America’s 56 Greatest Old-School Pizzerias
April 11, 2019
Time stands still at these classic pizza spots
In an era of gourmet, high-end pizzas, crafted in the traditional Neapolitan style and exorbitantly expensive, sometimes all you really want is a classic, old-school slice just like the ones you remember from when you were a kid. Thankfully, plenty of old-school pizzerias still exist, and we tracked down the 56 best.
There’s nothing wrong with an expensive “artisanal” pizza; heck, the reason they’re so expensive is usually because they’re made with high-end imported ingredients and cooked in an oven that cost as much as a new Honda Civic. But in the same way that a cheeseburger from Shake Shack can be just as satisfying as one from the Capital Grille, a perfect slice of cheap pizza can easily surpass the high-end stuff if you’re in the right mood.
In order to be considered a great old-school pizzeria, however, the pizza itself needs to be just one part of the overall experience. A classic old-school pizzeria (like any great hole-in-the-wall) has a comfortable, lived-in feel, whether it’s been around for decades or not. Maybe it’s a narrow storefront with a long counter, fresh pies on display in clear cases, and only a few tables (or even just a ledge) to enjoy your slice at. Maybe it’s a classic bar serving legendary pies alongside cheap pints. Maybe it’s just a simple, no-frills dining room with some framed photos lining the walls. Time seems to stand still at these joints, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Amore Pizza (Queens, New York)
Yelp/ Andrew G.
Off the Whitestone Expressway in Flushing just minutes before the roadway crosses the East River into the Bronx is an under-mentioned and quintessential Queens slice joint: Amore Pizzeria, which has been going strong for more than 40 years. Tucked into a strip mall along with a check-cashing joint, a Carvel and a Pathmark, Amore looks exactly how you’d expect a New York pizzeria like this to look: a long counter in the front, some pizza ovens and a soda fridge behind it, and some no-frills seating behind it.
Benny Tudino’s (Hoboken, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Howard P.
Benny Tudino’s is best known for serving slices that are the size of a small child, as photos on display throughout the restaurant make sure you know. But it’s also been a Hoboken, New Jersey, landmark for more than 40 years. With its counter up front, ancient dining room, and lineup of Naugahyde booths underneath the peculiar wood-and-large-pebble design on the walls, it’s just dripping with ‘70s charm.
Best Pizza (Brooklyn, New York)
In a city known for great slices, one where nostalgia can’t hide the fact that the state of the slice isn’t what it used to be, Best Pizza stands out from the pack. Pizza man Frank Pinello (now the host of Vice’s “The Pizza Show”) puts out super-thin crispy slices with an almost equal ratio of tangy sauce and cheese, and they’re just about perfect. The storefront itself, with its weather-beaten exterior that looks a lot older than it actually is and a simple white interior with a counter, a few tables, and paper plate art (hey, it’s Brooklyn) decorating the walls, is just about perfect as well.
Buddy’s (Detroit, Michigan)
Yelp/ Steve T.
Detroit, Michigan’s signature square pizza style is like a Sicilian slice on steroids. There’s crisp, thick, deep-dish crust action, often formed from the process of twice-baking in square pans that have been brushed with oil or butter, and a liberal ladling of sauce spread across the cheese surface. It supposedly all started in 1946 at Buddy’s Rendezvous, a neighborhood tavern since renamed just Buddy’s. The original location is still going strong on the corner of Six Mile Road and Conant Street, and it’s a homey, cozy, bar and restaurant with that old-school Italian vibe.
Candlelite (Chicago, Illinois)
Yelp/ Anthony M.
Chicago-style thin-crust pizza is the specialty of the house at Candelite, which also happens to be one of the city’s best bars. It’s been in business since 1950, and its sign features some of Illinois’ best neon. The interior boasts plenty of exposed brick and the signs of a (somewhat) recent renovation, but there’s no getting around the fact that this is a great old bar, rife with charm.
Caserta Pizzeria (Providence, Rhode Island)
Yelp/ Jackie O.
