America's 35 Best Pizzas Slideshow
August 29, 2012
Who makes America's best pizza? The Daily Meal's panel of experts weighs in
#35 Papa's Tomato Pies (Trenton, N.J.)
Lombardi's may generally be considered to be "America's first pizza," but as Nick Azzaro, owner of Papa's Tomato Pies, isn't shy about telling you, Papa's — founded in 1912 — is actually America's longest continuously owned family-owned pizzeria. With so much tradition, Papa’s had to make the list of 35 Best Pizzas in America, especially since this year Papa’s celebrated its centennial anniversary. For Papa’s, the family behind the pie is just as important as the slice, as the recipe has been passed down through generations.
The Azzaro family cooks up the made-to-order pies that can be customized in a variety of ways. Customers can choose from everything from garlic to mushrooms and pepperoni to meatballs, or add some anchovies for the extra kick. But for the Azzaro’s it’s the tradition that makes their restaurant unique. Speaking of which, for a Papa's original, check out their mustard pie.
#34 Pizaro’s (Houston)
This Houston pizza joint is inspired, like many others on this list, by the Neapolitan version from Italy. But what others can’t boast is that Pizaro's pizza is made by Bill Hutchinson, a Neapolitan pizzaiuolo — an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified pizza maker. Along with his wife and son, Hutchinson runs Pizaro’s in an effort to bring the flavors of Italy to Houston.
#33 2Amy's (Washington, D.C.)
The Italian government officially recognized Neapolitan pizza as a traditional food back in 1998 to preserve and continue the historic dish. They granted the style of pizza D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status to ensure that chefs adhere to the guidelines of what this pizza should be.
2Amy’s is a member of that association, so when you bite into one of their pizzas you know that you are getting a quintessential traditional pie. Their menu is broken up into D.O.C pizza offerings, stuffed pizzas, and more traditional, but uncertified options. The marinara, margherita, and margherita extra, with tomato, mozzarella di bufala, and cherry tomatoes, make up the D.O.C options. There are also stuffed pizzas that boast mozzarella, ricotta, and fresh meats.
#32 EVO (Charleston, S.C.)
EVO, which stands for "extra virgin oven," offers fresh, wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza made with seasonal and local ingredients. Produce from local farmers is used to develop these pies. The menu consists of just five pizzas, including Margherita, pistachio pesto, mushrooms and Gruyère, and the Pork Trifecta, and a three-cheese calzone, but the 17 extra topping choices allow customers to construct a towering feast.
#31 Santarpio's (Boston)
The local favorite has already seen its fair share of fame after winning the Best Traditional Pizza in New England award from Boston magazine seven times in the last 20 years, including last year. Santarpio's, which opened in 1903, sticks to their traditional roots when it comes to their infamous slices. Their menu consists of a variety of options, but also includes a list of customers' favorite combinations, 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.
#30 Spacca Napoli (Chicago)
Spacca Napoli stands out from the rest of the Chicago pizza pack due to its unique take on Neapolitan-style pizza. The restaurant has garnered a laundry list of accolades, from the 2012 Michelin Bib Gourmand Award to a 95 percent "like" rating on Zagat.
The pizza is consistently applauded for its authenticity, as owner Jon Goldsmith travels to and from Naples regularly to study the flavors of the region. The menu differentiates pizze rosse (made with traditional red sauce, tomatoes, and topped with olive oil) from the pizze bianche (made without red sauce and topped with olive oil). Customers can dine on the prosciutto e rucola, bianca con bufala, diavola, or salsiccia when they're looking for an expertly prepared pie.
#29 Great Lake (Chicago)
You shouldn't plan on hitting Great Lake with a large group of your friends because the small space doesn't take reservations and only has enough seating for 12. Groups are limited to a maximum of four guests and seating is available at a first-come, first-served basis. Still, unlike some pizza pilgrimages, Great Lake's wait isn't unmanageable. The owners themselves will tell you it's actually a myth that you can't get seated.
But the Great Lake is very popular and for good reason. It uses meat and dairy products derived from pastured and humanely raised animals on family owned farms only. Their pies are known for their gourmet flair, and the cremini mushroom, Dante aged cheese, and black pepper pie is a customer favorite, as is their tomato sauce, Dante lamb cheese, and fresh herb pizza.
#28 Al Forno (Providence, R.I.)
