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The 25 Best Cheese Pizzas in America

Cheese, sauce, and bread: These places do it perfectly

For the past four years, we’ve cast a wide net and released our ranking of the 101 best pizzas in America. From Sicilian to salciccia, these pizzas run the gamut across nearly every regional style out there. But today we’re shedding the toppings and sharing the top 25 topping-less pies that made the list this year, either in the form of a plain cheese slice or a Margherita-style pizza. All of these pizzas are just crust, cheese, and sauce, and they’re all astoundingly delicious.

The 25 Best Cheese Pizzas in America (Slideshow)

We’ll start by defining the perfect plain pie. We believe the following qualities are basic to the platonic plain pie: a nuanced sauce, neither too sweet nor salty; good-quality, well-distributed cheese; a flavorful, savory crust; and perhaps most important, other than the overall quality of the ingredients, a judicious, well-balanced, and pleasing ratio of sauce, cheese, and crust that maintains a structural integrity no matter the style.

(Speaking of crust, what is this fancy-pants term “cornicione” that figures in many of our captions? Cornicione, pronounced "cor-nee-CHO-neh," is Italian for cornice or moulding, and in pizza terms means the edge, crust, or rim on a pizza.)

So who says the pizzas on this list are the country’s best? A sampling of panelists that took our survey of more than 800 pizzerias includes former longtime “Best New Restaurants” columnist for Esquire and author of Mariani’s Virtual Gourmet Newsletter John Mariani, Scott’s Pizza Tours’ Scott Weiner, I Dream of Pizza’s Jason Feirman, Worst Pizza’s Craig Agranoff, Pizza: A Slice of American History’s Liz Barrett, PizzaQuest.com’s Peter Reinhart, Real Food, Fake Food’s Larry Olmsted, and Pizza Therapy’s Albert Grande. Obviously, when pizza is the topic at hand, these folks know what they’re talking about.

Read on to learn about the top 25 plain cheese pizzas in America. After trying some of these, you’ll understand why people say that a pizza doesn’t need toppings to be considered great. 

Additional reporting by Dan Myers.

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101 Best Pizzas in America101 Best Pizzas in America for 2015101 Best Pizzas in America for 2014101 Best Pizzas in America for 2013