Caserta Pizza in Providence, Rhode Island’s Little Italy is a salt-of-the-earth pizza joint that’s been all white-tile floor and pan-cooked pies since 1953. Caserta’s pie is thick but fluffy and not shy when it comes to cheese and sauce. It’s a Sicilian-style pie served in a six-slice circular pan when ordered small, with the large pie delivered as a 12-slice rectangular cheese-fest. It’s got a plain old sign and a plain-Jane, no-frills dining room, with a tile floor and arched windows providing the only décor — and we bet you haven’t sat on plastic chairs like these since high school.
Cloverleaf (Eastpointe, Michigan)
Cloverleaf can trace its roots to 1946, when Gus Guerra invented Detroit-style pan pizza at his restaurant, called Buddy’s Rendezvous (today just shortened to Buddy’s, and appropriately legendary). But in 1953 he expanded by purchasing Cloverleaf and serving his pizza there as well, and it’s still going strong today. A 1993 fire caused a lot of damage, but you wouldn’t know it from the restaurant’s retro look, complete with green checkered tablecloths, knickknacks on the walls, and welcoming, lived-in vibe.
Colony Grill (Stamford, Connecticut)
Yelp/ Jason P.
Thin-crust bar pie institution Colony Grill, in Stamford, Connecticut, has been going strong since 1935 and is notorious for its no-frills demeanor, for its no-special-options policy, and for not making exceptions. It’s a long, narrow barroom with some comfy booths in the back, and the old-school décor combined with the unique pie is an ideal pizza experience.
Conte’s (Princeton, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Mike C.
The Conte family decided to turn the ground floor of their family home into a bar and restaurant in 1950, and since then Conte’shas become a Princeton destination; a great old-school bar that also happens to serve some of New Jersey’s best pizza, thin-crusted and bubbly. The restaurant hasn’t changed much since then; even the tables are the same. It’s a simple, no-frills space, but if you visit during peak times, be prepared to wait well over an hour for a table.
Denino’s (Staten Island, New York)
Yelp/ Mark S.
Since 1951, Denino’shas been serving what’s widely regarded as the very best pizza on Staten Island, with a light and crisp crust, locally made sausage, high-quality cheese and sauce, and an eye for balance. The restaurant has expanded in recent decades, but the barroom is still as old-school as it gets, and the whole operation is pleasingly devoid of frills.
Di Fara (Brooklyn, New York)
Yelp/ Matt K.
Domenico DeMarco is a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks both New York- and Sicilian-style pizza Tuesday through Saturday (noon to 8 p.m., and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.) for hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait in long lines and brave the free-for-all that is the Di Fara counter experience (even though 82-year-old Dom spends less and less time making pizzas these days). It might come as something of a surprise to first-time visitors that his pizzeria is actually quite small and ordinary, with just a handful of tables and chairs scattered about; the real attraction is the personality behind the counter, though — and the fantastic pizzas coming out of the oven.
Ernie’s Pizzeria (New Haven, Connecticut)
Yelp/ Tom P.
There are so many great pizzerias that haven’t been given national attention, and Ernie’s Pizzeria in New Haven is among them. The recipe hasn’t changed for nearly 50 years. Sausage and mushroom and bacon and garlic are some noted combos, but the plain pie is the one to order if it’s your first time visiting this classic, old-school restaurant.
Frank & Helen’s (University City, Missouri)
Yelp/ Douglas W.
Going strong on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, since 1956, Frank & Helen’s was founded by Frank Seitz, his wife Betty and his sister Helen, and it hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. Step under the hand-lettered vintage sign and through the welcoming red front door, and you’ll find yourself back in time, in a restaurant with wood-paneled walls, a drop ceiling, old wood booths, and plenty of hanging faux-Tiffany lamps. The pizza is among the best classic St. Louis style in the city (loaded with Provel cheese and cut into squares), but also make sure you order the “broasted” chicken, another word for pressure-fried.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (New Haven, Connecticut)
Yelp/ Chris E.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletanais a checklist destination, one you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to if you want to discuss the topic of America’s best pizza with any authority. The New Haven icon opened in Wooster Square in 1925, offering classic Napoletana-style pizza made by an Italian-American immigrant. Its signature clam pie is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe’s is the best of all — freshly shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano atop a charcoal-colored crust. It’s a combination that makes this pie one of the most iconic dishes in America.
