New York: John’s of Bleecker Street, New York City from The Best Pizza in Every State Gallery
The Best Pizza in Every State Gallery
The Best Pizza in Every State
There’s a long-running misconception that it’s simply impossible to find truly great pizza in America outside of cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Well it’s time to put that to bed once and for all. There’s great pizza to be found in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, and we’ve tracked down the best of the best.
Alabama: Café Bottega, Birmingham
Over the past 30 years, chef Frank Stitt has been credited for significantly raising the bar in Alabama’s culinary scene. As if the success of his restaurant Highlands Bar and Grill and the roster of culinary talents that have launched their own successful careers after spending time in his kitchen weren’t impressive enough, he’s now going ahead and doing the same thing for the state’s pizza scene. While devoted regulars may have trouble steering themselves away from Stitt’s classic dishes at Café Bottega like the seared beef carpaccio, Niçoise salad, and chicken scaloppini, they’ll find themselves particularly rewarded by any of the pizzas on the menu. For example, there’s a white pie with fennel sausage, a grilled chicken and pesto combination, and even a pizza with okra and corn.
Alaska: Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria, Anchorage
Ask anyone where to go for pizza in Anchorage and you’ll likely be directed to the renowned Midtown Anchorage nightlife spot Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria — the pizza place that has been locals’ go-to since the late 1990s when fellow rock climbers Rod Hancock and Matt Jones, despite having virtually no restaurant experience, launched a 30-table restaurant serving draft beer and stone-baked pizzas. Now, Moose’s Tooth is regularly noted by publications looking to cast a wide net as among the best pizzerias in the country. These days, the menu features almost 40 pizzas with names just as creative as their topping combinations, but the Avalanche is their most well-known, featuring barbecue sauce, mozzarella, provolone, Cheddar, red onions, blackened chicken, and bacon — a pizza that will need a similarly signature beverage, say the house-brewed and assertively hopped Fairweather IPA.
Arizona: Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Photo by Anthony N. via Yelp
"There’s no mystery to my pizza," Bronx native Chris Bianco was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "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.''
Try telling that to the legions of pizza pilgrims who have visited the storied Phoenix pizza spot he opened more than 20 years ago. The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. The wait, once routinely noted as one of the worst for some of the best food in the country, has been improved by Pizzeria Bianco starting to serve lunch, the opening of Trattoria Bianco, the pizza prince of Arizona’s Italian restaurant in the historic Town & Country Shopping Center (about 10 minutes from the original), and an outpost in Tucson.
Arkansas: Wood Stone Craft Pizza & Bar, Fayetteville
Yelp/ Kent A.
Wood Stone has been bringing top notch pizza to South Fayetteville’s Mill District since summer 2014. Owners Clayton Suttle and Jerrmy Gawthorp are crafting some unique and high-quality pizzas made with impeccably sourced ingredients (local when possible) and firing them in a custom-built wood-burning oven. Standouts include the Bloomington (caramelized onion and rosemary marmalade, gorgonzola, housemade Italian sausage, and rosemary) and the Late Harvest (local butternut squash puree, uncured ham, bacon, housemade ricotta, sage, parmesan, roasted Brussels sprouts, and honey gastrique). Dip the “bones” in your choice of five sauces, and wash it down with a local beer.
California: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, San Francisco
Photo by Travis I. via Yelp
It’s something to be considered a Neapolitan pizza expert — and with too many awards to count (eight-time world champion pizza acrobat, first-place world champion pizza maker, first-place Roman pizza world championships of pizza makers), Tony Gemignani is that. It’s another to also proudly offer, and be commended for being a master of, all pizza styles. But that’s the story at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Yes, the signature pie is Tony’s award-winning Neapolitan: hand-mixed dough made with San Felice flour and proofed in Napoletana wood boxes, then topped with San Marzano tomatoes, sea salt, mozzarella fior di latte, fresh basil, and extra-virgin olive oil. Just keep in mind that only 73 of these champion pizzas are made each day, so get there early. But the menu also offers critically acclaimed versions of pizza in the styles of California, St. Louis (yes!), Italy, Sicily (awesome!), New York, Rome, classic American, and even Detroit (sweet!). You could accuse Gemignani of showing off. Then again, there’s truth in the expression: “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.”
Colorado: Pizzeria Locale, Denver
It shouldn’t be surprising that Frasca, one of America’s best restaurants, launched an offshoot that serves some of America’s best pizza. The pizzeria offers 12 “Classics,” (eight red, four white), but you’re probably going to want to build your own from a selection of more than 25 toppings including eggplant, Calabrian chiles, corn, smoked mozzarella, pork meatballs, and prosciutto.
