to finish cooking at home (it ships them nationwide). As for the pizza, it’s beyond reproach, and sets the standard for Buffalo pies against which all others are judged. We suggest you stick with the Original Bocce Pizza with just sauce and cheese, topped with high-quality pepperoni that curls into the familiar “cup and char.”
Native Philadelphians have a love/hate relationship with the tourist trap that is South Street. The drinks are overpriced and the shops kitschy, but this is where they spent teenage years seeing bands, visiting novelty shops, and getting a slice from Lorenzo’s.
A no-frills, all-flavor pizza joint, Lorenzo and Sons wouldn’t hesitate to toss you to the curb if you asked for anything other than a cheese pizza. There is nowhere to sit. You can’t use the restroom. And most likely, you waited for 30 minutes before even ordering. But when you’re selling slices the size of a customer’s face for three bucks a pop that are perfection every time, you have wiggle room to be gruff.
In 2012, the beloved pizzeria burnt down from what the fire department said was an issue with the wiring in the ceiling above the oven and grill exhaust duct on the first floor, but it has since been rebuilt and is still selling those cheap, delicious slices (with the prideful worst service).
Ignore the family melodrama that’s been reported on over the years, or don’t, and hit both Bruno’s, the one in Clifton and the one in Lyndhurst. We can’t bear yet another internecine pizza family dispute, so we’ll just note that Bruno's is old-school. It's a no-frills neighborhood spot that opened in 1972 and that makes a monster of a Sicilian, both in appearance and reputation. These are huge, saucy slices that noticeably peak in the center, almost as if embodying the ample middle of the ubiquitous winking pizza chef.
Shh. Don’t tell anyone, but there’s a little bit of Naples in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The spot has a wood-burning oven hand-built on site "by Neapolitan artisans, using stones and volcanic soil imported from Naples," ovens that can be maintained at 1,000 degrees. A Mano’s founding pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio has long since moved on (his Manhattan spot Kesté returned to this year’s 101 as well) but the foundation he laid for the restaurant in 2007 was strong (A Mano claims to be one of only three restaurants in America certified by both the VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana) and APN (Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoli). Stop in for the namesake A Mano Pie (bufala mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, Gran Cru, basil, and olive oil).
The New Haven pizza mafia and the bar pie love for Colony take up a lot of the air during conversations about Connecticut’s best pizza, but for about a decade now, Coalhouse Pizza in Stamford has been generating its own heat, given off by 12-inch and 16-inch pies cooking in its coal-fired oven. WIth 30 standard pies made with Caputo “00” flour and fresh mozzarella, and almost 70 different toppings to choose from to make your own go-to, Coalhouse could appear to err toward that diner menu dilemma: trying to be too much to too many without doing any one thing right. But the pies here are good — dark and thin, crunchy in all the right places. Still, there’s no harm in sticking to the basics. And for that, look up to the top of the menu and choose Blue Skies: tomato sauce, mozzarella, aged Parmesan and basil.
A Florentine, reinvigorating Brooklyn’s slice scene? Yes, since 2015, Florence native Massimo Laveglia has been stretching out 14- and 18-inch rounds in South Williamsburg at L'industrie Pizzeria. And he’s been building a slow burn, sending hearts aflutter with pictures of pizzas on Instagram that look Di Fara-esque — the burn, the basil, that characteristic orange and mottled sauce — using an electric oven to boot. But these slices are unique in their own right: a honeycomb cornicione with bubbles big enough for pizza bees to burrow inside, that dusty Roman marble statue finish on the edge, and a mottle of cheese and sauce that almost seems painted into the surface. No wonder L’Industrie has been called "one of the most exciting pizzerias" to land on the scene in a while.
"La who?” Manhattanites may ask, confused about something Strong Islanders already know well. Nope. Look east to the neighborhood Italian-American restaurant chain with three locations (Plainview, Melville, and Merrick). Notes Newsday, "If there's any eatery that defines family dining on Long Island, it's the neighborhood destination for Italian-American favorites, including pizza, pasta, panini, and here, a category devoted exclusively to 'Parmigiana.' La Piazza knows what it's doing — and does it well." It’s true. It’s become trendy to upscale Italian-American menus, but there’s something to be said for the unadulterated original when it’s done well, and when it comes to La Piazza’s grandma pie, that’s the case. Pizza snobs may sneer, but they will likely do so without having visited most of the curators of Long Island’s great unheralded pizza style. Yes Umberto’s is the master, but La Piazza deserves a round of applause for their version of grandma pie — a heavily sauced crispy-crunch brown pan-cooked short crust with an almost equal ratio of shredded mozzarella.
Gennaro Lombardi’s influence is such that his Spring Street shop almost directly resulted in what’s generally accepted as one of the best pizzas — if not the best pizza — in Las Vegas. Founders John Arena and Sam Facchini’s grandparents settled 50 yards from Lombardi’s, and “ever since those early days, pizza has been at the center of [their] family life” — their parents’ first jobs were feeding coal into the bakery ovens where Sicilian pizzas were made for the neighborhood’s immigrant families.
Metro Pizza (born in 1980 as Original New York Pizza, and renamed in 1986 when they expanded) has been making handcrafted pies with dough made fresh daily and superior ingredients for 30-plus years. Among the specialty pies, the Milano (mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino romano, and garlic) is a white pie worth noting. Of course, you’ll want to give a nod to at least one of the six “East Side Pizzas” named for Manhattan streets like Mulberry, Mott, and Bleecker.
Those critical of the Pacific Northwest pizza scene need to back up. Let’s put this in context: Washington became the 42nd state in 1889, 16 years before Gennaro Lombardi opened America’s first pizzeria… in New York City. Washington and Oregon (though Oregon has 30 years on its neighbor) deserve some slack for not having a century-long tradition. Not that their pizza-loving denizens need cheesy handicaps — not anymore, at any rate. Consider Seattle’s Delancey, which Brandon Pettit, a former New York music student, opened with his wife in 2009.
The idea for Delancey (named for Pettit’s favorite subway stop in Manhattan), grew out of his longing for the pizzas he grew up with in New York and New Jersey. As The New York Times noted, “the dough has an intense, slightly sourdough-like flavor from Mr. Pettit’s two-day fermentation process, and the topping combinations offered are basic but use the freshest seasonal ingredients available.”
There are 9 pies on the menu, including the “Brooklyn” (inspired by Di Fara’s cheese pie) and the white pie (with house-made ricotta, slivered garlic, and grana padano), but Delancey noted and panelists voted for the pepperoni pie as the one you should seek out. And just in case you still don’t get the Pacific Northwest pizza claim, you may want keep in mind that not only is one of their pizzerias the best in the country, but it has ties to one of the most read food bloggers in the world. Just who is Pettit’s wife? Just Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. So there.
San Francisco may have lost Una Pizza Napoletana, but it isn’t hurting for next-level pizzas. Columbus, Ohio-born Jeff Krupman has been making a name for himself for years, first hacking a Weber grill and operating a mobile pizza oven along the boundaries of legal street-vending before moving into a brick-and-mortar spot on the Mission open Tuesday through Sunday evenings. Krupman’s 12-inch pizzas feature beautiful, almost soupy-looking centers and char bubbles, and but they aren't quite Neapolitan (though he did call a 2001 visit to Naples’ Antica Pizzeria da Michele a “real bolt of lightning”). No, there can be an almost oil-polished crust finish and artfully off-circle rounds.
Eight pies round out the menu, three classics — a Margherita, a "Top-Shelf" Margherita," and marinara) — three "Favorites," which feature ingredients like house-made hot Italian sausage, chorizo, and farm egg with lemon juice — and two "Ohio" pies, one with pepperoni and pepperoncini and the other with sopressata, house sausage, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, oregano, and grana padano. Start with a baseline Margherita (or top-shelf it), and don’t shortchange Krupman’s native Midwest.
What started as an extremely successful food truck is now a Nob Hill must-visit with a Bib Gourmand nod from Michelin. The brainchild of Jonathan Darsky, the former pizzaiolo of the acclaimed Flour + Water in San Francisco (he left in 2010), the restaurant offers eight pizzas, all made with expert precision. The white pie with mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and garlic is a standout, but the margherita di bufala, made with crushed tomato, basil, and buffalo mozzarella, is a masterpiece.
Named after the Basque labor organizer and priest José María Arizmendiarrieta, this offshoot of Berkeley’s famed Cheese Board Collective (No. 47) doesn’t have the decades (it opened in 2000), but this worker-owned cooperative doesn’t skip a beat, turning out thin, organic, sourdough pizzas, with whole-milk mozzarella and seasonal organic vegetables. The catch is that there’s just one kind of pizza served daily for 364 days out of the year. (The exception is Super Bowl Sunday, when Arizmendi Bakery breaks the rule to have two pizzas “face off” for their annual Arizmendi Pizza Bowl.) The pizzas (always vegetarian) are planned out a month or two in advance — you can see what’s on offer by checking out their calendar — and are served starting at 11:00 a.m., available hot or lightly-baked, in slices or wholes.
If there’s anything scientific to discovering one of the best pizzas in America, it may very well involve an equation like this: Italian-Americans plus Milwaukee and cheese equals heralded pizza at Zaffiro's since 1954. First-generation Italian-American Liborio "Bobby" Zaffiro opened Rock-a-Bye Tap, where he started serving thin-crust pizza with the help of his brother John before they opened Zaffiro’s in 1956 to make a go of it full-time.