The restaurant itself is a double-wide storefront, with rows of booths lining the walls of each, a huge open kitchen in the back, a small service bar and not much else. It’s worth noting that when the restaurant first opened, it was extraordinary in another way: It was the largest pizzeria in the United States.
Galleria Umberto (Boston, Massachusetts)
Galleria Umberto may very well be one of America’s best cheap slice places, a cash-only throwback in Boston, Massachusetts’ North End that started as a bakery in 1965 and took on its current form in 1974. In the 40-some years since, it’s become an institution. Expect a line outside the door for these thick, over-the-edge-of-the-pan cheesy, saucy, completely over-the-top Sicilian slices. That’s right, the Sicilian is the only pizza option (the other options are panini, panzarotti, arancini and calzones). Once you make it inside, you can enjoy your slice in a no-frills, no-nonsense dining room.
Green Lantern (Madison Heights, Michigan)
Yelp/ Philip K.
There are a handful of locations of Green Lantern in the Detroit area, but the one to visit is the Green Lantern Loungein Madison Heights, which has been going strong for more than 40 years. It’s a dim, low-ceilinged bar and lounge, with plenty of booths, pressed tin ceilings and brass rails for days. The squat, unassuming, largely windowless building doesn’t look like much, but it’s hiding some of Detroit’s best pizza.
J&V Pizzeria (Brooklyn, New York)
Yelp/ Wendy F.
J&V — that’s John and Vinny (John Mortillaro and Vincent DeGrezia) — were two friends who founded a pizzeria at the corner of 63rd and 18th Avenue in what was then (in 1950) a much more Italian Bensonhurst. Wood paneling, vintage booths, and metal napkin dispensers have all the hallmarks of a classic slice joint, one whose tradition is kept up by the family: John’s widow, Stella, his son, Joseph, and his brother, John. They keep things simple at this joint — which is considered to be one of the first to sell pizza by the slice — with a revolving deck oven, a choice of a round pie, square pie or grandma pizza, and not even 10 toppings (just the old familiars: pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, sausage, olives, you know the drill).
Joe & Pat's Pizzeria (Staten Island, New York)
Yelp/ Chrissy H.
The home of Staten Island’s thin, crispy-crust pizza has been family-owned and -operated since it opened in 1960. Joe & Pat’s has sweet sauce and pizza that is so thin you can eat seven slices without feeling stuffed. It’s got that airiness that spawns lighter-than-air adjectives, but still has a great crust and a weighty enough bottom that the slices don’t get floppy. The interior has gone through some renovations since 1960, but it’s still a classic pizzeria if ever there was one.
Joe’s (New York, New York)
Since 1975, Joe’s Pizza has served fresh, hot, cheesy slices to tourists and residents alike, making it a truly iconic New York City landmark. Everyone has a favorite slice joint, but if the city were to have just one, this would be it. The key to Joe’s success is the traditional New York City-style pizza with thin crust, great sauce, and just the right ratio of cheese, sauce and crust. It’s also just a perfect slice joint, with a counter, a couple small tables and a window ledge to lean on, and an insane amount of classic New York charm.
John’s of Bleecker Street (New York, New York)
Yelp/ Rosy V.
Yes, John’s of Bleecker is on the tourist rotation, but there’s a reason it’s become a New York City institution. Pizza is cooked in a coal-fired brick oven the same way it’s been done since 1929. (It’s been located in the current space since 1934, making it one of the oldest surviving business in the Village.) Choose from their available toppings (sliced meatball, pepperoni, ground sausage, sliced tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, ricotta, mushrooms, onions, peppers, anchovies, black olives, and garlic), and you can scratch your name into the walls like the droves before you. The narrow wooden booths, the tin ceiling, the murals on the walls… to say this place is old-school would be an understatement.
L&B Spumoni Gardens (Brooklyn, New York)
Yelp/ Priyanka C.