Connecticut: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven
Facebook/ Frank Pepe's of New Haven
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is 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. After arriving in the United States in 1909 at the age of 16, Frank Pepe (watch him at work in this video) took odd jobs before opening his original restaurant (the location, now called "The Spot," is now an adjunct to the main Pepe's location).
There are now seven locations around Connecticut, one in New York State, one in Rhode Island, and one in greater Boston, operated by Pepe’s 10 great-grandchildren (all of whom use the original recipe to make their coal-fired pizza).
Two words: clam pie. This 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. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Of course, Pepe’s summer special, their seasonal “fresh tomato pie” made with locally grown tomatoes, is worth its own trip (and the addition of shrimp to a tomato pie is an under-hyped gem of a combination).
No matter what you’re thinking of ordering, expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend.
Delaware: The Wood Fired Pizza Shop, Newark
Yelp/ Laura M.
What got its start as a traveling wood-burning oven in the back of an old, red Ford pickup making stops at farmers’ markets and private parties is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant serving the best pizzas in Delaware. Dough is made from scratch using unbleached, unbromated flour; toppings are organic and locally-sourced whenever possible; and ingredients including sausage and pickles are made in-house. Twelve-inch pizzas are separated into three menu sections: Classic (Margherita, pepperoni, just cheese, and el blanco); All-Stars (including the Spicy Italian, with hot Italian sausage, pepperoni, fresh jalapenos, tomato sauce, and mozzarella); and Seasonal (which “may change frequently depending on the length of the specialty season”).
Florida: Scuola Vecchia Pizza E Vino, Delray Beach
Photo by Will G. via Yelp
Scuola Vecchia brings a host of traditional Italian pizzas to Delray Beach with a ton of different options for every pizza-lover. Guests can choose from 25 different pizzas from the traditional Margherita 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.
Georgia: O4W Pizza, Duluth
Anthony Spina made waves in 2015 when he opened O4WP in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, and even though he recently moved the operation about 35 minutes out of town to Duluth, the “Jersey-style” pizzas is just as good.
Jersey-style generally refers to a Trenton-style tomato pizza where the cheese goes down first and is then topped by a sauce heavy on tomato flavor, sometimes even topped by hand-crushed tomatoes. At O4WP, it means hand-stretched dough made fresh daily and topped with housemade sauce and hand-pulled mozzarella cooked Sicilian-style, wood-fired in a gas deck oven. But the move is the award-winning Grandma Pie cooked in cast-iron. O4WP even calls itself “Home of the Grandma Pie.” And while you have to raise an eyebrow and have a little chuckle about a Georgia pizzeria doing Jersey-style pizzas and being known for a pizza that originated in Long Island, New York, there’s nothing funny about how good this pizza tastes. They’re guaranteed to impress even the most prideful New Yorker.
Hawaii: J.J. Dolan’s, Honolulu
Yelp/ Chuco T.
An Irish pub, serving New York-style pizza, in Hawaii? You better believe it. And not only that, the pizza at J.J. Dolan’s is really good. The state’s best, in fact, with legions of devoted fans. You can buy cheese or pepperoni pizzas by the slice; choose from more than 20 toppings (including Spam, because Hawaii); choose from five “Classics” including Margherita, white pie, and spinach and garlic; or “Signature” pies including Boardwalk (Italian sausage, roasted peppers, onion, and garlic), Scampi (shrimp or chicken, mushrooms, and housemade scampi sauce), and Molto Formaggio, with six cheeses. But no matter what you order, you really can’t go wrong.
Idaho: Guido’s Original New York Style Pizza, Boise
Yelp/ Hilary W.
Thanks to Guido’s, there’s a legit New York-style pizzeria in Boise, turning out some spectacular pies. Like all New York slice shops, this one is straight ahead and no-frills. You can get your pizza by the slice or in an 18- or 20-inch pie, and top it with a wide variety of meats and vegetables. Sausage rolls, Stromboli, and fresh baked garlic bread are also on the menu.
Illinois: Pequod's, Chicago
Yelp/ Dan B.
Pequod’s originator (the late Burt Katz) moved on from this endeavor after few years to take a break before opening a new pizza stalwart in 1989: Burt’s Place (which just reopened under new ownership) in Morton Grove, just north of Chicago. But the years have been kind to his legacy. Pequod’s deep dish, known for its “caramelized crust,” earns points for its chewy, crusty, quasi-burnt cheese crust that forms the outer edge of this cheesy casserole, adding a welcome degree of texture that probably wouldn’t be necessary if it weren’t nearly an inch thick. But it is necessary. And beautiful. And it does add that texture. And you can thank the fact that they spread a thin layer of cheese along the outer part of the crust where it darkens against the side of the pan.
Indiana: Diavola, Indianapolis
Yelp/ Kaitlin S.