It all worked out beautifully for the Sicilian-blooded brothers until John's 1988 retirement. Bobby died the year after, at which point his wife and two sons took over. Zaffiro's has stayed in the family, and is now helmed by Bobby's son Michael Zaffiro.
However, the tradition of a thin-crust Milwaukee pie topped with about three to four times as much cheese as crust lives on at this Wisconsin icon where, among the 13 pies on the menu (two new ones, a veggie supreme and a “meat lover’s” have recently been added), you’ll find two “E”-centric menu items with one difference between them: the E has everything (toppings-wise at least), and the EBF (“Everything But Fish”) has everything but the delicious (yet divisive) anchovies. If you’re not an anchovy devotee, opt for the latter and appreciate one of Milwaukee’s pizza gifts to the nation.
“A Korean immigrant, inspired by the pure love of food, joy, and her mother’s own delicious cooking, quits her day job, opens an artisan pizza pie place, and names it after her dog,” notes Pizzeria Lola’s website. “Is there anything more American than that?” Probably not.
Onetime stage actress Ann Kim graduated from Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza in January 2010, and in less than a year, she’d opened Pizzeria Lola, where she serves Neapolitan-style pizzas named for her Weimaraner. They’re wood-fired pies cooked out of a copper-clad oven under tomato-can track lighting eagerly photographed by hungry food bloggers and Instagrammers.
There are 14 pies, most of which feature combos you’re familiar with, along with less common toppings like Peppadew peppers and guanciale, and add-on toppings you don’t see everywhere, like boquerones (white anchovies, likely to make converts out of anti-anchovy pizza purists) and garlic confit. Two pies of particular interest highlight Korean flavors: The Lady ZaZa (Italian red sauce, house-made kimchi, Korean sausage, serranos, scallions, sesame, and soy-chile glaze) is delicious, and we highly recommend the Korean barbecue pie with grass-run farm beef short ribs, mozzarella, scallions, arugula, sesame and soy-chile vinaigrette
In a city known for deep-dish pies, this family-owned restaurant has been serving up thin-crust pizzas to Chicago residents since 1946, when they added them to their family’s tavern menu. Vito & Nick’s doesn’t believe in delivery, their co-founder having gone as far as to say they’ll never do it — “If they want a truly great pizza, they will come in for it.” It’s a philosophy that seems to work for them — as the note on their website demonstrates (“If you don’t know about us, you will”), the owners are fairly confident in their popularity. The thin crust, tasty sausage, and generous covering of cheese and sauce will likely leave you in agreement.
The town called Monza houses an historic Italian speedway where every year since 1922, owners of the finest cars, from Alfa Romeo to Ferrari, take the curves of the 6.25-mile track. The restaurant called Monza in Charleston, South Carolina, feeds off the history of its namesake city to offer handcrafted pies.
Monza uses imported Italian wheat flour, Neapolitan yeast, and filtered and pH-balanced water to develop their version of the most traditional-style pizza possible. The pies are baked in the wood oven at a sweltering 1,000 degrees F, allowing for a thin and crispy crust, and are topped with mozzarella with fresh and usually regional ingredients. Our recommendation is the Ciccio, with mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garlic.
EVO, which stands for "extra virgin oven," offers fresh, wood-fired, Neapolitan pizza made with seasonal and local ingredients. Produce from local farmers is used to develop these pies. The menu has expanded beyond the original five pizzas to include Margherita, pistachio pesto, pancetta and Brussels sprouts, speck and pumpkin, potato and corn, mushrooms and eggplant, sausage and peppers, and the Pork Trifecta (with marinara, house-made sausage, pepperoni, bacon, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano), and a four-cheese calzone (provolone, Asiago, mozzarella, and ricotta). The 25 extra topping choices and five types of cheese also allow customers to construct a towering feast of their own.
Alicia Santucci, granddaughter of founders Joe and Philomena Santucci, carries on the tradition of pizza-making that her grandparents began in 1959: a square, pan pizza thicker than New York-style pies, but thinner than a Sicilian slice. Instead of melting the cheese on top, Santucci’s places sliced 100 percent whole milk mozzarella directly on the bread and then ladles its signature, herbaceous sauce on top. Their three signature pies (The Works, Veggie Works, and Margherita) come in three sizes (9-inch, 12-inch, and 17-inch), but can be topped with all the conventional extras along with banana peppers, grilled chicken, steak, meatballs, and prosciutto.
Bru Room is much younger than its New Haven cousins — it started kicking out brick-oven pizzas in 1996 when it was added to Bar. But you can make the argument that its pies are just as good if not better than Modern. They do the red, white, and red “with mozz” pies, same as the others, and a clam pie that's very respectable. The thing to have is the mashed potato pizza with bacon (no sauce), which once may have sounded ridiculous but has since become embraced as a local icon. It’s covered with thick béchamel, the mashed potatoes are well seasoned and fairly creamy for having just baked in an oven, and there’s lots of garlic. That all results in a definite check-it-off-your-list item.
By now, most pizza lovers know what a grandma pie is, or have at least heard it. But just because it’s now well-known doesn’t mean everyone knows how to make a great grandma pie. Those looking to establish a baseline still need to visit Long Island, and try it at its birthplace, King Umberto. You have them to thank for this light, thin, crispy-chewy pie with light crushed tomato sauce and a scattering of mozzarella, that every pizza-proud Long Islander knows is better than many pizzas you’ll find in Manhattan.
Is Roseland Apizza the greatest pizzeria you’ve never heard of? At the very least, it’s one of Connecticut’s most underrated pizzerias — and this in a state known for famous pies.
Imagine the good will engendered by a pizzeria that starts you off with a bread basket! (This touch was insisted on by Roseland’s late matriarch Lina Lucarelli.) Now hear the words “shrimp pizza” and understand that this neighborhood parlor has been slinging pies since 1935. New Haven pizza intransigents may feel right at home at Roseland — the décor has a Formica-counter-and-crowded-booth feeling that echoes the one at the more-pilgrimaged Sally’s of Wooster Street. In point of fact, Frank Pepe opened just eight years before Roseland and Sally’s opened just three years later.
If this is your first time, start with a plain tomato pie (no cheese). You’ll want the Roseland Special (sausage and mushrooms), the fresh-shucked clam pie (white), and one of the special shrimp pizzas (said to include two pounds of shrimp — no joke). If you really feel like splashing out, there’s Roseland’s “most elite pie,” the Ponsinella, which is loaded with lobster, shrimp, and scallops and has been known to cost $65 at market price.
Move over Neapolitan — the Roman pizza invasion has landed. In Rome, pizza al taglio (literally pizza “by the cut”) has long been a thing. This long, doughy pizza gets cut with scissors and sold in rectangular slices by weight and reheated. The style has made a few inroads from time to time, but never truly resonated the way it has started to over the past few years, partly due to the fact that, in the wrong hands, it can often end up destined to be a reheat slice. But there’s some good al taglio pizza starting to pop up, and that may largely be due to Gabriele Bonci (pronounced “Bahn-chi”), whose famed Pizzarium in Rome, with its artisanal approach and care with quality toppings, has even reinvigorated respect for the style in the Eternal City.
Bonci chose Chicago’s Fulton Market for his first U.S. spot, the eponymous Bonci, but don’t go with a plan for any particular slice in hand. As the website notes, the restaurant’s “pizza lineup changes sometimes hourly depending on what seasonal produce and toppings are available.” If they created a standard menu and posted it, the restaurant claims, “it would probably be out of date in about three hours.” Anyone who cringes a bit at that should take solace in the fact that this means fresh pizza, pizza with balloon-light crusts that are contrasted by ultra-crispy edges and covered in myriad inventive and fresh toppings both beautiful and delicious.
A low-key, modest slice shop located in a West Hollywood strip mall happens to be serving some of the best New York-style pizza in all of California, and the longstanding shop has been so successful that it’s spawned additional locations in Santa Monica and Downtown LA. Vito’s was founded by New Jersey native Vito di Donato, who (as legend has it) brought some starter yeast with him across the country to ensure that a little bit of the East Coast makes its way into every pie. Like all New York slice shops, Vito’s offers hot sandwiches like meatball and chicken parm, calzones, baked ziti, and a variety of pie styles, but if it’s your first visit, be a purist and order a plain slice: With its slightly crisp and chewy crust, bright and slightly sweet sauce, and even coating of shredded mozzarella, it’d feel right at home back in Jersey.
Everything Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo touch turns to gold, including their restaurants Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, and Petit Trois. And at Jon & Vinny’s they’ve turned their attention to creative Italian fare and irresistibly delicious and unique pies that toe the line between New York and Neapolitan style. These pizzas are light and crisp, with a slightly spongy texture and a blistered cornicione, and toppings are always applied with an eye toward balance and proportion. The most popular pie? Sonny’s Favorite, which is topped with tomato, mozzarella, onion, Grana Padano, and a liberal amount of smoky Nueske’s bacon for good measure. Why aren’t more people topping their pizzas with bacon?
"Please keep in mind we are a one-man, one-oven operation," notes the Original Tacconelli’s website. "Waiting time may vary." Indeed.