Started in 1938 by Ludovico Barbati, an immigrant from Torella dei Lombardi (an hour east of Naples), the L&B Spumoni tradition began with Barbati learning how to make pizza in a garage, then peddling it in a horse and wagon until setting up at the current spot on 86th Street in Brooklyn. L&B Spumoni Gardens is now in its fourth generation, still serving its signature thin-crust Sicilian-style square pies with a light coating of mozzarella beneath a layer of tomato sauce and a sprinkle of pecorino in a big, boisterous dining room with plenty of outdoor seating. Don’t leave without having some spumoni for dessert. Some say it’s even better than the pizza.
Lee’s Tavern (Staten Island, New York)
Yelp/ Krystal Lynn L.
Lee’s Tavern serves a thin-crust, smallish pie that’s unlike most of the others you’ll find in New York, and it does so in, well, a tavern. In business since 1940, this corner bar is always full of locals, enjoying the pizza, garlic bread, Buffalo-style fried calamari (or calamad, if you like), and the weathered, lived-in feel of this legendary establishment.
Little Vincent’s (Huntington, New York)
Yelp/ Josh G.
If you don’t think there’s any good pizza on Long Island, you’re not looking in the right places. There are plenty of great pies — pilgrimage-worthy pies, in fact. And one of them, Little Vincent’s, is on the North Shore in Huntington. It’s a tangy, saucy pie with a crispy bottom and a bit of a flop, but in a good way; this place is also renowned for its “Cold Cheese Slice,” with a fistful of cold cheese served on top of the hot piece of pizza. It’s best enjoyed on the premises (while the bottom cheese is still hot), in the delightfully old-school dining room, with its ample booths, drop ceiling and light wood walls.
Louie and Ernie’s (The Bronx, New York)
Yelp/ Chris T.
Louie and Ernie’s is up to the task of making the Bronx the pizza destination it deserves to be recognized as. The sausage pie is a New York legend: The sausage (made with 80-year-old recipes) comes from the S&D Pork Store four blocks down Crosby Avenue, and is applied in generous, juicy, fennel-spiked chunks barely held in place by copious amounts of melted cheese. Louie & Ernie’s keeps turning out amazing pies to the locals who know they have a good thing, in a long, narrow space with rosy pink walls and a classic retro vibe.
Margherita Pizza (Queens, New York)
Yelp/ Jimmy B.
If not for its blinking globes, you’d most likely miss Margherita Pizza’s green awning. After all, this narrow, brightly lit slice spot, opened in 1966 in Jamaica, Queens, by Sicilian-born Stefano DiBenedetto and childhood friend Frank Gioeliand, isn’t much to look at. And it’s a napkin-blotter’s pizza grease nightmare: There’s twice as much cheese as crust, and there’s oil dripping down your wrist after just two bites. But if you’re game for shrugging off a search for the perfect ratio and indulging in the deliciousness of a sloppy New York slice, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better. Walk up to the long counter (no stools), ask for a slice, and you’re delivered a cheesy sliver of pizza heaven.
Marie’s Pizza & Liquors (Chicago, Illinois)
Yelp/ Sandra C.
Marie’s is a Northwest Side legend, having started out as a tavern and liquor store in 1940 and adding thin-crust pizza to the menu 10 years later. The restaurant, bar and liquor store have all expanded over the years, and today it takes up the better part of a city block, but the main bar and restaurant is still pretty much intact, with tons of red leather lining the booths and swivel-chairs and even padding the bar (whatever happened to padded bars?). And with loads of decorations hanging down from the ceiling, plenty of etched mirrors, a stained glass ceiling over the bar and an ample amount of wood paneling on the walls, the retro party vibe never stops.
Micucci Grocery (Portland, Maine)
Yelp/ Angie P.
Micucci Grocery was opened in Portland, Maine, in 1951 by Leo and Iris Micucci, and has been family-operated ever since. It’s more sandwich-counter-meets-deli-meets-dry-goods store than pizzeria. But the reason to visit is in back, up the stairs to the left where “slabs” of American-interpreted Sicilian-style pizza are baked and shelved. It’s not pizza in any other traditional regional American sense, nor can you say it’s precisely Italian. But there’s something intensely right and satisfying about it.