This upscale pizzeria and wine bar has been keeping the locals happy with some spectacular wood-fired pizzas since 2015. Just like in Naples, the pizzas cook in an 800-degree oven and come out bubbling and blistered after 90 seconds. The oven is also turning out some excellent pita bread, as one of the owners is Egyptian. There are 20 different pizza styles on offer, but the best one to sample is the Margherita, with simple tomato sauce, high-quality mozzarella (make it burrata for an extra $2.75), and basil; two different crust styles (original and thin crust) are also available.
Iowa: Gusto Pizza Co., Des Moines
Yelp/ Andrea T.
You can practically envision the folks behind Gusto Pizza Co., friends Josh Holderness, Joe McConville and Tony Lemmo, sitting down over a few beers before opening their fresh and imaginative Des Moines pizza shop in 2011, and coming up with their menu as an hours-long snort-inducing punfest. For example: “Thai Kwon Dough” with peanut sauce and chicken, “Seoul Food” pizza with Korean-style marinated skirt steak and Sriracha mayo, and “Vincent Van Goat” with goat cheese and fried sweet peppers. But don’t mistake the levity for anything less than a serious approach to some delicious pizzas featuring some crispy-chewy thin crusts.
Kansas: AJ’s NY Pizzeria, Topeka
Yelp/ Julius D.
AJ’s isn’t kidding around when they call their pizza New York-style; the recipe is the same one that’s been used at a Brooklyn pizzeria for more than 50 years, and the owners consulted with a “dough doctor” named Tom Lehmann as well as the American Institute of Baking on their dough recipe. You can top your pizza with your choice of four sauces, 7 cheeses, 12 meats, and 15 vegetables/fruits, or you can choose from their 17 available options; if you really want a taste of New York (or as close as you’re going to get in these parts, at least), go for The Big Apple: sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, homemade meatballs, Canadian bacon, ham, mushrooms, onions, black olives, green peppers, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
Kentucky: Garage Bar, Louisville
Housed in a former auto service garage in downtown Louisville, Garage Bar features Chef Michael Paley’s wood-fired pizzas that emphasize local ingredients. Highlighting the region’s specialties and tastes, Chef Paley serves brick oven pizzas with toppings that include housemade pepperoni and pancetta, local Prayer Mountain mushrooms, shaved country ham, and Broadbent bacon.
Louisiana: Pizza Domenica, New Orleans
There’s pizza on the menu at both Pizza Domenica and Domenica, which is Italian for Sunday (the former is in Uptown, the latter in the renovated and historic Roosevelt Hotel . The slightly imperfect circles are ringed with light, puffy, and black-blistered crusts, the centers of the pies sauce-speckled and beautifully topped with stellar (and fun) ingredients like salami and mortadella, provolone and eggs, mascarpone and Brussels sprouts, and traditional muffuletta components — you’ll have a hard time choosing between the pizzas made in the Pavesi pecan-wood-fired oven.
Maine: Micucci Grocery Store, Portland
Photo by Scott H. via Yelp
Micucci Grocery was opened in 1949 by Leo and Iris Micucci, and has been family-operated ever since. The reason to visit this Portland icon is in back, up the stairs to the left where “slabs” of American-interpreted Sicilian-style pizza are baked and set on shelves.
The word “slabs,” doesn’t do these slices justice — a curious hybrid for sure, they’re nowhere as heavy as the gut-bombs most descriptions convey. Half-again bigger than the conventional Sicilian, and just as thick if wetter and more doughy, Micucci’s slabs may not be authentic Italian, but they feel like an idealized iteration of the focaccia style you’ve always sought, never experienced.
Imagine a fluffy, light focaccia that’s doughy and a bit wetter than most with layers of bubbles. There’s a scattering of Italian herbs with cheese rivulets and sauce undercurrents around raised puffy sections of dough. There’s no undercrust to speak of, but crispy cheese in places, especially the edges.
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.
Maryland: Inferno, Darnestown
Chef Tony Conte honed his chops as executive chef of D.C.’s Oval Room and executive sous chef at New York’s Jean-Georges before decamping to the D.C. suburbs to open Inferno, his vision of an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria. The centerpiece of the casual restaurant is a custom-tiled wood-burning oven, and it’s turning out a roster of pies that changes seasonally, based on what’s fresh and local. If you want to hug the baseline, stick with the classic D.O.C. Margherita, simply topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte, olive oil, and basil, but be sure to order at least one other pie: the pizza with ember-roasted potatoes, roasted onions, and smoked mozzarella. There’s almost a pizza-as-naan thing that happens, and it’s really something special. Inferno is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and stays open only until they run out of dough.