This is Philadelphia’s pizzeria célèbre, so expect a wait. Especially if you haven’t reserved dough, in which case you may wait until tomorrow. (Tacconelli’s advises that the best time to call is between Wednesday and Sunday after 10 a.m.). It may not always have been this complicated to get a pie — let’s assume times were simpler in 1946, when the place opened — but most who taste it say it’s worth the effort.
There are four pies: Tomato (no cheese), regular (a little cheese and sauce), white (salt, pepper, cheese, and garlic), and the Margerita (sic) (fresh basil and mozz). These are wide crusts, liberally sauced and topped, and not uniform. You can customize with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage, sweet peppers, anchovies, onions, prosciutto, basil, and extra cheese — just remember there’s a three-topping max per pie, and that the owner at times prefers a two-topping limit (nothing like arbitrary rules).
The move at Tacconelli's may be the "Signature," which is often unlisted: white pizza with spinach and chunks of tomato and garlic. Consider this the kind of place to take friends so you can order more pies.
You can trace Pizzeria Vetri’s pedigree back to Osteria, chef Marc Vetri’s casual Italian restaurant that followed his 30-seat à la carte-turned-tasting menu Vetri. Osteria’s homemade pastas and wood-grilled fare quickly garnered local and national accolades, including a James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant in 2008 and a 2010 award for chef Jeff Michaud (Best Chef Mid-Atlantic).
But the pizza! Osteria’s thin-crust pies took on a success of their own, landing on GQ’s list of the 25 best pizzas in America. Baked egg with bitto cheese and cotechino, zucchini with stracciatella and lemon, octopus and smoked mozzarella — talk about a revelation. Thus it was in 2013 that the Vetri family bestowed upon Osteria lovers a new gift: Pizzeria Vetri. Marc Vetri has moved on, selling his restaurant group to the Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters, but the plaudits remain. Be sure to check off the tonno with Sicilian tuna and bursts of spicy peperoncino.
Note: The author is the digital director for a PR firm that represents the pizzeria, but has never worked on the account or done work on its behalf.
Frank Pepe, Sally's Apizza, Modern Apizza, and Bar and the Bru Room round out New Haven’s big four pizza names, but there are great, lesser-known (nationally) pizzerias, one on the other side of I-95 in West Haven that has been around almost as long: Zuppardi's, open since 1934. (They may actually be ahead of the others in terms of entering the 21st century, in one way at least: They launched a food truck a couple years ago). The origins? Domenico and Angelina Zuppardi’s bakery, which was passed down to Tony and Frances Zuppardi, and in the 1940s was turned into a pizzeria by Tony (who was a baker in the Navy) when Domenico became ill.
Zuppardi's has its own take on Connecticut's renowned thin-crust style (they call it “a Napolitano-style pie”) and a philosophy handed down to co-owner Lori Zuppardi (read the full interview) from her father that goes like this: “The last bite has to be as good as the first when people eat our pizza.” It’s as thin as, but less crisp than, New Haven's other pies, with a New York City crust that's lighter and airier than the ones you'll find in Gotham. The difference is in the edge, which is charred in places and thicker all around.
The signature is the Special: mozzarella, mushroom, sausage, and marinara. But there are two other pies worth noting: the market price, freshly shucked littleneck clam pie (there’s a cheaper and quicker clam pie, but why would you want that?) and a wet and juicy escarole and bean white pie with garlic and bites of crisp and wet escarole and soft bean interspersed. All good Italians know that escarole and bean soup is a great winter savior. Here, you’ll find it on a pie. Prego!
Tom P. via Yelp
Connecticut’s best pizza! Go. Discuss. “Pepe! Sally’s! Modern! Bru! Zuppardi’s!”
We’ll stop you there. Not that these aren’t amazing pizzerias, but the comebacks against well-known New Haven spots are enough to start a molten-cheese versus scald-your-mouth-sauce debate you really don’t want to be a part of. There are so many great places that haven’t been given national attention. And Ernie’s Pizzeria in New Haven, almost exactly 4 miles from Frank Pepe, is among them.
These days, Ernie’s (named for its founder) is run by his son, Pat DeRiso, who has sworn he would never divulge his father’s crust recipe. It’s a recipe that’s been kneaded out in New Haven for nearly 45 years. Sausage and mushroom and bacon and garlic are some noted combos, but when we called Ernie’s, they said to try the plain pie (mozzarella). Who are we to argue?
Galleria Umberto may very well be one of America’s best cheap slice places, a cash-only throwback in Boston’s North End that started as a bakery in 1965, and took on its current form in 1974. In the 40-some years since, it’s become an institution. Indeed, earlier this year, the James Beard Foundation honored it with an America’s Classics award, which recognizes regional restaurants (often family-owned) with “quality food, local character, and lasting appeal.”
Expect a line outside the door for these thick, over-the-edge-of-the-pan cheesy, saucy, completely over-the-top Sicilian slices. That’s right, the Sicilian is the only pizza option (the other options are panini, panzarotti, arancini, calzones). Though it opens at 11 a.m., it closes at 2:30 p.m. (or whenever the dough is gone), so don’t delay.
Good pizza in Dallas? Are you kidding? Nope. Cane Rosso owner Jay Jerrier is serving some bar-raising Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified stuff, and it’s so popular that there are now five locations in and around Dallas, two in Houston, and one in Austin. Cane Rosso literally means “red dog” in Italian, a nod to Jerrier’s dedication to man’s best friend. In 2014, he also went on to form a dog rescue group, Cane Rosso Rescue. For Jay, it’s just about doing the right thing. As his menu declares — by highlighting just four ingredients: sea salt, water, yeast, and imported double-zero flour — great pizza can be all about simplicity too.
You’ll want to order the Zoli (named for the rescue’s first dog) with sausage, hot soppressata, hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes, house-made mozzarella, and basil, and you’ll enjoy it for sure. Just mind your wallet. Cane Rosso will serve vegan cheese, but they draw the line at topping your pizza with ranch dressing. They once kept a bottle behind a glass case with a $1,000 price tag that Jay finally sold to the food delivery service Caviar as part of a fundraiser hosted by the restaurant to benefit the Humane Society of Southeast Texas.
Although this San Francisco restaurant claims to specialize in house-made pastas, their pizza is formidable. Baked in a wood-fired oven, the thin-crust pizza at Flour + Water blends Old World tradition with modern refinement, according to chef and co-owner Thomas McNaughton.
There’s a limited pizza menu that typically features just four pies. But the toppings vary depending on what’s in season, making dining experiences unique. Consider these two recent examples: the bianco verde with Genovese pesto, ricotta, summer squash, pickled padron and toasted pine nuts; and the maiale, with San Marzano tomatoes, pancetta, stracciatella, torpedo onion, and Calabrian chile. But Flour + Water’s textbook Margherita is amazing. Heirloom tomatoes, basil, fior di latte, and extra-virgin olive oil… if only the simplicity implied by the restaurant’s name could be duplicated in restaurants across America.
Ken Forkish and chef Alan Maniscalco co-founded Ken’s Artisan Pizza in 2006 after the success of Monday Night Pizza at Ken’s Artisan Bakery. There’s been a cultish love for it in Portland ever since. There are gigantic Douglas Fir beams, sliding glass windows, and an open kitchen with a Le Panyol wood-fired oven, which guests can marvel at while digging in at tables made from salvaged wood from the now-dismantled Jantzen Beach Big Dipper roller coaster — once they get inside, that is (there tends to be a wait).
The thin-crust pies, baked in about two minutes and inspired by the co-founders’ visits to Europe, are known for their tangy, orange-red sauce, featuring heat and savory notes, and a style that, as the name of the restaurant states, is more artisanal than Neapolitan.
Loui’s started serving squares in 1977, when longtime Buddy’s chef Louis Tourtois branched out on his own. And it doesn’t look like much has changed since. There are checkered tablecloths, plastic and Formica tables, and empty, straw-wrapped Chianti bottles hanging all over the place. The third-generation, family-owned Hazel Park spot serves quartered, Detroit “red top”-style pies that are said to each have a pound of cheese on them. There are some eight charred-side pies on the menu – mostly variations on pepperoni pies featuring mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and ham. The restaurant’s signature is the classic cheese and tomato sauce, but two popular favorites are the Hawaiian pie and the option to get extra meat: ground beef, ham, bacon, and pepperoni.
Long Island has its bar pie and grandma pizza pedigree, but most people don't look to it for coal-fired tradition. Salvatore's in Port Washington, on the North Shore, not only has technique down, but it also has links to New York pizza royalty. While it was only opened in 1996, its founders, Fred and Marco Lacagnina are said to boast family tree connections to both Patsy Lancieri (of the Patsy’s in East Harlem) and Patsy Grimaldi (Brooklyn Heights’ original Grimaldi’s). Ownership has since changed hands, but they haven’t lost their touch, firing simple small, large, and personal pies featuring either homemade mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, and basil, or mozzarella, garlic, grated cheese, and basil (with the option to pick from almost 20 toppings including everything from jalapeños and meatballs to ham and grilled chicken).
Along with Katz, “Malnati” is another name synonymous with Chicago pizza history. Rudy Malnati Sr. opened his first restaurant, Pizzeria Uno, in 1943. Uno and his son Lou went on to storied success. But his other son, Rudy, has been just as much a part of any conversation about Chicago’s great pizzas since he opened Pizano’s in 1991. There are now six Pizano’s locations, all known for serving equally good thin and deep-dish pizzas. You have a choice between their buttery and flaky “world famous, gourmet, deep-dish pizza” (don’t forget to allow a half-hour for it to cook), or the thin-crust 12-inch or 14-inch pies.
