These pizzas were created by chefs who were looking to redefine what a pizza could be, all while keeping an eye on balance and deliciousness.
Over the past 30 years, chef Frank Stitt has been credited for significantly raising the bar in Alabama’s culinary scene. As if the success of his restaurant Highlands Bar and Grill and the roster of culinary talents that have launched their own successful careers after spending time in his kitchen weren’t impressive enough, he’s now going ahead and doing the same thing for the state’s pizza scene. While devoted regulars may have trouble steering themselves away from Stitt’s classic dishes at Café Bottega, like the seared beef carpaccio, Niçoise salad, and chicken scaloppini, they’ll find themselves particularly rewarded by any of the eight pizzas on the menu. There’s a white pie with fennel sausage, a grilled chicken and pesto combination, even a pizza with okra and corn. But the restaurant’s signature pie and biggest crowd-pleaser is the “Farm Egg,” which is topped with mushrooms, guanciale, Taleggio, and porcini oil.
You can practically envision the folks behind Gusto Pizza Co. — Friends Josh Holderness, Joe McConville, and Tony Lemmo — sitting down over a few beers before opening their imaginative Des Moines pizza shop in 2011, and coming up with their menu as an hours-long snort-inducing punfest. “Thai Kwon Dough” with peanut sauce and chicken? “Seoul Food” pizza with Korean-style marinated skirt steak and sriracha mayo? “Vincent Van Goat” with goat cheese and fried sweet peppers? “Fromage-A-Trois”? Very fun. But don’t mistake the levity for anything less than a serious approach to some delicious pizzas featuring perfectly balanced crispy-chewy thin crusts.
What can you say about Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman except, “Man, do these guys get it”? Whichever of the iterations on the theme most resonates with you (“Italian dining with a Southern drawl,” “Italian cooking, Southern roots”), the inescapable fact is that whether it's a beef and Cheddar dog in a pretzel bun with yellow mustard, an order of sweetbreads with peanut agrodulce, poutine with neckbone gravy, or an amazing burger topped with pickled lettuce, American cheese, onion, and mustard dedicated to one of the country’s best food writers, you’re going to have an amazing meal at Hog & Hominy. Now factor primetime pizza into the equation. There are some 11 pies on the menu, which are tended to in a painstakingly monitored oven on the side of the restaurant, among them The Prewitt with Fontina, tomato sauce, boudin, and scrambled eggs. Try it, Mikey. You’ll like it.
Ask anyone where to go for pizza in Anchorage and you’ll likely be directed to the renowned Midtown Anchorage nightlife spot Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria: the same pizza place that has been locals’ go-to since the late 1990s when rock climbers Rod Hancock and Matt Jones, despite having virtually no restaurant experience, launched a 30-table restaurant serving draft beer and stone-baked pizzas. Now, Moose’s Tooth is regularly noted by publications looking to cast a wide net as among the best pizzerias in the country. These days, the menu features almost 40 pizzas with names just as creative as their topping combinations, but the Avalanche is their most well-known, featuring barbecue sauce, mozzarella, provolone, Cheddar, red onions, blackened chicken, and bacon — a pizza that will need a similarly signature beverage, say the house-brewed and assertively hopped Fairweather IPA.