Massachusetts: Area Four, Cambridge
Photo by Greg W. via Yelp
Area Four’s owners, Michael Krupp and Jeff Pond, are dedicated to providing local and sustainable ingredients. Factor in dough made from a 30-plus-hour fermented, 16-year-old starter (flour, water, and salt) by chef Pond, homemade cheese, and a wood-fired oven, and you get one of Boston’s best pies, a pizza whose style is kind of like a neo-Neapolitan with a super-charred cornicione on steroids.
The signature pizza is the clam and bacon, but if you want to take a page out of President Obama’s book, order the mushroom and fontina (mushroom sauce, pecorino, and gremolata) and the Carnivore (mozzarella, tomato, soppressata, sausage, and bacon) — his order from a couple years ago. From all reports, the man knows good food.
Michigan: Buddy’s Pizza, Detroit
Detroit’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 at Buddy’s Rendezvous, a neighborhood tavern, in 1946.
You may think that Detroit-style is confined to its home region, but consider that a few years ago, Alan Richman of GQ singled out Buddy’s as one of the 25 best pizzas in America; that California pizza royalty Tony Gemignani serves his version at several of his restaurants; and the style has started catching on in Texas, and in New York with Emmy Squared. Try the signature Detroit Zoo pie from the Motor City Pizza Collection: Motor City Cheese blend, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, pine nuts, and tomato basil sauce.
Minnesota: Pizzeria Lola, Minneapolis
Photo by Sara W. via Yelp
“A Korean immigrant, inspired by the pure love of food, joy, and her mother’s own delicious cooking, quits her day job, opens an artisan pizza pie place, and names it after her dog,” notes Pizzeria Lola’s website. “Is there anything more American than that?” Probably not.
Onetime stage actress Ann Kim graduated from Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza in January 2010, and in less than a year, she’d opened Pizzeria Lola, where she serves Neapolitan-style pizzas named for her Weimaraner. They’re wood-fired pies cooked out of a copper-clad oven under tomato-can track lighting quickly photographed by hungry food bloggers.
There are 14 pies, most of which feature combos you’re familiar with, along with less common toppings like peppadew peppers and guanciale, and add-on toppings you don’t see everywhere, like boquerones (white anchovies, likely to make converts out of anti-anchovy pizza purists) and garlic confit. Two pies of particular interest highlight Korean flavors. There’s the signature Korean barbecue pie and the Lady ZaZa (Italian red sauce, housemade kimchi, Korean sausage, serranos, scallions, sesame, and soy-chile glaze).
Mississippi: TriBecca Allie Café, Sardis
Yelp/ Kim T.
This no-reservations, family-owned neighborhood gem is the little pizzeria that could; it actually won second place in last year’s American Pizza Championship in Orlando. You should definitely order the pizza that won them the prize (the Magnolia Rosa, with red onion, mozzarella, and Mississippi pecans), but you really can’t go wrong, especially if you also order the Patate, with olive oil, thin-sliced potato, mozzarella, cheddar, bacon, chives, and sour cream. Yes, they went there.
Missouri: Imo’s, St. Louis
Yelp/ Kathy L.
While the thin and unleavened crackery crust Imo’s is known for is almost like one you’ll find in a bar pie, it’s generally known to be a bit sweeter than typical bar pies, and meant more than anything else to act as a vehicle for the unique cheese topping that makes St. Louis style unlike any other slice you’ll have ever tried: Provel, a white processed cheese said to be a combination of Cheddar, Swiss, and provolone invented in the city’s Italian neighborhood shortly after World War II. Just as you’ll get different stories about who exactly invented Provel, the origin of the style is also debated. Imo’s is widely credited, but Farotto’s, which is said to have opened in 1956, eight years before Ed and Margie Imo opened Imo’s, has its own claim. Whichever story you choose to believe, you can’t deny one thing: Imo’s, with its more than 90 stores, has popularized a unique, love-it-or-hate-it pie you have to try at least once.
Montana: Eugene’s, Glasgow
Yelp/ Rob R.
Founded by Eugene Barger in 1962 and sold to Arlie and Mary Sue Knodel in 1967, Eugene’s is today run by the Knodels’ two sons, Jeff and Sam. To give you an idea of how popular Eugene’s is, they sell a full line of branded merchandise, they’ll ship half-cooked frozen pies anywhere in the country, and they go through an average of 1,3333 pounds of cheese per month. You can choose from one of their “time-proven combinations” (Arlie’s Special, with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, and homemade sausage is a popular favorite), or take your pick from 22 different toppings, including hot or cold tomatoes, sauerkraut, and even Mandarin oranges.
Nebraska: Zio’s, Omaha
Opened in Omaha's Midtown in 1985 by Daniel and Usha Sherman, Zio’s serves New York-style, hand-stretched, thin-crust pizzas made from scratch each day. Over the years, it has expanded into two other locations (one in the earnest and lovely Downtown Old Market, the other in West Omaha) and moved each again to accommodate the crowds that keep coming to fill up the family-friendly spots. (It's the kind of restaurant where they give dough to the kids to play with at the table.) And along with the crowds come the accolades. As its website proudly declares, it’s the "recipient of over 35 best pizza awards."