Lombardi’s may be responsible for “America’s first pizza,” but as Nick Azzaro, owner of Papa’s Tomato Pies, isn’t shy about saying, Papa’s — established in 1912 — is America’s oldest continuously owned, family-owned pizzeria. With more than 100 years under its belt, no wonder Papa’s made this list of America’s best pies again. And the family behind this operation is key: The recipe has been passed down through generations and survived a 2013 move from Trenton to Robbinsville.
The Azzaro family cooks made-to-order pies customizable in a variety of ways. You can choose everything from garlic to mushrooms and pepperoni to meatballs, or add anchovies for a salty kick. But it’s tradition that makes Papa’s special, so order their signature tomato pie. But because you’ve made the trip, brought friends, and are hungry, order a Papa’s tangy original: the mustard pie.
Yes, it sounds crazy, but don’t doubt for a second that it works. Forget The New York Times’ claim that the pepperoni mustard pie tastes a bit too much like a hot dog. The paper’s palates may be a bit too, ahem, “refined.” It tastes less like a hot dog, or any of the over-the-top hybrid creations fast food companies are flinging themselves at, than like an unexpected, nuanced creation that shouldn’t work, but does — a brilliant pizza you’ll crave and won’t find anywhere else.
You’d expect no less than pizza greatness from Seattle star chef and James Beard Award winner Tom Douglas, and at his two Serious Pie spots in Seattle that’s exactly what you get. These are thin-crust, oblong pizzas about a foot long and imbued with serious soul (there are also huge corniciones).
Consider the pizza mission statement that greets you when visiting their website: “Serious Pie: a pizzeria with a bread baker’s soul, serves up pies with blistered crusts, light textured but with just enough structure and bite. Our attentiveness to each pizza in the 600°F. stone-encased applewood-burning oven preserves the character of housemade charcuterie and artisan cheeses from around the world.”
The menu features seven pies with toppings like Yukon Gold potato, soft-cooked free-range eggs, smoked prosciutto, truffle cheese, and house-made bacon, but you’ll want to try the sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper, and provolone pie.
The Cheese Board gets pizza-lovers in Berkeley lining up outside and sitting on the grass median between traffic. Has to be good pizza, right? You bet. And the whole idea behind Cheese Board is cool, too. Cheese Board opened as a small cheese store in 1967, and four years later, the two owners sold it to employees, creating a 100 percent worker-owned business of which the owner remained a part.
Cheese Board's pizza program started in 1985. During shifts, employees "started making pizzas for [them]selves by cutting off hunks of extra sourdough baguette dough, grabbing favorite cheeses from the counter, and throwing on vegetables from the market next door," according to the company. After regular hours on Fridays, they began serving one vegetarian pizza, placing fresh ingredients and unusual cheeses atop a thin, sourdough crust.
What’s the pie to get? Whatever they’re serving.
San Francisco’s Mission District has changed over the past decade, but Mission visionaries and Pizzeria Delfina owners Craig and Anne Stoll haven’t lost a step, even as they’ve expanded to five restaurants. The menu is inspired by Craig’s memories of the New York-style pies from his youth and pizza from Naples’ best pizzerias. The menu features nine “Neapolitan-inspired” thin-crust pizzas. You’ll be intrigued by options like the Panna (tomato sauce, cream, basil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano), and look out! A cherrystone clam pie with tomato, oregano, and hot peppers. But your first move should be the Salsiccia: house-made fennel sausage, tomato, bell pepper, onion, and mozzarella.
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 a flavorful touch. Via 313 offers eight thin-crust bar-style pies and 13 different Detroit-style pizzas with all the classic toppings you’d imagine, but they suggest starting with The Detroiter: mozzarella, white cheddar, tomato sauce, and a double portion of pepperoni.
When you’re craving great pizza in Philly, go no further than this 19th-century brick building in Kensington. You’ll find thin-crust pizza cooked in the double-decker gas-fired oven at the cash-only joint Kickstarted in 2012 by Ryan Anderson, Joseph Hunter, Brian Dwyer, and Michael Carter. As you wait for the crew to cook your pie, bask in Pizza Brain’s unique ambience, peruse their pizza memorabilia museum (featuring what Guinness World Records called the world’s largest collection of pizza memorabilia), or rummage through their pizza tattoo book for laughs. Pizza Brain’s “Jane” is their version of a Margherita — a cheesy trifecta of mozzarella, aged provolone, and grana padano blended with basil — and it’s a good place to begin. The salty and satisfying Forbes Waggensense is a true stunner, though: mozzarella, fontina, grana padano, basil, smoked pepperoni, and tomato sauce.
"This is it. New York’s #1," notes Kesté’s website. And in fact, that’s what the restaurant’s name means in Neapolitan dialect: "This is it." Eight years after opening in 2009, it’s hard to argue that Kesté doesn’t belong in the conversation. This is the place you take Italians — better yet, Neapolitans — or anyone who has experienced Italy’s pizza culture, when they ask for demonstrations of New York’s Neapolitan pizza IQ.
Owner Roberto Caporuscio (who runs the restaurant with his daughter, Georgia) was born and raised on a dairy farm in Pontinia, Italy, an hour from Naples. He’s the president of the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoli (APN) in the U.S., the Italian governing body that teaches the 150-year-old art of Neapolitan pizza-making and certiﬁes adherence to authentic procedures.
Kesté (which has since opened a second location downtown) has that signature chewy crust, the soft, slightly soupy middle, the balance of quality ingredients. Close your eyes and you’re transported to the back alleys of Naples. While you may not want to share it with your traditional-minded Italian friends, the eponymous pie with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, and gran cru olive oil takes the restaurant’s name proudly, and doesn’t let it down.
It can truly be tiring to explain the Grimaldi’s-Juliana’s thing, so the best tack anyone can really take when it comes to this deep-seated pizza saga is to just go to both places, preferably one after another on the same day, when there’s plenty of time to explain the New York pizza genealogy behind the two intertwined spots, and taste the history yourself. Following is the abbreviated version in one sentence: After learning from his uncle Pasquale (Patsy) Lancieri, who in turn had learned from Gennaro Lombardi, Patsy Grimaldi opened a place called Patsy’s in Dumbo in 1990, whose name he changed to Grimaldi’s before selling it to a customer who lost the lease to the original space, which he then reopened as Juliana’s (named for his mother, Maria ”Juliana” Lancieri Grimaldi), serving the same pizza he started the place with. Sigh… ignorance, bliss, and all that. These days, the lines may be longer at Grimaldi’s (ranked higher on this year’s list), but ironically, those looking for the authentic Grimaldi’s experience really should be hitting up Juliana’s, where the crust has gained a reputation among some for being more crisp and airy with more complex flavor.
The bar pie. In the annals of all things pizza, it is perhaps one of the most underrated styles. The maligned proponents of the pile-it-on philosophy behind deep-dish get bent out of shape when Chicago’s signature style is besmirched, but there doesn’t seem to be a similar geographic identification attached to this more nuanced, reserved, and minimalist approach. It’s a shame, save that it makes bar pie bastions like Colony, Eddie’s, and Star Tavern in Orange, New Jersey, even easier to like, and, selfishly, to eat at without battling crowds.
Owned and operated by the Vayianos family since 1980, “The Star” is run by former attorney Gary Vayianos, whose kitchen turns out super-thin, crispy, to-the-edges-with-the-sauce toppings, with a sauce-to-cheese ratio that delivers as much as you need and not more than the structural integrity can handle.
Greg W. via Yelp
The local favorite has already seen its fair share of fame after topping various best-of-Boston pizza lists over the years. Santarpio's, which opened in 1903, sticks to its traditional roots when it comes to the infamous slightly chewy and satisfyingly wet slices. The menu consists of a variety of options but includes a list of customers' favorite combos, like a pie that pairs sausage with garlic, ground beef, and onions, and even "The Works": mushrooms, onions, peppers, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, extra cheese, and anchovies. First-timer? Order Santarpio’s most popular pie — mozzarella, sausage, and garlic — to establish a baseline.
If you talk to anyone from Queens about pizza, you won’t be able to get away without talking about the 1956 brick-oven stalwart New Park Pizza. The key to the perfect New Park slice may be in knowing how to order. Take the advice of Adam Kuban, founder of the now-defunct Slice blog (now turned pizzaiolo for his pizza pop-up Margot's), and ask for it “well done.”
It will be set into their second set of ovens, where the bottom will come close to being burnt. “It's not, though,” notes Kuban, “[it] just adds a bit more flavor. The cheese will brown and crisp in spots. The slice will have some serious pizza-burn potential — but you won't care. You will eat that slice and immediately order another.”
Midtown Manhattan has fewer great slice joints than you might think, and this inspired Tom Degrezia and Matthew Porter to open their own pizzeria on First Avenue, Sofia Pizza Shoppe. (Degrezia’s grandfather opened Brooklyn’s renowned J&V Pizzeria in 1955.)
A plain Classica slice fresh from their Marsal & Sons gas oven is more saucy than cheesy, its crust fully brown and the combination of those three ingredients no thicker than a No. 2 pencil. It folds sharply with few cracks and leaves a finger- and thumbprint’s worth of grease on the plate.