Bottarga, a dried and cured fish roe that’s sliced or shaved over the top of the pizza, isn’t the first ingredient you’d expect on a self-described signature pie, but that’s what you get at Pizzeria Paradiso’s three D.C.-area locations, and you’ll be glad you sampled it. Salty accents to the slightly-sweet tomato touch, a nice garlic edge, and light herb touch, Paradiso’s Bottarga pie might just be showing off by adding its egg finish, but you probably won’t mind.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Frasca, one of America’s best restaurants, launched an offshoot that serves some of the best pizza in the country. What happens now that it’s out in the open that restaurateurs Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have teamed up with Chipotle to launch the restaurant as a fast-casual concept, however, remains to be seen. There seems to be a thought out there that America needs a high-quality fast-casual Neapolitan pizza chain. Maybe they’re right that there’s a gap in a market dominated by somnambulant pizza chains that have been content to churn out doughy, overly-sweet-sauced gut bombs for years. Maybe there’s really nothing wrong with rotational hearth ovens powered by gas and infrared that largely take the human element out of cooking. Or maybe Americans will think the pizza from a fast-casual spot should be able to be eaten with one hand and without a knife or fork, you know, like what New Yorkers would call, “a slice.” What has been made clear so far, is that this self-described contemporary pizzeria inspired by the traditional pizzerias of Naples, knows how to bring it. At Pizzeria Locale there are 11 red pies and six white pizzas including a four-cheese, cippolini and speck, squash blossom, corn, and escarole, but the “Funghi” is the one they pointed out to us as their signature, topped with mozzarella, Pecorino, Fontina, porcini, roasted white mushrooms, garlic, and shallot.
In 2008, using what they learned while working at their family’s restaurant Basille’s in Staten Island, pizzaiolos, cousins, and best friends Francis Garcia and Sal Basille took a party dip, put it on a pizza, and turned a sliver of a shop on New York City’s 14th Street into a pizza icon and cash cow. They now have five other locations (two others in Manhattan, two in Queens, and one in Berkeley, Calif.), and there is still a line out the door, pizza fiends standing outside trying (unsuccessfully) not to burn the roof of their mouths on the creamy, cheesy signature artichoke slice (artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano, to be precise).
They’ve made it to The Tonight Show and even landed their own show on Food Network’s Cooking Channel. While some might argue that the artichoke slice has lost a step and that the crust isn’t what it used to be, you can’t argue it’s not a major landmark of New York City’s pizza scene.
Most red-blooded Americans might be gun shy about trusting any place supposedly serving amazing pizza whose name features a circumflex diacritic. See? You took French in high school, and you still totally just lost interest. But you’re not visiting Nellcôte to catch up with your 10th-grade French teacher Madame Miro, as lovely as she may have been. You’re at this fancy-pants spot, named for a French mansion once inhabited by the Rolling Stones, quite surprisingly, for the pizza. Why? Where else would you go for pizza whose flour is actually milled by the restaurant? See, you’re intrigued. And you should be, because even though it may not be a Chicago tradition, there’s something worthwhile going on here; namely, a super-thin crust that has been described by Serious Eats’ Daniel Zemans as being akin to whole wheat in texture and flavor. There are eight “fork and knife” pizzas including pies with Taleggio and ramps, wood-roasted mushrooms, broccoli, n'duja (a spicy, spreadable pork sausage), and housemade fennel sausage, but the move here is the Sunnyside-Up Organic Egg with D.O.P. fontina, mozzarella, and arugula, which, unless you have an egg aversion (so sorry), will probably sound as runny, luxurious, and delicious as it actually is.
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's. They do the red, white, and red “with mozz” pies, same as the others, and a clam pie that's very respectable. But the thing to have is the mashed potato pizza with bacon (no sauce). The pie sounds ridiculous. And looks a bit like it’s covered with thick béchamel, because it kind of is. But the mashed potatoes are well seasoned and fairly creamy for having just baked in an oven, and there’s lots of garlic. A definite check-it-off-your-list item.
Renowned baker and chef Nancy Silverton teamed up with Italian culinary moguls Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich to open Osteria Mozza, a Los Angeles hot spot where the famous clientele pales in comparison to the innovative, creative fare. The pizzeria, which is attached to the main restaurant, offers a variety of Italian specialties, from antipasti to bruschetta, but the Neapolitan-style pizzas steal the show. Their list of 21 pies ranges from $11 for a simple aglio e olio, a classic cheese pizza, to $23 for a more unique pie with squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata cheese: a delicious and simple pizza that transports through the quality and nuance of its ingredients. So it’s no surprise that Batali and Bastianich have taken a stab at duplicating the success of this model pizzeria, opening in Newport Beach, Singapore (!), and San Diego.