New Park Pizza (Queens, New York)
Yelp/ M S.
If you talk to anyone from Queens about pizza, you won’t be able to get away without talking about the 1956 brick-oven stalwart New Park Pizza in the Howard Beach neighborhood. The simple dining room has a nice glass-enclosed patio up front and plenty of space to watch the team at work, turning out spot-on, classic New York-style pies.
New York Pizza Suprema (New York, New York)
Yelp/ Adam K.
When you talk classic New York City slices, it doesn’t get much better than New York Pizza Suprema. Located in what many consider to be Gotham’s pizza wasteland (Midtown), New York Pizza Suprema has been going strong since 1964 and is still a classic, old-school slice joint, with its shelf full of pies, red trays, retro booths and hanging faux-Tiffany lamps. The most recent nods to modernity are large hanging photos of Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain, which we’re OK with.
Papa’s Tomato Pies (Robbinsville, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Thigh M.
Lombardi’s may be responsible for “America’s first pizza,” but as Nick Azzaro, owner of Papa’s Tomato Pies, isn’t shy about saying, Papa’s — established in 1912 — is America’s oldest continuously owned family-owned pizzeria. The restaurant moved a while back, and now it’s located in a charming little white building with plenty of seating and lots of Tiffany-style lamps.
Patsy’s (New York, New York)
Yelp/ Michael U.
Some would say this is the only existing place where you can get a proper and authentic coal-oven slice in the universe, given that its founder Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri supposedly opened Patsy’s after working with the godfather of New York City pizza, Gennaro Lombardi. True or not, this 1933 East Harlem original can claim pizza heritage most only dream of, and was reportedly a favorite of Sinatra and DiMaggio. And as for the pizza? Easily some of the best in the city, and enough to spawn several additional locations in town. But the simple, narrow dining room of the original location, with hanging lights and framed photos lining the walls, is still a quintessential New York pizza pilgrimage.
Patsy’s Tavern (Paterson, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Jim U.
A true neighborhood joint, Patsy’s (no relation to the New York mini-chain) serves a rare breed of pie: thin-crust pan pizzas. The crust is tough enough to hold up to loads of cheese and toppings, and the outer rim cooks up thin and crackery along the inside edge of the pan. The tavern itself is a nondescript old building in a quiet corner of town, and the interior looks like, well, an ancient bar. Sure, it’s a little divey, but one visit and you’ll be hooked.
Pizza-a-Go-Go (St. Louis, Missouri)
Yelp/ TY Y.
Founded by Frank LaFata in 1967, Pizza-a-Go-Go, serving St. Louis-style pies with a thin and crisp crust, a well-seasoned sauce and (of course) plenty of cheese. The restaurant is a small, brick building with brick walls inside, plenty of windows, ample seating, and no frills.
Pizza Town USA (Elmwood Park, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Ronald K.
Pizza Town USA is located right where the Garden State Parkway meets Route 46, and we bet that lots of people have pulled off of those highways for a slice after seeing its legendary, All-American signage, which dates back to the 1950s and glows in neon at night. That ‘50s vibe carries over into the interior: You walk up to a window (one for whole pies; another for calzones, zeppoles and slices; and another for subs), place your order, grab a table in the sun-drenched dining area, and bask in the warm glow of nostalgia.
Pizza Wagon (Brooklyn, New York)
Yelp/ Serene N.
Pizza Wagon, located a few blocks from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (which only predates it by two years!), has been slinging perfect pies from a no-frills, classic storefront for decades. This is a simple menu: large, small, square, white or “special” pies, and standard toppings. If you’re making a trip to Bay Ridge or swerving off the Gowanus Expressway to hit it, you’re grabbing a plain slice — not too greasy, crispy but still bendable, thinner than usual, and that classic bright orange you get when sauce-and-cheese alchemy happens.
Prince St. Pizza (New York, New York)
Yelp/ Janice H.
