Picture a pizza in your mind, and you’ll probably conjure an image of a thin, round pie topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and maybe some pepperoni. But even though that may be the most popular type of pizza, there are countless other styles and toppings out there — one of which is the best pizza in America.
Every year, we set out to rank the 101 best pizzas in the country, with some help from a survey taken by chefs, restaurant critics, bloggers, writers, and other pizza authorities. We’ve published this ranking since 2013, and nearly every year one pizza has risen to the top of the pack: the clam pie from the legendary Frank Pepe in New Haven, Connecticut.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana opened in 1925, and there are now seven locations around Connecticut, one in Yonkers, New York, one in Rhode Island, and one near Boston; all are operated by Pepe’s 10 great-grandchildren, and all use original recipes to make their pizza. New Haven-style pizza is fired in a coal oven, and it typically has a thin, crisp, and chewy crust, a slightly oblong shape, and some amount of charring along the outside. Pepe’s, along with Sally’s Apizza and Modern Apizza are considered the “Holy Trinity” of New Haven pizzerias, but Pepe’s is the most famous and, according to many, the best (although there’s always going to be debate among locals).
Frank Pepe’s “plain” pie (topped with just tomato sauce, garlic, and grated Parmesan) is just about perfect (that’s right; in New Haven, cheese is considered a topping and has to be specifically requested), but it’s the clam pie that’s a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe’s is where it originated, and where it’s best.
To make this legendary pizza, a round of dough is topped with freshly shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano — and that’s all. It's a combination that makes this pizza the best in America, as well as one of the most iconic dishes in America.