Nevada: Pizza Rock, Las Vegas
Photo by Stephanie T. via Yelp
This Vegas outpost, one of the some 11 pizzerias California pizza king Tony Gemignani owns, doesn’t skimp on pizza preparation. There are at least four ovens (a 900-degree-F wood-fired Cirigliano Forni oven, a Rotoflex gas brick oven, a Marsal gas brick oven, and a Cuppone Italian electric brick oven) the pizza champ uses to send out his signature pie styles (Napoletana, classic Italian, classic American, Sicilian, and Romano) of which there are many impressive iterations in each category. Your goal? Try to score one of the only 73 Margherita pies made daily using Tony’s award-winning recipe.
New Hampshire: Tilton House of Pizza, Tilton
Yelp/ Nick S.
Run by the Katsigiannis family for the last 20 years, this 34-year-old local favorite has been turning out top-notch pies made with fresh dough (made up to four times per day) and fresh vegetables. The welcoming, old-school spot is making thick-crusted pies loaded with cheese, homemade sauce, and a massive variety of toppings ranging from sliced tomato and anchovy to chicken fingers, eggplant, pastrami, and banana peppers. The steak and cheese calzone is also a major winner.
New Jersey: Razza, Jersey City
Photo by Carol C. via Yelp
Razza opened just across the Hudson River from New York in Jersey City in late 2012, and it quietly became renowned locally for its wood-fired pizzas prepared by chef-owner Dan Richer, who was a semifinalist for the James Beard Rising Star Award and is so meticulous about his craft that he was nicknamed “the Jiro of Bread,” after the sushi chef featured in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. But it wasn’t until New York Times critic Pete Wells showed up this year that pizza lovers across the river really took notice. Wells gave it about as glowing a review as possible, even going so far as to deem it “the best pizza in New York.” Not only has Richer perfected his crust — it’s crisp from end to end and its inside is soft with a complex flavor — he’s also meticulous about his toppings, which he sources locally. The mozzarella on his Bufala pie, for example, comes from water buffalo from Jersey’s Sussex County; he had to wait years for the herd to grow large enough to ensure a steady supply of the notoriously difficult-to-perfect cheese. And as for the sauce, Richer told the Times that he waits for the latest vintages of tomatoes from California, New Jersey, and Italy to be canned each January before blind-tasting and grading them all, then blending them like fine wine. When assembled, the pizza is damn near perfect.
New Mexico: Il Vicino Wood Oven Pizza, Albuquerque
Il Vicino has nine locations in the region and has been going strong in Albuquerque (the original location) since 1992. Pizzas here are baked hot and fast in a wood-fired oven, made with fresh, high-quality ingredients, and are inspired by chef Tom White’s trips to Italy. You can build your own pizza using creative ingredients such as balsamic onions, green chile, capicola, white anchovies, Portobello mushrooms, and fiery shrimp, or choose from a gourmet selection including Motorino (Alfredo sauce, spinach, artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes, balsamic onions, and pesto); Prosciutto e Rucola (prosciutto, San Marzano tomato sauce, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, arugula, cherry tomatoes); and Tartufo (truffle mushroom cream, mozzarella, Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and chopped parsley).
New York: John’s of Bleecker Street, New York City
Photo by Stacey T. via Yelp
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 there since 1929. 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.
What can't you do? Order a slice. Pies only. And in this case, you’re going with either a Margherita or what the guys at John's like to call the "Boom Pie" (according to a manager, they say "Boom!" to themselves right before they serve it): oven-roasted tomatoes, garlic, and basil. And if you can’t make it there in person, the team has finally perfected something that’s been eluding them for years: delivery.
North Carolina: Pizzeria Omaggio, Charlotte
“Omaggio” is Italian for “homage,” and everything this restaurant does is an homage to its Italian roots. The restaurant itself is modeled after authentic Italian pizza restaurants, the ingredients are as fresh as can be, and pizzas are cooked in a blazing-hot oven. There’s a massive variety of pizzas on offer, including 13 “classic” pizzas (for example, the Calabrese, with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, homemade Italian sausage, pepperoni, pecorino Romano, and olive oil) and eight white pizzas (including the Pera Gorgonzola: whole milk mozzarella, gorgonzola, and sliced pears). If you’d prefer to decorate your own pie, you can choose from 30 different toppings, including homemade Italian sausage or meatballs, San Daniele prosciutto, basil pesto, and goat cheese.
North Dakota: Blackbird Woodfire, Fargo
Yelp/ Nisa T.