Beyond the plain cheese baseline, they offer 10 toppings: Italian Gaeta olives, roasted eggplant, cherry peppers, mushrooms, sliced onions, roasted peppers, garlic, anchovy, pepperoni, sweet fennel sausage from Faicco’s, and grass-fed beef meatballs. The spinach-dip slice is a masterpiece, meticulously dolloped so as to fashion some in each bite, and the seasonal heirloom tomato grandma tastes like a summer day. Of course, the holy grail is the Doughdici, an appointment-only, poofy-crust pizza that Degrezia lets rise for 12 hours after a three-day ferment. It’s almost pizza-as-soufflé, and it’s a game-changer.
De Lorenzo’s serves serious tradition with their pizza — 71 years’ worth. It was launched in Trenton in 1947 by Southern Italian immigrant Alexander "Chick" De Lorenzo; today, De Lorenzo’s tradition is upheld by his grandson Sam Amico at the new location in Robbinsville, opened in 2007 (the original closed in 2012 when stewards Gary and Eileen Amico retired).
De Lorenzo’s makes a clam pie, albeit with tomato sauce (New Haven pizza purists, beware!), but customers can add to small or large tomato pies by selecting from a range of toppings including anchovies, artichokes, basil, spinach, black olives, broccoli, garlic, hot peppers, mushrooms, onions, sausage, roasted peppers, sweet peppers, and pepperoni. We list these fastballs (as well as the homemade meatball topping) to make this curveball even more effective: This septuagenarian pizzeria serves a tuna tomato pie, too.
On South Main Street in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island, Al Forno offers quintessential Italian dining for those who can’t afford the flight across the ocean. Husband-and-wife owner-chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Americans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza.
George passed away a few years ago, but chef David Reynoso carries on Al Forno’s tradition. It’s a style that celebrity chefs have been noting on TV for a while now, and it’s even being honored by the team behind New York’s Emily, who will be serving grilled pizza at their newest pizzeria. The restaurant bakes six pies in wood-burning ovens and on grills over hardwood charcoal fire. Their most notable grilled pizza? The Margarita [sic]. It’s served with fresh herbs, pomodoro, two cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil.
You hear people’s tales of outer-borough travels to Di Fara in Brooklyn, but the Bronx deserves its own pizza paean, and Louie and Ernie’s is up to the task of making this borough the pizza destination it deserves to be recognized as.
Consider that in 2010, Adam Kuban wrote on the pizza blog Slice that the sausage-and-onion pie at Louie and Ernie’s is “the pizza to haunt your dreams.” He was right. It’s that can’t-wait-for-it-to-cool, burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth-it’s-worth-it good. The sausage (made with 80-year-old recipes) comes from the S&D Pork Store four blocks down Crosby Avenue, and is applied in generous, juicy, fennel-spiked chunks barely held in place by copious amounts of melted cheese.
The only thing stopping this place from becoming a national destination is its location in the deep Bronx. No matter. Thanks to Cosimo and Johnny Tiso, who bought the place from Ernie Ottuso in 1987 (and who sell restaurant T-shirts for $5 a pop — when was the last time you saw that?), Louie & Ernie’s keeps turning out amazing pies to the locals who know they have a good thing.
Everything old is new again. When pizzaiolo and co-owner Scarr Pimentel opened his retro-looking shop on the Lower East Side just a few blocks from the Manhattan Bridge, the area was still no-man’s-land enough except for a few blips here and there that you could have been forgiven for mistaking it for an old-school pizza holdout from the ‘70s. Scarr's doesn't live in the past, but Pimentel has pizza cred and experience working at three of the city’s most storied and well-known spots — count Joe’s, Lombardi’s, and Artichoke among them. Pimentel doesn’t suffer fools or their bad pizza lightly, and you have to admire his approach. He doubles down on quality, milling his own flour in his basement daily and proudly declaring that he uses "zero canned products.” The result? A beautiful, nuanced, plain cheese slice that’s a heartening example of a return to the city’s slice glory days, at the hands not of a Brooklyn Italian but rather of a Dominican-American from Harlem.
Five years ago, the buzz among the New York City pizza cognoscenti was around South Brooklyn Pizza, Motorino, Roberta’s, and Paulie Gee’s. These days, the latter three make up the old guard of pizza newcomers who have set the standard, and South Brooklyn Pizza has (for the most part) gone to that big cardboard box in the sky. Since then, the new addition to that “old guard of pizza newcomers” is Rubirosa in Nolita, a spot opened by former Esca cook Angelo “A.J.” Pappalardo, who learned how to make a super-thin crust and barely-there cornicione at the age of 12 at his father Giuseppe's Staten Island stalwart, Joe & Pat's. A.J. passed away a few years ago, and the chef, Albert Di Meglio, left to open his own restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (where, yes, there’s pizza on the menu), but it’s still difficult to get a table at Rubirosa.
The slice at Rubirosa is the kind that inspires cross-section marveling and game-changing pizza paradigm shifts. Those who consider the city’s average dollar-slice crusts the New York baseline finally understand the nuance of pizza. This is one of the few places you can walk into and ask for a stracciatella pie (impressive enough), and there are nine standards on the menu that you’ll want to rotate through, including the classic, supreme, and "tie-dye" (vodka, tomato, pesto, fresh mozzarella), but the pie that the restaurant singled out, and the one panelists voted vociferously for, was the vodka pie with fresh mozzarella.
What can you say about Al Santillo? Santillo may be the least well-known great pizza tradition curator in America, the gatekeeper to three generations of pizza-making and one of the most unique pizzerias in America. The man has tomato sauce running through his veins. Al Santillo’s grandfather, who had long made focaccia for his family at home, decided to try it as a business in 1950. “He wanted to keep the place open in the evening and make a little more money, so he started making pizza,” his grandson Al has noted. “In 1957, he bought the brick oven I use now.” It’s an oven Al says is called a low-arch, one whose every brick was cut by hand, and which he insists, “permits infinite possibilities in temperature and character.”
Pizza infinity is difficult to conceive, but Santillo’s is something you just have to experience for yourself. You can only do takeout from Al’s living room — it houses the massive cathedral-like oven that requires a 20-foot-long peel to retrieve the pizzas. And be prepared to order by the year — Al preserves every pizza style he can for posterity. They range from the 1940 Genuine Tomato Pie (no cheese) to the 2011 San Marzano “Tomatoes Over the Cheese” Pizza. But there are other intriguing options like Lasagna Pizza, thin-pan, Roman-style, Italian bread, and an off-menu grandpa pie as well. Start out with a 1957-Style Pizza Extra Thin (14-inch round), or the popular Sicilian pizza, or just ask this quirky, pizza-possessed master to make you his own spontaneous creation.
Not a fan of romantic movie plots? Keep in mind that this one ends with you eating pizza. What are we talking about? One of the cutest pizza love stories ever. Girl and boy’s first date: at grilled-pizza icon Al Forno in Providence. Boy and girl’s first meal together: pizza. Girl looks across pie and knows she’ll marry boy. Boy goes to culinary school, is invited to help open Brooklyn pizzeria, finds pizza calling, collaborates on successful pizza restaurant, then sets out with girl to launch own Kickstarter-funded, family-run successful pizza spot, inside which is also nurtured über-pizza blogger Adam Kuban’s own bar-pie pop-up, Margot’s . Everyone lives happily pizza after and it all happens in Brooklyn! See? Almost too good to be true.
Well, tough tomato sauce, because Emily (with its original location in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and a newer one in the West Village) and its co-owners Emily and Matt Hyland produce some of New York City’s best pies. If you haven’t been, hightail it over to taste the bubble-and-char-blistered “Classic” (sauce made with puréed Jersey tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil). They also happen to serve one of the best burgers in the country, and with Emmy Squared on this year’s list, own two of America’s best pizzerias.
If Staten Island is Gotham’s least heralded pizza borough, Long Island has long gone uncelebrated as the New York pizza trove it is. If there’s a Long Island pizza royalty, then crown Umberto’s Pizzeria (not King Umberto’s in Elmont — another story). You can thank Italian-born founder Umberto Corteo (from Monte di Procida near Naples) and his brother Joe, who opened Original Umberto’s of New Hyde Park in 1965.
Their humble joint turned into a self-described “majestic Tuscan architectural two-story restaurant with a full-service cafe.” Regardless, Umberto’s slings superior pizzas. Most notably, the grandma: a square, 12-slice, 16-by-16-inch thin-crust pie topped with mozzarella and plum tomato marinara. Haven’t experienced this thin, crispy-crust satisfaction? Start here. It’s generally regarded as the originator of the grandma slice.
Why? How did the style spread? According to Ed Levine’s “Pizza: A Slice of Heaven” (which any pizza-lover refers to as the most important pizza tome written), the brothers starting making the pizza that "Mama made" for themselves and friends, but didn’t menu-item it. They opened satellite pizzeria King Umberto with another Corteo brother, Carlo, which upon his retirement was sold to Umberto’s employees Rosario and Sal Fuschetto (who, it should be noted, make no mention of the original Umberto’s on their site). Levine reports that two pizza makers Rosario and Sal hired, who’d gotten their start at the original Umberto’s, saw the potential of the grandma pie and put it on the menu.
So maybe you have them to thank for this light, thin, crispy-chewy pie with light crushed tomato sauce and a scattering of mozzarella that every pizza-proud Long Islander knows is better than Sicilian, better than deep-dish, heck, better than many pizzas you’ll find in Manhattan.