On South Main Street in the heart of Providence, R.I., Al Forno offers a quintessential Italian dining experience for those who can’t afford the flight. 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. The restaurant bakes their pies in wood-burning ovens as well as on grills over hardwood charcoal fire. Their grilled pizza margarita, with fresh herbs, pomodoro, two cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil is probably their most notable pie.
#27 Una Pizza Napoletana (San Francisco)
Anthony Mangieri took the New York pizza scene by storm when he opened his original pizzeria in Manhattans East Village then he devastated New Yorkers when he closed up shop in 2009 with dreams of moving out West. Now, the owner of Una Pizza Napoletana continues to keep things "pure and simple" with the pies baked in a wood-fired oven at his San Francisco spot. Although the menu may be limited, the restaurant packs a punch when it comes to its homemade pizzas. Diners choose from only five pizzas, all around $20, plus a special pie, Apollonia, made with eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, salami, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, garlic, sea salt, and black pepper, that's only available on Saturdays.
#26 Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix)
Bronx native Chris Bianco opened this Phoenix pizza spot more than 20 years ago and is still collecting accolades. Bianco was featured in a New York Times article, where he said, "There’s no mystery to my pizza. 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."
The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. Reservations are accepted only for six or more, so be prepared to wait (though the wait is slightly more bearable now that they’re open for lunch).
#25 Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles)
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 20 different pies ranges from $11 for a simple aglio e olio, a classic cheese pizza, to $24 for a more unique pie with squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata cheese.
#24 DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies (Trenton, N.J.)
DeLorenzo’s serves up some serious tradition with their pies — 65 years worth. Customers can top their small or large tomato pies by selecting from a range of different toppings including anchovies, artichokes, spinach, sausage, and pepperoni. DeLorenzo’s also offers a clam pie, albeit one with tomato sauce. New Haven pizza purists, beware!
#23 Osteria (Philadelphia)
Nominated for the best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2008 and winner of the James Beard Foundations best mid-Atlantic chef in 2010, Osteria has some super credentials, and quite a bit of hype to live up to. Marc Vetri, Jeff Michaud, and Jeff Benjamin conceived the idea while on a trip in Tuscany, and we’re glad they followed through.
The pizza at Osteria is very traditional, with a gourmet twist, offering pies like polpo, made of octopus, tomato, red chile flakes, and smoked mozzarella, or lombarda, with baked egg, bitto cheese, mozzarella, and cotechino sausage for a creamy and mild flavor. And the wine list isn’t half bad either, with more than 100 Italian wines to accompany your award-winning pie.
#22 Scuola Vecchia (Delray Beach, Fla.)
Scuola Vecchia brings a host of traditional Italian pizzas to Delray Beach, Fla., with a ton of different options for every pizza lover. Guests can choose from more than 20 different pizzas, from the traditional Margherita pizza to more complex pies like the capricciosa with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, Italian ham, artichokes, mushrooms, and extra-virgin olive oil. But if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, there’s the option to build your own pie, starting with the foundation of either a marinara or Margherita.
#21 Sally's Apizza (New Haven, Conn.)
Sally's Apizza is a New Haven classic, operating from the same location where they opened in the late 1930s in New Haven's Wooster Square. Their pizza is traditionally thin crust, topped with tomato sauce, garlic, "mozz." The pies look pretty similar to what you'll find down the street at Frank Pepe, which any New Haven pizza believer will note is because the man who opened Sally's is the nephew of the owner of Pepe. The folks at Sally's will be the first to tell you that Pepe makes a better clam pie, but their tomato pie, well, they might have the original beat there.
#20 Regina Pizzeria (Boston)
It may now sport some 20 locations, but the original Regina Pizzeria has been a local hot spot since 1926 when it first opened in the North End of Boston. Their pizzas are made from dough with an 80-year-old family recipe, sauce, whole-milk mozzarella, and natural toppings with no preservatives or additives, and all cooked in a brick oven.
They offer a variety of nearly 20 different pies, some made in a more traditional manner, while others, like the St. Anthony’s pizza with regina sausage, sausage links, roasted peppers, and garlic sauce, are unique.
#19 Gjelina (Los Angeles)
This Venice neighborhood spot serves up a Italian favorites to diners hanging out on the trendy Abbott Kinney Boulevard. The menu ranges from charcuterie and cheese to oysters, and includes an impressive wine list, but the pizza is what draws crowds. Gjelina offers a roster of crispy, thin-crust pies as well as thoughtfully conceived dishes prepared using market-fresh ingredients and house-made sausages.