“Prairie made. Hell fired” is the motto of Blackbird, which got its start slinging artisan pizza pies from a mobile truck that would cater events on weekends. Its success was largely dependent on the quality of the ingredients used – flour from North Dakota wheat, seasonal local produce and herbs – as well as the years of trial and error that went into perfecting the dough and technique. Today Blackbird is one of Fargo’s most popular restaurants, serving some truly outstanding pizza with creative toppings such as béchamel, housemade sausage, Granny Smith apple, and fresh sage; roasted chicken, housemade sweet chili and peanut sauces, fresh peppers, red onion, snap peas, and cilantro; and béchamel, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, maple syrup, and a sunny-side-up egg.
Ohio: Crust, Cleveland
Yelp/ Nishant S.
Crust, which has two Cleveland locations, may look like your standard slice joint, but it’s anything but. The care put into these pizzas starts with the dough, which is handmade every day and allowed to slowly ferment and rise, and everything is made from scratch daily. You can top your pizza with more than 30 toppings, but we suggest you order the Finocchiona specialty pie: fennel salami, red onion, red sauce, smoked mozzarella, pecorino, and rosemary.
Oklahoma: Empire Slice House, Oklahoma City
Yelp/ Burns T.
This super-hip pizza spot and beer garden is a fun time through and through; it’s always a party in here, and the pizzas are made with care and precision but are also so creative as to be ingenious. Look past the silly names like Notorious P.I.G. (bacon, pepperoni, sausage, capicola, and Canadian bacon) and The Midnight Cowboy (BBQ marinara, mozzarella, cheddar, feta, brisket, roasted poblano, red onion, and BBQ sriracha) and you’ll discover that these pies (several of which are available by the slice) are downright awesome. Make sure you try the Figgy Stardust, with basil pesto, fresh mozzarella, figs, chicken, and prosciutto.
Oregon: Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Portland
Photo by Mike C. via Yelp
Ken Forkish and chef Alan Maniscalco co-founded Ken’s Artisan Pizza in 2006 after the success of Monday Night Pizza at Ken’s Artisan Bakery. There’s been a cultish love for it in Portland ever since. There are gigantic Douglas Fir beams, sliding glass windows, and an open kitchen with a Le Panyol wood-fired oven, which guests can marvel at while digging in at tables made from salvaged wood from the late Jantzen Beach Big Dipper roller coaster — once they get inside, that is (there tends to be a wait).
The thin-crust pies, baked in about two minutes and inspired by the co-founders’ visits to Europe, are known for their tangy, orange-red sauce, featuring heat and savory notes, and a style that, as the name of the restaurant states, is more artisanal than Neapolitan.
Pennsylvania: Pizzeria Vetri, Philadelphia
Photo by Laura M. via Yelp
You can trace Pizzeria Vetri’s pedigree back to Osteria, chef Marc Vetri’s casual Italian restaurant that followed his 30-seat à la carte-turned-tasting menu Vetri. Osteria’s homemade pastas and wood-grilled fare quickly garnered local and national accolades, including a James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant in 2008 and a 2010 award for Chef Jeff Michaud (Best Chef Mid-Atlantic).
But its pizza! The Italian, thin-crust pies took on a success of their own, landing on GQ’s list of the 25 best pizzas in America. Baked egg with bitto cheese and cotechino, zucchini with stracciatella and lemon, octopus and smoked mozzarella — talk about a revelation. Thus it was in 2013 that the Vetri family bestowed upon Osteria lovers a new gift: Pizzeria Vetri.
Be sure to check off the tonno with Sicilian tuna and bursts of spicy peperoncino, but don’t leave Philadelphia without trying the Rotolo, a crispy pizza dough pinwheel stuffed with housemade mortadella and ricotta, crowned with pistachio pesto.
Rhode Island: Al Forno, Providence
Photo by Victoria K. via Yelp
On South Main Street in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island, Al Forno offers quintessential Italian dining 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.
George passed away a few years back, but chef David Reynoso carries on Al Forno’s tradition. It’s a style that celebrity chefs have been noting on TV for a while now, and that’s spawning its own offshoots. The restaurant bakes six pies in wood-burning ovens and on grills over hardwood charcoal fire. Their most notable grilled pizza? The Margarita [sic]. It’s served with fresh herbs, pomodoro, two cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil.
South Carolina: Monza Pizza, Charleston
Photo by Caroline N. via Yelp
The town of Monza houses a historic Italian speedway where every year since 1922, owners of the finest cars, from Alfa Romeo to Ferrari, take the curves of the 6.25-mile track. Monza in Charleston, S.C., feeds off the history of its namesake city to offer handcrafted pies.
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 degrees F, allowing for a thin and crispy crust, and are topped with mozzarella plus fresh and usually regional ingredients.