Grab a corner.
Speedy Romeo has been steadily building a reputation since opening in a former auto-parts shop in Clinton Hill in 2012. The brainchild of friends Todd Feldman (a casting director) and Justin Bazdarich (a former chef for Jean-Georges), Speedy Romeo was named for Todd's family's Meadowlands racehorse and has been off and running like a culinary thoroughbred from the very start (their Lower East Side Manhattan location opened two years ago and has been packed ever since).
There are 10 varieties of thin-crust pies fired in a wood-burning oven; the menu features fun pie names with enticing ingredient combinations to match. Consider The Dangerfield (pork and veal meatballs, ricotta, béchamel, and garlic chips), The White Album (roast garlic, ricotta, pecorino, béchamel, and Provel), and the speck, pineapple, Provel, and grilled scallion pie named for American surf rock guitarist Dick Dale.
Speaking of Provel, the white, processed combination of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone so beloved in St. Louis makes several appearances, none less prominent than on an homage to The Lou, “The Saint Louie,” where it’s accompanied by Italian sausage, pepperoni, and pickled chiles. Crazy creamy with bites of meaty respite from the cheese and a healthy degree of heat, The Saint Louie isn’t a sideshow; rather, it’s the reason to visit this New York-ified version of a St. Louis classic that more of the city’s residents need to discover.
Stephanie Joyce D./Yelp
It’s something to be considered a Neapolitan pizza expert — and with too many awards to count (eight-time world champion pizza acrobat, first-place world champion pizza maker, first-place Roman pizza world championships of pizza makers), Tony Gemignani is that. It’s another to also proudly offer, and be commended for being a master of, all pizza styles. But that’s the story at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Yes, the signature pie is Tony’s award-winning Neapolitan: hand-mixed dough made with San Felice flour and proofed in Napoletana wood boxes, then topped with San Marzano tomatoes, sea salt, mozzarella, fior di latte, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. Just keep in mind that only 73 of these champion pizzas are made each day, so get there early. But the menu also offers critically acclaimed versions of pizza in the styles of California, St. Louis (yes!), Italy, Sicily (awesome!), New York, Rome, classic American, and even Detroit (sweet!). You could accuse Gemignani of showing off. Then again, there’s truth in the expression: “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”
It could have been enough for Matt and Emily Hyland to open a neo-Neapolitan pizza joint with a refined take on a thinner cornicione, to serve one of the city’s best new burgers, and (by hosting former Slice pizza blogger Adam Kuban’s pop-up on Saturdays) to act as incubator for one of the more exciting pizza stories in recent memory. Opening a second pizzeria, one focusing on Detroit-style pies (pan-cooked, thick crusts, sauce on top of the cheese), in a metropolis notorious for pizza pride and skepticism if not disdain for Midwestern pizza styles, should have been tempting fate. But they doubled down and won. The pizzas are thick but fluffy with crisp cheese-edged, crispy crusts that even co-owner Emily Hyland has called her favorite part of the pies. It’s been such a hit that two additional locations have opened, in Manhattan and Nashville.
There are seven red pies and six white ones, a playful take on Hawaiian style, and another that includes homemade ranch dressing. But the pie to not miss is the Roni Supreme: sauce, mozzarella, lots of pepperoni, and Calabrian chile. The pepperoni curls up so that it’s crispy and salty against the cheesy top and pools of tangy-sweet sauce dribbled on top.
This thin-crust bar pie institution in Stamford, Connecticut, is notorious for its no-frills demeanor, for its no-special-options policy, and for not making exceptions (which Colony’s website admirably calls “classic American charm”). There are signs, though, that this reputation may be thawing. Consider the special corned beef and cabbage pizza for St. Patrick’s Day, which makes sense when you consider “Colony” was the nickname of the Irish neighborhood in Stamford where Colony Grill was established by Irish owners in 1935. But now there are four locations (ones in Fairfield, Milford, and Norwalk), and they’ve added salad and breakfast pizzas to the menus. Go figure.
What you’re going to want to do is order the hot oil bar pie with sausage (chile-pepper-infused oil) and a “stinger” pie (they’re thin so you’re going to need two). That signature hot oil is a must — if you don’t do it, don’t bother going. There’s almost the same amount of tasty sauce and cheese as there is crisp cracker crust.
There’s something special about the equal amounts of ingredients you likely won’t have had before, the way the pockmarked surface resembles some crazy dream where cheese covers the surface of the moon (melty like you remember from the orange-oil-covered slice at your childhood favorite pizzeria), and how the sting of the oil brings you right back to the sip of beer you’ll want while savoring each bite.
Apizza Scholls serves some of the best pizza in Portland, and, some argue, north of San Francisco. There are rules for those who want to assemble their own pie, however: only three ingredients, and no more than two meats per pie.
So choose wisely from a list of toppings that, in addition to classics like anchovies, red onions, garlic, pepperoni, house-made sausage, and basil, includes Olympia Provisions capicollo, house-cured Canadian bacon, cotto salami, arugula, and pepperoncini. (Yes, you can also top pies with jalapeños, mushrooms, pepperoncini, ricotta, green and black olives, and, sigh, truffle oil.) Just remember: Bacon is "not offered for build your own toppings."
If you aren't up to building your own pie, there are 14 classics to choose from with names like "Pig & Pineapple," "Tartufo2 The Electric Boogaloo," and "Sausage & Mama." Among them, you’ll find the signature Apizza Amore: Margherita with capicollo (cured pork shoulder) that has a spicy kick offset by the somewhat sweet mozzarella and balanced sauce. That’s amore!
Pequod’s originator (the late Burt Katz) moved on from this endeavor after few years to take a break before opening a new pizza stalwart in 1989: Burt’s Place (recently renovated under new ownership) in Morton Grove, just north of Chicago. But the years have been kind to his legacy. Pequod’s deep dish, known for its “caramelized crust,” earns points for its chewy, crusty, quasi-burnt cheese crust that forms the outer edge of this cheesy casserole, adding a welcome degree of texture that probably wouldn’t be necessary if it weren’t nearly an inch thick. But it is necessary. And beautiful. And it does add that texture. And you can thank the fact that they spread a thin layer of cheese along the outer part of the crust where it darkens against the side of the pan.
Renowned baker and chef Nancy Silverton runs Osteria Mozza, a Los Angeles hot spot where the famous clientele pales in comparison to the innovative, creative fare. The pizzeria, attached to the main restaurant, offers a variety of Italian specialties, from antipasti to bruschetta, but the Neapolitan pizzas steal the show.
Their list of 22 pies ranges from $17 for a simple pie of anchovy, tomato, and Fresno chiles, to $25 for a more unique pie with squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata — a delicious and simple pizza that transports through the quality and nuance of its ingredients.
Started in 1938 by Ludovico Barbati, an immigrant from Torella dei Lombardi (an hour east of Naples), the L&B Spumoni tradition began with Barbati learning how to make pizza in a garage, then peddling it in a horse and wagon until setting up at the current spot on 86th Street in Brooklyn. L&B Spumoni Gardens is now in its fourth generation, still serving its signature thin-crust Sicilian-style square pies with a light coating of mozzarella beneath a layer of tomato sauce and a sprinkle of pecorino. Don’t leave without having some spumoni for dessert. Some say it’s even better than the pizza.
With a love for pizza, little formal training, no high school diploma, and a career he has characterized as involving him “masquerad[ing] as a computer geek,” Paulie Giannone struck out into the unknown, to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He ventured there before “Girls” and before the condos, in a time when a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment a 10-minute walk from the subway to Manhattan on the Polish word-of-mouth, no-lease real estate wire still went for less than $2,000. This backyard DIY pizza passionista put it all on the line and earned every kind word he’s gotten.
Paulie Gee’s is a pizza-lover’s haven, a clean, rustic space that resembles a barn but puts out a pie to rival that of every Naples memory you’ve had (or dreamed of having). If you count the suggested add-on combos, the vegan options, and the “secret pizzas,” there are practically too many pizzas to count (50? 60?), all featuring clever names and great topping combinations — Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me, Feel Like Bacon Love (“there is no bacon on this pizza!”), and the Orange You Paulie Gee? — but the Regina (on the secret menu) was noted as the signature: mozzarella, tomatoes, pecorino romano, olive oil, and fresh basil. This pizzeria is so popular it’s spawned additional locations as far afield as Miami, and Giannone’s new old-school Slice Shop is already regarded as one of the city’s best new pizzerias.
Some spaces are cursed. Others? Blessed. When Anthony Mangieri shuttered Una Pizza Napoletana at 349 East 12th Street, left New York City, and headed west, Mathieu Palombino took over the lease and renamed the space Motorino, and the East Village pizza scene hardly skipped a beat. Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Manila natives and Brooklynites can now attest to Motorino’s success as well, since Palombino opened (and moved and reopened) his Asian and Williamsburg outposts in 2013 (there’s also a third option in New York on the Upper West Side).
Motorino offers 15 spirited pies, including one with cherry stone clams; another with stracciatella, raw basil, and Gaeta olives; and one with cremini mushrooms, fior di latte, sweet sausage, and garlic. But contrary to every last fiber of childhood memory you hold dear, the move is the Brussels sprouts pie (on which that oft-maligned vegetable is joined by fior di latte, garlic, pecorino, smoked pancetta, and olive oil) — unless it’s late spring, when you’ll want to order the special seasonal ramp pie.