Prince Street Pizza started serving “SoHo Squares” in 2012, and since then it’s become known as one of the city’s finest pizzerias. You’ll want to start with the simple mozzarella and sauce signature square, but don’t leave without trying the Spicy Spring. It’s topped with tangy-sweet fra diavalo sauce, fresh mozzarella and spicy soppressata that turns into crispy circles that cradle shimmering pools of oil (it’s also a certifiable Instagram magnet and has inspired imitators all across Manhattan). But after you get your slice, don’t expect to linger; the room is so small there’s barely room to stand, especially when the line is out the door (as usual).
Regina Pizzeria (Boston, Massachusetts)
Yelp/ Erik G.
Opening in Boston’s North End in 1926, Regina Pizzeria has some serious cred. The pizza is made using dough from a 90-year-old family recipe, sauce, whole-milk mozzarella and toppings with no preservatives or additives, and it’s all cooked in a brick oven. There are nearly 20 different pies, some made traditionally, while others — like the St. Anthony’s, a white pie with sausage, sausage links, roasted peppers and garlic sauce — are unique. There are 14 locations across the Boston area, but the original — with its Old World charm, yellow walls, old wooden booths and cramped coziness — is the one to visit.
Reservoir Tavern (Boonton, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Thomas M.
Tucked away on a quiet side street near the Jersey City Reservoir in Boonton, New Jersey, is Reservoir Tavern, serving some of the state’s finest brick-oven pizza and Old World Italian fare since 1936. Run by the Bevacqua family since day one, this no-frills bar and rec room-style dining room command a lengthy wait every night of the week. While the chicken française, fried calamari, lasagna, homemade sausage and peppers, and shrimp fra diavolo are flawless, it’s the pizza that puts it on the map. The crust is thick, crisp and chewy, the sauce is tangy, and the cheese is ample — and it all comes together to form a stunning pie.
Rome Pizza (Dunellen, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Jason P.
Rome Pizza has been in business for more than 50 years, and it’s basically the platonic ideal of a Jersey pizza joint: Some gumball machines up front, a long counter with stools, vintage wood-paneled walls, a drop ceiling, a few tables and chairs, guys making the pizzas in full view, and even a few old framed shots of Italy and newspaper clippings on the walls. The whole place is also absolutely spotless, and it looks like it could be part of a movie set. It’s not, however, and the pies coming out of those old ovens are essentially perfect.
Rosangela’s Pizza (Chicago, Illinois)
Yelp/ John D.
Evergreen Park’s Rosangela’s has been serving square-shaped tavern-style pizzas to South Side locals since 1955, with a crisp, thin crust and ample sausage chunks. The no-frills dining room hasn’t changed much since those early days, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Roseland Apizza (Derby, Connecticut)
Yelp/ Tom P.
Roseland Apizza is a little old house with plenty of old-school charm, serving one of Connecticut’s most underrated pizzas — and this in a state known for famous pies. If this is your first time, start with a plain tomato pie (no cheese). You’ll want the Roseland Special (sausage and mushrooms), the fresh-shucked clam pie (white), and one of the special shrimp pizzas (said to include 2 pounds of shrimp — no joke).
Sal & Carmine’s Pizza (New York, New York)
Yelp/ Jeff O.
Sal & Carmine’s is your classic New York slice joint, serving classic, spot-on slices to Upper West Side locals for decades. This place is exactly what you’d expect: a long, narrow space, with just enough room up front to examine the pies on offer and place your order and a completely nondescript little dining room in the back. It may not look like much, but it’s totally worth it.
Sally’s Apizza (New Haven, Connecticut)
Yelp/ Andrew K.
Sally’s Apizza is New Haven royalty, operating from the same location where it opened in the late 1930s in New Haven’s Wooster Square. Their pizza is traditionally thin crust, topped with tomato sauce, garlic, and “mozz.” Of course, the pies at Sally’s look pretty similar to what you’ll find down the street at Frank Pepe, because the man who opened Sally’s (Salvatore Consiglio) was Pepe’s nephew. The restaurant has changed surprisingly little in the past 80-odd years; it’s still just a sparse, rectangular dining room with some booths lining the walls. And, as any regular will tell you, it’s just about perfect.
