America’s Best Pepperoni Pizzas
When you think about it, few dishes are more American than a pepperoni pizza. Both pepperoni and pizza are versions of Italian specialties that we as a nation have made our own. (In fact, there's no such thing as "pepperoni" in Italy, and American visitors who order it there are often surprised and disappointed when what they end up with is peperone — bell pepper.) Few other cuisines are as widely popular as pizza, and pepperoni is one of the most widely popular toppings, no matter the regional style of pie they are decorating.
In our most recent ranking of the 101 best pizzas in America, more than 700 pizzas were considered by 78 pizza experts, who selected a wide variety of pies from all over the United States. There were a few pies that incorporated pepperoni, but it was usually not the starring ingredient. Take Eddie’s special at Eddie’s in New Hyde Park, New York — sausage, meatball, pepperoni, pepper, mushroom, and onion — or the deep dish with sausage and pepperoni at Pequod's in Chicago, Illinois. There were many pies on our list, however, that featured little else but sauce and cheese as their bases before being topped off with pepperoni. To us, this is the correct definition of a true pepperoni pizza, and here are the ones that made our list of the 101 best in the country:
#7 The Backspace, Austin, Texas
With a pedigree that includes a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and stops at the French Laundry and Café Boulud, it’s not a huge surprise that chef Shawn Cirkiel has found huge success with his restaurant Parkside — but culinary degrees and high-falutin’ restaurant experience don’t necessarily mean that you can make a great pizza. Luckily for Austin, Cirkiel does, serving pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick oven from Naples at a temperature of 900 degrees. There are six pies on the menu at The Backspace, featuring toppings like fennel sausage, roasted peppers, and roasted mushrooms, but the one that garnered our enough of our experts’ votes to come in at #92 is the Pepperoni Americano: picante salame, tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Pair it with an aranciata, just like in Naples, or enjoy it Texas -style with a glass bottle of Mexican Coke.
#6 Pizza Brain, Philadelphia, Pa.
“Increase the piece!” It’s the world’s first pizza museum, for heaven’s sake, and those in the know know that when you’re craving great pizza in Philly, you need go no further than this nineteenth-century brick building in Kensington. There, you’ll eat thin-crust pizza cooked in the double-deck 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, check out their pizza memorabilia museum (featuring what the Guinness Book of World Records called the largest collection of pizza memorabilia in the world), or rummage through their pizza tattoo book for a few 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 that’s a good place to begin. The salty and satisfying Forbes Waggensense is the one that was ranked #80 by our panel: it features mozzarella, fontina, Grana Padano, basil, smoked pepperoni, and tomato sauce.