With all the development and gentrification along the L line in Brooklyn that has happened since Roberta’s opened in January 2008, the great Brooklyn vs. Manhattan restaurant debate seems quaint, and it’s almost difficult to remember there was once a time when getting to this great pizza joint was considered a trek.
OK, so Bushwick may not be on the average New Yorker’s rotation, but at this point, even if it’s not part of the city’s pizza old guard, Roberta’s is without question a member of New York’s pizza icons, one that has inspired other great pizzerias, among them another one on this list, Paulie Gee’s.
The appellations of Carlo Mirarchi’s pizzas have ranged from echoing schoolyard slang and literary references to clever puns. No matter whether you choose the Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil), the Speckenwolf (mozzarella, speck, crimini mushrooms, onion, oregano, and black pepper), or the Hawt Gabagool (mozzarella, taleggio, house coppa, garlic, basil, giardiniera, and lemon), you’re guaranteed a chewy cornicione and an exemplary neo-Neapolitan pie.
"There’s no mystery to my pizza," Bronx native Chris Bianco was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "Sicilian oregano, organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, purified water, mozzarella I learned to make at Mike's Deli in the Bronx, sea salt, fresh yeast cake and a little bit of yesterday's dough. In the end great pizza, like anything else, is all about balance. It's that simple.''
Try telling that to the legions of pizza pilgrims who have visited the storied Phoenix pizza spot he opened more than 20 years ago. The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. The wait, once routinely noted as one of the worst for some of the best food in the country, has been improved by Pizzeria Bianco starting to serve lunch, as well as the opening of Trattoria Bianco (the pizza prince of Arizona’s Italian restaurant in the historic Town & Country Shopping Center, about 10 minutes from the original) and an outpost in Tucson.
Even though Bianco no longer makes every pie the restaurant turns out (a bout of “baker’s lung” nearly killed him), Pizzeria Bianco is now an American classic. This is another case where any pie will likely be better than most you’ve had in your life (that rosa with red onions and pistachios!), but the signature Margherita will recalibrate your pizza baseline forever: tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil.
When Anthony Mangieri, pizzaiolo for the East Village’s Una Pizza Napoletana, closed shop in 2009 "to make a change," move west, and open up somewhere he could "use his outrigger canoe and mountain bike more often," it was the ultimate insult. Sure, he’d done this kind of thing once before, leaving behind his Una Pizza incarnation in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, in favor of Manhattan. But still.
Well, it was fun while it lasted, but after nearly 10 years out west, Mangieri closed up shop last December and hiked on back to New York, reopening on the Lower East Side in May. The pizza scene in New York has grown by leaps and bounds since Una Pizza last graced its shores, but the consensus is that Mangieri’s pizzas are just as good as they’ve always been — especially the Margherita, with its puffy cornicione, bright and acidic sauce, and creamy high-quality mozzarella.
Include a pinch of Di Fara’s Dom DeMarco and a dash of the murals of Gino’s of Long Beach, stretch the un-sauced classic Coney Island Totonno's crust a bit wider, add a few intangibles, and you’re close to the pizza experience Mark Iacono has made famous at his Carroll Gardens pizzeria Lucali since opening in 2006. There’s that classic New York thin-crust style and justified whispers about old-school execution praised at New York’s storied and beloved institutions. Eating pizza in Lucali’s warm, softly lit environs, you wonder how Iacono seems to have magically inherited Gennaro Lombardi’s pizza primogeniture. Iacono, who survived a stabbing in 2011 that left him with no feeling in about 50 percent of his body, hasn’t slowed, drawing crowds and fans at the original Brooklyn spot, and he’s receiving similar accolades at his Miami location.
Detroit’s signature square pizza style is like a Sicilian slice on steroids. There's crisp, thick, deep-dish crust action, often formed from the process of twice-baking in square pans that have been brushed with oil or butter, and a liberal ladling of sauce spread across the cheese surface. It supposedly all started at Buddy’s Rendezvous in 1946, a neighborhood tavern that had been run for a decade by owner August “Gus” Guerra. Since 1953, Buddy’s has had several owners. Gus sold Buddy’s to Jimmy Bonacorse and Jimmy Valenti and opened Cloverleaf. They sold it to Billy and Shirlee Jacobs in 1970 (their son Robert Jacobs helms it now).
Different stewardships over the last 72 years, same results — a passionate following for cheesy, chewy pies — the difference being there are now 12 locations and the rest of the country is catching up. You may think that Detroit style is confined to its home region, but consider that a few years ago, Alan Richman of GQ singled out Buddy’s as one of the 25 best pizzas in America; that California pizza royalty Tony Gemignani serves his version at several of his restaurants; and the style has started catching on in Texas and in New York with Emmy Squared. Try the signature Detroit Zoo pie from the Motor City Pizza Collection: Motor City Cheese blend, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, pine nuts, and tomato basil sauce.
The home of Staten Island’s thin crispy crust pizza has been family-owned-and-operated since it opened in 1960. Joe & Pat’s has sweet sauce and pizza that is so thin you can eat seven slices without feeling stuffed. It’s got that airiness that spawns lighter-than-air adjectives, but still has a great crust and a weighty enough bottom that the slices don’t get floppy.
The folks at Joe & Pat’s note their vodka pie (vodka sauce, mozzarella, and basil) as one of the customer favorites, but they do killer veggie, pesto, and buffalo chicken pies (just accept it already), and are happy to accommodate you with everything from topping pies with beloved, but not necessarily omnipresent Italian-American ingredients like scungilli, clams, shrimp, artichoke hearts, and fried calamari to making your pizza 14-inch, 15-inch, Sicilian, grandma, gluten-free, individual-sized, or even heart-shaped (no, it’s not gimmicky when a place is this sincere: “We speak English and Italian.”)
And if you like what you taste at Joe & Pat’s, well, you’re going to want to check out the sister restaurant Ciro’s, opened in 1997 by their brother Ciro Papparlardo, and Rubirosa on Mulberry Street in Manhattan.
Established in 1934 as State Street Pizza, Modern is known for its coal-fired brick oven that still puts out pizza in the same thin-crust style. You'll likely hear it described as the place "locals go instead of Pepe and Sally's." Perhaps. The atmosphere is great — wood paneling, friendly servers, a clean feeling — but it doesn't play third-string because it's not on Wooster. Modern's pies are slightly topping-heavy with weak structural integrity. Given the topping focus, the Italian Bomb is the pie to try: it’s topped with bacon, sausage, pepperoni, garlic, mushroom, onion, and pepper.
Sally's Apizza is New Haven royalty, operating from the same location where it opened in the late 1930s in New Haven's Wooster Square. In truth, if it weren’t for nearby Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally’s would probably be talked about with similar reverence. Their pizza is traditionally thin crust, topped with tomato sauce, garlic, and "mozz." Of course, the pies at Sally’s look pretty similar to what you'll find down the street at Frank Pepe, because the man who opened Sally's (Salvatore Consiglio) was Pepe's nephew.
Sal passed in 1989, and his wife Flo followed in 2012. Their children, Bob, Ruth, and Rick, carried on the tradition until last year, when they sold to a group called Lineage Hospitality. Rumor has it that new locations are in the works, but for the time being, there haven’t been any noticeable changes.
When you visit, keep in mind that while Sally's staff have been known to admit that Pepe’s clam pie is better, the tomato pie here (tomato sauce, no cheese) has the original beat.
Some would say this is the only existing place where you can get a proper and authentic coal-oven slice in the universe, given that its founder Pasquale "Patsy" Lancieri supposedly opened Patsy's after working with the godfather of New York City pizza, Gennaro Lombardi.
True or not, this 1933 East Harlem original can claim pizza heritage most only dream of, and was reportedly one of Sinatra and DiMaggio’s favorites. Still, the original is one of the most underrated and under-hyped pizza classics in the city. It’s a curious thing given the history and quality, though there are some caveats. Patsy’s pizza is so thin, and relatively short, that you can scarf down six slices at the counter. That’s what you’ll want to do, anyway — there’s something about this pizza that makes it miraculous just from the oven, but as exponentially unimpressive if you let it wait.
The move is to order the plain cheese, eat, and repeat — and don’t reheat.
Anybody interested in tracing America’s love affair with pizza to its origins will find the way to Lombardi’s. Gennaro Lombardi opened a grocery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1897, and in 1905 he started selling tomato pies wrapped in paper and tied with a string to workers of Italian descent who took them to work (because most couldn’t afford a pie, it was sold by the piece). The pizzeria was run by the Lombardi family — first by Gennaro’s son, John, then his grandson, Jerry — until it closed in 1984, and was reopened 10 years later a block from the original location by Jerry Lombardi and John Brescio, a childhood friend.
These days, Lombardi’s is almost always packed. There’s a thin crust, a cornicione without much bubble, and a thorough sauce layering that’s tangy and not overly sweet or salty.
There’s no shredded mozzarella layering but the fresh stuff, spread out. Even if you’re not a fan of this kind of cheese on your pie, you’ll probably like this. Is it New York City’s best pizza? No. Still, Lombardi's is a touchstone. And when looking out on New York's pizza landscape, the devotion to a pizza from a time when it didn't mean artful charring and contrived golden-tiled ovens is comforting, even if that just means the pizza of 1994.