Sal’s Pizza (Mamaroneck, New York)
Yelp/ Ys C.
Sal’s has been around for over 50 years, it has a line out the door, and while the round pies are some of the most exemplary you may have ever had, they’re not the point. You’re here for the Sicilian — a thick, heavy, cheesy mess with a significant crunch outside, a touch of grease, and a delicate, pillowy bite. And it looks exactly as you’d expect a classic slice joint to: neon in the window, a long counter and a handful of booths.
Santarpio’s (Boston, Massachusetts)
Yelp/ Susan S.
Santarpio’s, which opened in 1903, sticks to its traditional roots when it comes to the infamous slightly chewy and satisfyingly wet slices. The menu consists of a variety of options but includes a list of customers’ favorite combos, 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. The corner storefront itself is delightfully no-frills, with some wooden booths, a tile floor, a drop ceiling, a bar and not much else.
Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza (Elizabeth, New Jersey)
Yelp/ William I.
Santillo’s is something you just have to experience for yourself. It’s basically located inside proprietor Al Santillo’s house — inherited from his father, who opened the pizzeria here in 1957 — and you enter down a narrow alley into the small, no-frills pizzeria. And be prepared to order by the year — Al preserves every pizza style he can for posterity. They range from the 1940 Genuine Tomato Pie (no cheese) to the 2011 San Marzano “Tomatoes Over the Cheese” Pizza. But there are other intriguing options like Lasagna Pizza, thin-pan, Roman-style, Italian bread, and an off-menu grandpa pie as well. Start out with a 1957-Style Pizza Extra Thin (14-inch round), or the popular Sicilian pizza, or just ask this quirky, pizza-possessed master to make you his own spontaneous creation.
Scarr’s (New York, New York)
Yelp/ Wilson B.
Everything old is new again. When pizzaiolo and co-owner Scarr Pimentel opened his retro-looking shop on the Lower East Side just a few blocks from the Manhattan Bridge, the area was still no-man’s-land, and you could have been forgiven for mistaking it for an old-school pizza holdout from the ‘70s, considering its decidedly retro sign, dark wood walls, drop ceiling, display case up front and minimal seating. Pimentel mills his own flour in his basement daily and proudly declares that he uses "zero canned products.” The result? A beautiful, nuanced, plain cheese slice that’s a heartening example of a return to the city’s slice glory days.
Spirito’s Restaurant (Elizabeth, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Jon L.
If you’re from a certain part of Northern New Jersey, there’s about a 100 percent chance that you’ve heard of Spirito’s, and an equally good chance that you’ve been there. Owned and operated by the Spirito family since it opened in 1932, the dim, wood-paneled Spirito’s is a restaurant where time — and the menu — stands still. Crowds gather nightly for three equally legendary menu items: ethereally light homemade ravioli, swimming in marinara; veal parm that’s so big it doesn’t fit on the plate it’s served on; and, of course, the pizza, with a thin, crisp crust, an oregano-heavy sauce, and just the right amount of cheese. That restraint makes this pizza one that mercifully won’t fill you up after a slice or two, even if you top it with sausage and pepperoni (which you should do).
Star Tavern (Orange, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Jonathan C.
In the annals of all things pizza, the bar pie is perhaps one of the most underrated styles, and one of the best places to sample it is Star Tavern in Orange, New Jersey. “The Star” is run by former attorney Gary Vayianos, whose kitchen turns out super-thin, crispy pies covered to the edges with sauce and toppings, boasting a sauce-to-cheese ratio that delivers as much as you need and not more than the structural integrity can handle. It pairs perfectly with a beer, which is ideal, because this place also happens to be a perfectly preserved old-school bar.
The Original Tacconelli's Pizzeria (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Yelp/ Ian K.