South Dakota: Thatzza Pizza, Aberdeen
Yelp/ James P.
This Aberdeen gem is turning out some truly fantastic slices, custom pies in four sizes, and creative pre-designed ones. Choose from a wide variety of toppings or take your pick from super-creative styles including Spaghetti Pie (spaghetti, sausage, tomato sauce, parmesan, and mozzarella); Hot Ham and Cheese (Canadian bacon, white cheddar, mozzarella); Chili (chili, onions, and jalapenos); Taco (chicken or ground beef, refried beans, hot sauce, olives, tomatoes, white Cheddar, mozzarella, and crushed tortilla chips); and even Pot Roast (shredded roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, red onions, and black pepper).
Tennessee: Hog & Hominy, Memphis
Hog and Hominy
Whether you call it “Italian dining with a Southern drawl” or “Italian cooking, Southern roots,” the fact is you’re going to have an amazing meal at Hog & Hominy. Menu options include a beef and Cheddar dog in a pretzel bun with yellow mustard; an order of sweetbreads with spicy peanut agrodolce; poutine with neckbone gravy; or an amazing burger (lunch only) topped with pickled lettuce, American cheese, onion, and mustard dedicated to one of the country’s best food writers. Now factor primetime pizza into the equation.
Their menu has expanded from nine to include 12 pies, which are tended to in a painstakingly monitored oven (built using bricks from the original building’s chimney) on the side of the restaurant. There’s the enticing Red Eye (pork belly, egg, Fontina, celery leaf, and sugo); Space Oddity (heirloom tomatoes, stracciatella, olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan; and All Up ‘Nduja (‘nduja, stracciatella, Kalamata olives, speck, and Parmesan). But the signature is the Prewitt, with fontina, tomato sauce, boudin, and scrambled eggs.
Texas: Home Slice Pizza, Austin
Photo by Joe R. via Yelp
What do you get when you combine a former food editor of the Austin Chronicle with a passion for pizza? One of the most heralded pizza spots in Texas. Jen Strickland must have had to forget everything she’d learned about the pitfalls and craziness of opening a restaurant during the decade she spent covering them for the Chronicle and Texas Monthly in order to take a leap of faith and try to open one with her husband Joseph Strickland and partner Terri Hannifin. Or maybe she just knew the New York City slices she ate while attending NYU would inspire her own pizzeria to greatness (there is a certain invincibility those slices can make you feel while eating one walking down the street Saturday Night Fever style). The end result at Home Slice Pizza has been a South Austin smash hit: New York-style Neapolitan thin-crust slices and pies (try the pepperoni and mushroom) that just might inspire a South Congress strut, Tony Manero-style.
Utah: Settebello, Salt Lake City
Yelp/ Lala P.
Settebello really goes above and beyond in its efforts to make pizzas that are as close as possible to what you’ll find in Naples. Flour, tomatoes, prosciutto, and Parmigiano-Reggiano are imported from Italy; pancetta and Finnochiona come from Seattle’s renowned Salumi; salame comes from Berkeley’s Fra’Mani; and pies cook in a 1,000-degree wood-burning oven (handmade in Naples) in less than a minute. The menu doesn’t get too crazy (no pot roast pizza here!) but that’s a good thing; keep it simple with a Margherita DOC or the popular pizza carbonara, with crushed tomatoes, pancetta, egg, mozzarella, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.
Vermont: Pizzeria Verita, Burlington
At Vermont’s best pizzeria, pizzas are made in the traditional Neapolitan style, cooked in a 900-degree Acunto oven. The owners of Verita, which has been in business for five years, have built relationships with some of Vermont’s finest local farmers and food producers, and the end result is a product that combines the best of Italy with the best of Vermont. Try the Margherita for simple perfection, try the Salsiccia e Rapini (with housemade sausage, tomato, fior di latte, broccoli rabe, Grana Padano, and fresh basil) to see how skilled the kitchen is, and try the Burrata (with local Maplebrook burrata, pecorino Romano, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil) to sample great local artisan cheese. And make sure you finish with a pizza alla Nutella!
Virginia: Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza, Arlington
Pupatella originated as a food truck in 2007 and went brick-and-mortar three years later. This two-room storefront with the sign out front that warns "Pizza Addicts Only" is the D.C. culmination of Enzo Algarme’s experience hanging around the some 200 or so pizzerias in Naples where he was born. Pupatella, a name borrowed from a late relative ("what everybody called my grandmother in Italy," he told The Washington Post), is run by Algarme and his life (and business) partner Anastasiya Laufenberg. Their oven’s bricks were built using volcanic ash from Vesuvius — hard to get more authentic than that outside Naples.