Being able to do the mental gymnastics intrinsic to understanding the history behind one of New York City’s — er, Brooklyn’s — most storied pizzerias isn’t required for you to enjoy a slice of its famous pizza, but we have a few minutes while you wait in line.
Gennaro Lombardi opened what’s generally regarded as America’s first pizzeria (Lombardi's, No. 10). He supposedly trained Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri, who opened the first Patsy’s in East Harlem (No. 11). His nephew Patsy Grimaldi opened a place, also called Patsy’s, in Brooklyn’s Dumbo in 1990 (he’s said to have also learned his craft from Jerry Pero, son of Anthony Totonno Pero, who founded Totonno’s — another story), but had to change the name to Grimaldi’s after his uncle died and his aunt sold the Patsy’s name.
Three years later, Patsy sold the Grimaldi’s at 19 Old Fulton Street to Frank Ciolli, whose two children expanded the Grimaldi’s brand to nearly 50 restaurants across the country. But Ciolli lost the lease to the original space and had to move into a larger former bank building next door on 1 Front Street. That’s when Patsy swooped out of retirement into the original Grimaldi’s space to open Juliana’s (No. 42).
It comes down to this: Patsy Grimaldi, whose pizza lineage goes back to family members trained by Gennaro Lombardi, is making pies at a restaurant called Juliana’s in the original Grimaldi’s, and Grimaldi’s is right next door.
With that all said, you’re just about at the front of the line. (Remember: no credit cards, no reservations, no slices, and no delivery!). So sit down and order something simple: a Margherita made in a coal-fired oven that heats up to about 1,200 degrees F and requires about 100 pounds of coal a day. It’s crispy, it’s smoky, it’s tangy, cheesy, and delicious, and when you’re done, you can go next door to Juliana’s.
Prince Street Pizza started serving “SoHo Squares” in 2012, and since then it’s gone down as one of the city’s finest pizzerias. Owner Frank Morano, who uses his family’s Sicilian recipes, installed a new gas-fired, brick-lined Marsal & Sons oven in the half of the space that used to be a Ray’s take-out slice shop to fire up seven signature Neapolitan pies and five styles of square slices.
You’ll want to start with their simple mozzarella and sauce signature square, but don’t leave without trying the Spicy Spring. It’s topped with tangy-sweet fra diavalo sauce, fresh mozzarella, and spicy soppressata that turns into crispy circles that cradle shimmering pools of oil. This is a grease-on-your-face slice, the kind whose sauce ends up on the white dress shirt of the investment banker standing next to you. Make sure you get a fresh slice and ask for a corner (and for any pepperoni that falls off in the pan). “No other square can compare.”
Since 1975, Joe’s Pizza has served fresh, hot, cheesy slices to tourists and residents alike, making it a truly iconic New York City landmark. It’s as synonymous with New York City as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Everyone has a favorite slice joint, but if the city were to have just one, this would be it. It’s made every conceivable best-of list (many of them tacked on the walls and in the windows), and for good reason. The key to Joe's success is their traditional New York City-style pizza with thin crust, great sauce, and just the right ratio of cheese, sauce, and crust (just a bit less of the first two).
It took about 38 years for Joe’s to try to capitalize on its West Village success, opening an East Village location on 14th Street a few years ago that turns out a similar-quality product — if with slightly less demand (consider this side-by-side comparison). That was followed pretty quickly by their first location in Brooklyn (in Williamsburg), as well as one near Times Square.
By all accounts, Totonno’s shouldn’t exist. Consider that it was opened in Coney Island in 1924 (by Antonio "Totonno" Pero, a Lombardi’s alum). Factor in the coal storage area fire that ravaged it in 2009. Add to that insult the destruction and subsequent rebuilding costs (the Daily News reported $150,000 in repairs) incurred in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, when four feet of water destroyed everything inside the family-owned institution.
You’ll agree that Brooklyn (and the country) should count its lucky stars Totonno’s is around. Yet Totonno’s doesn’t just keep a storied pizza name or nostalgia for simpler times (and perhaps more authentic and consistent pies) alive.
No. Owners Antoinette Balzano, Frank Balzano, and Louise "Cookie" Ciminieri don’t just bridge our modern era’s festishization of pizza to the days of its inception. The coal-fired blistered edges, the spotty mozzarella laced over that beautiful red sauce… ah, forget about all the teary-eyed try-too-much words, this is Neptune Avenue!
This is Brooklyn! This is Totonno’s. And this is how you make pizza.
Domenico DeMarco is a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks both New York- and Sicilian-style pizza Tuesday through Saturday (noon to 8 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.) for hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait in long lines and brave the free-for-all that is the Di Fara counter experience. Yes, you're better off getting a whole pie than shelling out for the $5 slice. Yes, it's a trek, and sure, Dom goes through periods when the underside of the pizza can tend toward overdone, but when he's on, Di Fara can make a very strong case for being America's best pizza.
If you want to understand why before visiting, watch the great video about Di Fara called “The Best Thing I Ever Done.” You can’t go wrong with the classic round or square cheese pie (topped with oil-marinated hot peppers, which you can ladle on at the counter if you elbow in), but the menu’s signature is the Di Fara Classic Pie: mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, plum tomato sauce, basil, sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and, of course, a drizzle of olive oil by Dom. A second location, in Williamsburg, opened earlier this year, and 81-year-old Dom spends less and less time making pizzas these days (his kids take over), but a trip to the original is still a pilgrimage that’s very much worth making.
Yes, John's of Bleecker is on the tourist rotation, but there's a reason it’s become a New York City institution. Pizza is cooked in a coal-fired brick oven the same way it's been done there since 1929. Choose from their available toppings (sliced meatball, pepperoni, ground sausage, sliced tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, ricotta, mushrooms, onions, peppers, anchovies, black olives, and garlic), and you can scratch your name into the walls like the droves before you.
What can't you do? Order a slice. Pies only. And in this case, you’re going with either a Margherita or what the guys at John's like to call the "Boom Pie" (according to a manager, they say "Boom!" to themselves right before they serve it): oven-roasted tomatoes, garlic, and basil. And if you can’t make it there in person, the team has finally perfected something that’s been eluding them for years: delivery.
The first Lou Malnati's Pizzeria opened in 1971 to much acclaim, and it’s now a Chicago — and national — institution. Lou died of cancer just seven years later, but his family kept his dream alive, expanding his chain to 53 Chicagoland locations at last count.
The Lou Malnati’s deep-dish experience comes in four sizes: 6-inch individual (serves one), 9-inch small (serves two), 12-inch medium (serves three), and 14-inch large (serves four). So you most likely will just be ordering one or two if you plan to finish them, even with a few friends (unless you’re not planning to eat anything else that day).
They do actually make a thin-crust pie, but you’re not visiting for thin-crust, so make sure one of those picks is the Malnati Chicago Classic: a casserole (remember, deep dish isn’t technically pizza) made with Lou's lean sausage, some extra mozzarella, and vine-ripened tomato sauce on buttercrust. "It's authentic Chicago!"
Razza opened just across the Hudson River from New York in Jersey City in late 2012, and it quietly became renowned locally for its wood-fired pizzas prepared by chef-owner Dan Richer, who was a semifinalist for the James Beard Rising Star Award and is so meticulous about his craft that he was nicknamed “the Jiro of Bread,” after the sushi chef featured in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” But it wasn’t until New York Times critic Pete Wells showed up last year that pizza lovers across the river really took notice. Wells gave it about as glowing a review as possible, even going so far as to deem it “the best pizza in New York.” Not only has Richer perfected his crust — it’s crisp from end to end and its inside is soft with a complex flavor — he’s also meticulous about his toppings, which he sources locally. The mozzarella on his bufala pie, for example, comes from water buffalo from Jersey’s Sussex County; he had to wait years for the herd to grow large enough to ensure a steady supply of the notoriously difficult-to-perfect cheese. And as for the sauce, Richer told the Times that he waits for the latest vintages of tomatoes from California, New Jersey, and Italy to be canned each January before blind-tasting and grading them all, then blending them like fine wine. When assembled, the pizza is damn near perfect.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana retains its crown as America’s finest pizzeria. This is a checklist destination, one you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to if you want to discuss the topic of America's best pizza with any authority. The New Haven icon opened in Wooster Square in 1925, offering classic Napoletana-style pizza made by an Italian-American immigrant. After arriving in the United States in 1909 at the age of 16, Frank Pepe (watch him at work in this video) took odd jobs before opening his original restaurant (the location, now called "The Spot," is now an adjunct to the main Pepe's location).
There are now seven locations around Connecticut, one in Yonkers, New York, one in Rhode Island, and one near Boston; all are operated by Pepe’s 10 great-grandchildren, and all use original recipes to make their coal-fired pizza.
What’s the move? As if you didn’t know! Two words: Clam pie ("No muzz!"). This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe's is the best of all — freshly shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano atop a charcoal-colored crust. It's a combination that makes this pie one of the most iconic dishes in America. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Of course, Pepe’s summer special, their seasonal “fresh tomato pie” made with locally grown tomatoes, is worth its own trip (and the addition of shrimp to a tomato pie is an under-hyped gem of a combination). No matter what you’re thinking of ordering, expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend. But the wait will be worth it, as this pizza is one of the very best things to eat in every state.
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