# 18 Flour + Water (San Francisco)
Although this San Francisco restaurant claims to specialize in housemade pastas, their pizza is nothing to scoff at. 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. Pizza toppings vary depending on what elements are in season, making each dining experience truly unique, but classics like the textbook Margherita (heirloom tomatoes, basil, fior di latte, and extra-virgin olive oil) and market-fresh salsiccia (sausage, nettles, caramelized onions, treccione cheese, and horseradish) are always available.
#17 Antonio Ristorante (Addison, Texas)
Antonios specializes in offering Italian fare from both the north and south of the country, but it's specifically known for its pizza. Although the menu has more than enough dinner options, the pizza menu is short and sweet. Antonios offers five specialty pies, all for less than $12. The choices include prosciutto, capers, artichoke hearts; Italian sausage; pepperoni; and a range of cheeses both hard and soft.
#16 Roppolo’s (Austin, Texas)
This family-owned business has served Sicilian-style pies made fresh daily to Austin’s locals and visitors alike for decades, in the city’s historic downtown neighborhood. Due to its popularity, the restaurant has expanded its footprint to include two locations and two food trucks, and has also found its way into the catering business. And with a closing time of 3 a.m. for all locations, both mobile and stationary, they are making sure that Austin residents always have easy access to a hot slice.
#15 Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza (Various Locations)
Chef and company founder Anthony Bruno brings classic flavors with an urban spin to pizza lovers with Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza at his 34 different locations spanning Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut.
The pizza is cooked at 800° in a coal-burning oven for a crisp crust that provides a "well done favor," the chain’s trademark phrase. Unlike many restaurants on this list, Anthony’s was inspired by Brooklyn-style pizzerias that value ambiance almost as much as the taste of the pie. Bruno opened his first location in South Florida and quickly expanded throughout the state before expanding nationally.
#14 Reginelli's (New Orleans)
New Orleans is known for its gumbo and po’boys, but in 1996 the city was introduced to a soon-to-be local favorite with the opening of Reginelli’s Pizzeria. Darryl Reginelli and Bruce Erhardt offer a varied menu that includes much more than pizza, but the pies are what keep people coming back.
"The goal of Reginelli’s Pizzeria was to add some variety and sense of humor to the New Orleans ‘eating out’ experience," according to their website.
Customers start with either a 14- or 10-inch pie and can build from scratch what they want for their ideal pizza. Reginelli’s offers nearly 35 toppings, among them: black olives, roasted garlic, artichokes, eggplant, goat cheese, gorgonzola, chicken, portobellos, and pancetta.
#13 A16 (San Francisco)
Named after the highway that runs between Naples and Canosa, Puglia, A16 draws all of its inspiration from the boot-shaped country, but with adoration for the Campania region to the south. Since 2004, owner Shelley Lindgren's Marina District restaurant has been putting out absolutely gorgeous Neapolitan pies, and served them with a super selection of southern Italian wines.
#12 Jumbo Slice (Washington, D.C.)
It may anger pizza purists to hear, but it looks like in this case bigger is better. Jumbo Slice Pizza in Washington, D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood offers just that, jumbo-sized slices for the ever-so-hungry crowd looking to fill their stomachs to capacity (most frequently, when they're drunk). There's virtually no structural integrity, and it's all about the gimmick, but this cheesy, saucy, gigantic slice is actually really, really tasty (and no, not just because you're drunk when you eat it). Face it, folks, the jumbo slice has become a local mainstay, and practically one of the city's iconic foods at this point. The only thing holding it back from world domination? A bigger oven so it can get even more ridiculous.
#11 Monza (Charleston, S.C.)
The town of Monza houses an historic Italian speedway where every year since 1922, owners of the finest cars, from Alfa Romeo to Ferrari, drive around the curves of the 6.25-mile track. Monza in Charleston, S.C., feeds off the history of their namesake city to offer their handcrafted pies to city residents.
Monza uses imported San Felice 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°, allowing for a thin and crispy crust, and are topped with mozzarella with fresh and usually regional ingredients.
#10 Fireside Pies (Dallas)
What started nearly 10 years ago in an old cottage in Dallas has grown to include a handful of restaurants serving up artisan pies. Pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven and boast a variety of flavors for any mood, including house-made chicken sausage, balsamic roasted chicken, and prosciutto and Parmesan.
#9 Co. (New York City)
Located in the heart of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, Co. (pronounced Company) opened in 2009 in a competitive pizza market. With nearly a dozen different restaurants at every corner, Co. was up against some stiff competition. But these quality pies proved to have staying power. Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, opened Co. to offer his spin on Roman-style pizza to Chelsea residents, and focusing on the communal dining experience.