They offer red and white pies — mostly the former — with accoutrements such as ham and mushroom, prosciutto and arugula, chorizo, sausage and onion, eggplant and red pepper on top. But Pupatella’s most popular pie is the Capricciosa (featuring sautéed mushrooms, marinated artichokes, prosciutto cotto, and fresh mozzarella).
Washington, D.C.: 2Amys, Washington, D.C.
Photo by Jason S. via Yelp
Once upon a time, the District of Columbia was a pizza desert, a land where khaki-wearers bided their time until the fortunes tied to two-, four-, or six-year cycles became clear, resigning themselves to late-night calls to Domino’s and hoping Manny & Olga’s wouldn’t turn them off pizza for good. They suffered locals’ misplaced love for Ledo’s and watched with frustration as Adams Morgan’s jumbo slices edged increasingly close to the half-smoke as one of the city’s signature dishes. Thankfully, those days are over. Thanks, 2Amys.
2Amys’ membership in the D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) means its pizzaiolos adhere to the guidelines of what the Italian government deems a pizza should be. When you take a bite, you know you are getting a quintessential, traditional pie. Their menu is broken into D.O.C pizza offerings, stuffed pizzas, and more traditional but uncertified options, but panelists voted the namesake pie (tomato sauce and mozzarella).
Washington: Serious Pie, Seattle
You’d expect no less than pizza greatness from Seattle star chef and James Beard Award winner Tom Douglas, and at his three Serious Pie spots in Seattle (Virginia, Westlake, Pike) that’s exactly what you get. These are thin-crust, oblong pizzas about a foot long and imbued with serious soul (there are also huge corniciones).
Consider the pizza mission statement that greets you when visiting their website: “Serious Pie: a pizzeria with a bread baker's soul, serves up pies with blistered crusts, light textured but with just enough structure and bite. Our attentiveness to each pizza in the 600°F stone-encased Applewood-burning oven preserves the character of housemade charcuterie and artisan cheeses from around the world.”
The menu features seven pies with toppings like Yukon gold potato, soft-cooked free-range eggs, smoked prosciutto, truffle cheese, snap peas, StraCapra (a washed-rind semi-soft goat cheese), and clams, but you’ll want to try the sweet fennel sausage, roasted pepper, and provolone pie.
West Virginia: Lola’s, Charleston
Yelp/ Rich M.
This eclectic and adorable little restaurant is located inside an old house in the heart of quaint Charleston, and New England Culinary Institute-trained chef-owner Cary Charbonniez has cultivated a laid-back and welcoming environment while serving artisan pizzas from a stone hearth oven that are just about perfect. You can create your own pizza, but we suggest you sample some of chef Cary’s suggestions, which aren’t exactly traditional. The Steak & Cheese pie is topped with flank steak from Swift Level Farm, white Cheddar, red onions, jalapenos, and fresh garlic; Fig Jam & Rosemary is topped with fig jam, gorgonzola, fig jam, and fresh rosemary; and the Spicy Shrimp & Sausage has ground Italian sausage, shrimp, roasted tomatoes, and goat cheese. You can go half-and-half on large pizzas, and if you want to eat it at home they’ll even cook it halfway for you so you can finish it in your own oven. Did we mention that this place is low-key?
Wisconsin: Zaffiro’s Pizza, Milwaukee
Photo by Steve S. via Yelp
First-generation Italian-American Liborio "Bobby" Zaffiro opened Rock-a-Bye Tap, where he started serving thin-crust pizza with the help of his brother John, before they opened Zaffiro’s in 1956 to make a go of it full-time.
It all worked out beautifully for the Sicilian-blooded brothers until John's 1988 retirement. Bobby died the year after, at which point his wife and two sons took over. Zaffiro's has stayed in the family, and is now helmed by Bobby's son Michael Zaffiro.
However, the tradition of a thin-crust Milwaukee pie topped with about three to four times more cheese than crust lives on at this Wisconsin icon where, among the 11 classic pies on the menu, you’ll find two “E”-centric menu items with one difference between them: the E has everything (toppings-wise at least), and the EBF has everything but the delicious (yet divisive) anchovies. If you’re not an anchovy devotee, opt for the latter and appreciate one of Milwaukee’s pizza gifts to the nation. Or try one of their two new pies: the Italian Veggie Supreme and the Meat Lovers.
Wyoming: Bella Fuoco Wood Fired Pizza, Cheyenne
Yelp/ Renee J.
Bella Fuoco started as a food truck back in 2012, and last year owners John and Maria Kopper turned it into their dream restaurant in a historic Downtown Charleston house. Today, they’re making fresh dough daily and turning out some astounding pizzas and breads in their old-school wood-fired oven. Try the weekly rotating chef’s special, design your own from 26 toppings, or try one of theirs, like the Veggie Galore, a red or white pie topped with onions, peppers, zucchini, olives, spinach, and mozzarella; the topping options are pretty outrageous!
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