Tacconelli’s, a cute little restaurant with a neon sign in the window, wood paneling on the walls, and a couple quaint dining rooms, serves four pies: tomato (no cheese), regular (a little cheese and sauce), white (salt, pepper, cheese, and garlic), and a Margerita (sic) (fresh basil and mozz). These are wide crusts, liberally sauced and topped, and not uniform. You can customize with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage, sweet peppers, anchovies, onions, prosciutto, basil and extra cheese — just remember there’s a three-topping max per pie, and that the owner at times prefers a two-topping limit.
Totonno’s (Brooklyn, New York)
Yelp/ Will L.
Opened in Coney Island in 1924 and still going strong through fire, flood and urban blight, Totonno’s serves as a perfect representation of the bridge between the Neapolitan style brought over from the Old World and today’s omnipresent New York slices. The coal-fired blistered edges, the spotty mozzarella laced over that beautiful red sauce… These pies are works of art, and the restaurant, with its black-and-white tile floors, tin ceilings (and walls) and no-nonsense waitstaff, is as much a time capsule as the pizza.
Vic’s Italian Restaurant (Bradley Beach, New Jersey)
Yelp/ Manish C.
Serving classic Jersey-style pizza to beachgoers and locals alike since 1947, Vic’s has a warm and inviting vibe, and its exterior and neon signs would feel right at home in old Hollywood. Inside, among Vic’s green Naugahyde booths, wood-paneled bar and walls, and vintage light fixtures, time seems to stand still, and you half expect Frank Sinatra to walk in. The bubbling thin-crust pizzas haven’t changed in decades, either.
Vito & Nick’s (Chicago, Illinois)
Yelp/ Bart S.
In a city known for deep-dish pies, the family-owned Vito & Nick’s has been serving up thin-crust pizzas to Chicago, Illinois residents since 1946, when they added them to their family’s tavern menu. The pizza here is classic Chicago thin-crust, loaded with toppings and sliced into squares; and the restaurant itself is dimly lit, with a long bar, a low ceiling, a linoleum tile floor, Old Style on tap and plenty of seating.
Vito's Pizza (Los Angeles, California)
Yelp/ Theodore V.
A low-key, modest slice shop located in a West Hollywood strip mall happens to be serving some of the best New York-style pizza in all of California, and the longstanding shop has been so successful that it’s spawned additional locations in Santa Monica and downtown LA. Vito’s was founded by New Jersey native Vito di Donato, who (as legend has it) brought some starter yeast with him across the country to ensure that a little bit of the East Coast makes its way into every pie. Like all New York slice shops, Vito’s offers hot sandwiches like meatball and chicken parm, calzones, baked ziti, and a variety of pie styles, but if it’s your first visit, be a purist and order a plain slice: With its slightly crisp and chewy crust, bright and slightly sweet sauce and even coating of shredded mozzarella, it’d feel right at home back in Jersey.
Zaffiro’s Pizza (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Yelp/ Ashley S.
The tradition of a thin-crust Milwaukee pie topped with about three to four times as much cheese as crust lives on at Wisconsin icon Zaffiro’s, in business since 1954. It’s a classic old Italian restaurant, with a small bar, tables covered with red-checkered tablecloths, and plenty of red sauce on the menu, and it’s dropping with old-school charm.
Zuppardi’s (West Haven, Connecticut)
Yelp/ John-Paul P.
Frank Pepe, Sally’s Apizza, Modern Apizza, and Bar and the Bru Room round out New Haven’s big four pizza names, but the city has other great pizzerias that are lesser known (nationally, anyway). That includes one joint on the other side of I-95 in West Haven that has been around almost as long as the big names: Zuppardi’s, open since 1934. Zuppardi’s has its own take on Connecticut’s renowned thin-crust style (they call it “a Napolitano-style pie”) and it’s as thin as, but less crisp than, New Haven’s other pies, with a New York City crust that’s lighter and airier than the ones you’ll find in Gotham. The difference is in the edge, which is charred in places and thicker all around. And it’s simply a great place to eat pizza, with an old sign hanging out front and a dining room with a primarily brown and orange color scheme that doesn’t look like it’s been altered since the ‘60s. It’s easily one of the 101 best casual restaurants in America.
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