Co. serves up the traditional options but also offers pies with flare. The mushroom and jalapeño pie gives some kick, while the ham and cheese is almost decadent with pecorino, Gruyère, mozzarella, prosciutto, and caraway. And when Lahey goes egg? Order two.
#8 Gino’s East (Chicago)
Gino’s may be the ultimate in Chicago deep-dish, with a history dating back nearly 50 years. The story starts with two taxi drivers and their friend, who became frustrated with rush hour traffic and decided to open up their own pizza place. Just off the famed Michigan Avenue strip in the heart of downtown, the restaurant has been considered a city mainstay since its conception. The walls of the restaurant are covered with graffiti, as it’s a tradition of Gino’s to carve your name on the wall if you’re a dedicated patron.
Pies begin with a buttery crust that crumbles as soon as you take a bite, and it's then stuffed with a layer of fillings (ranging from sweet Italian sausage to pineapple), then topped with a more-than-healthy serving of mozzarella cheese, and finished with crushed vine-ripened tomatoes. Their success has led them to open 11 locations, even expanding into neighboring Wisconsin for all those cheese lovers.
#7 Frank Pepe (New Haven, Conn.)
If you want to discuss the loaded topic of America's best pizza with any authority, you've got to make a pilgrimage to this legendary New Haven spot. Frank Pepe opened his doors in Wooster Square in New Haven, Conn., back in 1925 offering classic Napoletana style pizza. After immigrating to the United States in 1909 at the age of 16 from Italy, Pepe took odd jobs before opening up his restaurant. Since its conception, Pepe’s has opened an additional seven locations.
What should you order at this checklist destination? Two words: clam pie. This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe's is the best of them all — freshly-shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated cheese atop a charcoal-colored crust. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Just expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend.
#6 Joe's (New York City)
Joe's Pizza is as synonomous with New York City as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. The infamous shop has placed in nearly every Best Pizzas list, including GQ's Top 25 Pizzas, Shecky's Best in New York, and New York Magazine's Best Pizza in New York.
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). Since 1975, Joe's has served tourists and residents alike, making it a truly iconic New York landmark. Everyone has a slice joint, but if the city were to have just one, this would be it. (Read an interview with Salvatore Vitale of Joes as he talks red pepper flakes.)
#5 Vito & Nick's (Chicago)
In a city dedicated to deep-dish pies, this family-owned restaurant has been serving up thin crust pizzas to Chicago residents for decades, and 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 and generous cheese and sauce covering will likely leave you in agreement.
#4 Pizano's (Chicago)
With four locations and another one on the way, you know that Pizano's has a loyal fan following among Chicago's intense deep-dish market. But Pizano's offers both deep-dish pizza and a thin-crust version that many would claim to even make most New Yorkers happy.
For the deep-dish crowd, the restaurant offers the Rudy's Special, a pie that the restaurant requests guests' patience for in advance. This monstrous concoction, topped with cheese, sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers, takes up to 30 minutes to cook all the way through.
#3 John's Pizzeria (New York City)
Yes, John's of Bleecker is on the tourist rotation, but there's a reason this place has become such an institution. The pizza is cooked in a coal-fired brick oven, the same way it's been done there since 1929. You can choose from their available toppings (pepperoni, sausage, sliced meatball, garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms, ricotta, sliced tomato, anchovies, olives, and roasted tomatoes), and you can scratch your name into the walls like the droves before you, but what you can't do is order a slice. Pies only, bud.
#2 Motorino (New York City)
Some spaces are cursed. Others are blessed. When Anthony Mangieri shuttered Una Pizza Napoletana at 349 East 12th St. and headed out to San Francisco, Mathieu Palombino took over the lease, renamed the space Motorino, and the East Village pizza scene hardly seemed to skip a beat. In addition to the traditional varieties of marinara and Margherita pizza, Motorino offers a handful of more spirited pies, including one with cherry stone clams, and another with Brussels sprouts. (And while it has nothing to do with the quality of their pies, Motorino also happens to serve one of the best octopus appetizers in the city.)
#1 Di Fara (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Domenico DeMarco is somewhat of a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks up both New York and Sicilian-style pizza Wednesday through Sunday to hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait on 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 throwing down money on the $5 slice. Yes, it's a trek, and sure, Dom goes through periods where the underside of the pizza can trend 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 you make the trip, check out the great video about Di Fara called, The Best Thing I Ever Done.