Arthur Bovino and Ravi Bangaroo
“Can’t believe you missed…”
“Not one from Chicago? I'm afraid you are an idiot.”
“Artie, you’re out of your mind…”
As the founder of The Daily Meal's annual ranking of the 101 Best Pizzas in America and author of some of the most extensive pizzas lists ever published, I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve received from pizza lovers (my all-time favorite ends with the kicker, “Just a Clown Without a Clue”). Unlike many arbitrary lists, we approach rankings methodically, starting with our definition of the perfect pizza; considering 800 spots in every corner of America; eating at as many as we can; consulting in-house experts; and calling upon a blue-chip, geographically diverse list of pizza panelists — chefs, critics, writers, and pizza authorities — to vote only for places where they’ve eaten. Responses are as proportionately passionate as our work is diligent. Some curse, others graciously disagree, many needle with a wink, and at least one took it upon himself to personally tour me through Queens (thanks, Lou). These comments have strengthened the lists with nominations and even helped to add experts to vote. But this powerful pizza zeitgeist has always made us curious about what a list would look like as voted by the public. Think you can do better? We’d like to see you try. No, really! So this year, we opened up voting to discover America’s 35 favorite pizza places, according to you.
Our version of the Platonic pie features nuanced sauce, neither too sweet nor salty (assuming there’s sauce); quality, well-distributed cheese (assuming there’s cheese); quality and well-paired toppings; a flavorful, savory crust; and a judicious, well-balanced, and pleasing ratio of sauce, cheese, toppings, and crust that maintains a structural integrity no matter the style. But it seems only fitting to add one commenter’s explanation about the truth about determining America’s best pies: “The pizza I love may not be the kind you love. Where you grew up and what style pizza you had an allegiance to matters. It does count! Pizza is personal. A good pizza just makes me happy.”Most conspicuously absent from the public’s list was Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona. And consider this gobsmacking, pizza-in-the-face fact: not one pizzeria from California made the cut. By comparison, five pizzerias made our list of the 101 best pies in America (one from Los Angeles and four from San Francisco).
In other words, you know it from where you know it and you know it when you taste it.
So what results did we see from opening up the polls to readers and how did we conduct voting? We turned the same survey of more than 800 spots in every corner of the country that we and our experts voted on over to more than 6,000 voters, including a link to vote in an August recap of our most recent list of the 101 Best Pizzas in America, and keeping voting open for about a month.
After four years of being accused of New York City bias but naming New Haven, Connecticut, pizzeria Frank Pepe the best in the country, we were interested to discover that the voting public placed more New York pizzas in the top 35 than we did. Voters named 19 pizzerias in New York compared to the 15 in the top 35 in our most recent list. In fact, pizzerias from just six states made readers’ list of the 35 best (12 states placed in our top 35 of 101). Second place went to Connecticut with eight, followed by four from Illinois, two from New Jersey, and one from both Massachusetts and Ohio.
Pizzerias from 13 cities made the public’s list of favorites, but none from anywhere out West, in the South, or the Pacific Northwest. New York City took top billing with 17 pizzerias (Manhattan scoring 11, Brooklyn netting five, and the Bronx nabbing one), followed by New Haven and nearby West Haven with a combined five pizzerias, then Chicago with four. Manchester, Derby, and Stamford, Connecticut, Orange and Elizabeth, New Jersey; Mamaroneck and Port Chester, New York; Wooster, Ohio; and Boston each scored one pizzeria.
What was America's no. one pizzeria? You'll want to check out the slideshow (or check out the complete list below). You’ll notice some familiar faces: The aforementioned Frank Pepe, Di Fara, Gino’s East, Star Tavern, and Louie and Ernie’s. Three of the same places made the top on both lists (Frank Pepe, Di Fara, and Sallly's Apizza). And New York City Neapolitan favorite Kesté even ranked the same spot on both lists (no. 24). But you’ll also see some pizzerias that have never made our list before like Coccia House in Wooster Ohio. And you’ll no doubt wonder where some favorites disappeared to! Most conspicuously absent from the public’s list was Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona.
And consider this gobsmacking, pizza-in-the-face fact: not one pizzeria from California made the cut. By comparison, five pizzerias made our list of the 101 best pies in America (one from Los Angeles and four from San Francisco).
What if any conclusions can be drawn from the public’s narrow focus, it including three times as many pizzerias from Connecticut in the top 35, the complete lack of respect for Staten Island and Queens, it snubbing of our nation’s capital, and favoring more pizzerias in New Jersey than the experts did?
Tough to say, and no list is perfect. So I’ll leave you with this, I may be a clown without a clue, but even this joker knows that when it comes to pizza, passions run wild.