Photo courtesy Little Caesars
When you’re in the mood for pizza, what’s your go-to? Is it a local hole-in-the-wall slice shop? An old-school Italian joint? A frozen pizza you pop in the oven? Or do you head to a nearby chain? If you’re like many Americans, a chain is your best and most dependable option, and we’ve rounded up the top 35.
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom/ Yelp
In January, we opened a poll asking you to vote for your favorite American pizza chains. The 100 top-selling chains in the U.S. were considered, from the largest international behemoths to far smaller regional ones. Hundreds of voters chimed in, and while the race was tight, one chain rose to the top of the heap.
We asked our voters to take the entire pizza-going experience into consideration when voting for their favorites, taking into account convenience, menu diversity, the care put into making each pizza, the freshness and quality of ingredients, the atmosphere, as well as the flavor and texture of the pizza. Note that we’re not exactly identifying these chains as America’s best. Because this was a simple tally, it’s a ranking of America’s favorites — the chains that you, the readers of The Daily Meal, are most likely to turn to.
Pizza Inn was founded by two brothers in 1958 near Southern Methodist University’s Dallas campus. Today there are more than 150 locations, mostly in the South. A buffet-style approach allows guests to sample a wide array of pizzas, including the chain's crackery trademark original thin crust in varieties like chicken bacon ranch, bacon cheeseburger, taco, loaded baked potato and sweet “Pizzert” dessert pies.
Founded in South Florida by Anthony Bruno in 2002 and today with more than 60 locations nationwide, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza is best known for — as its name might imply — cooking its pizzas and other menu items like wings and ribs in an 800-degree coal oven. There’s a focus here on fresh ingredients and authentic Italian recipes, and other menu specialties include a pot of 13 meatballs made according to Bruno’s grandmother’s recipe, broccoli rabe with Italian sausage and a coal-oven roast beef sandwich.
Brixx Wood-Fired Pizza/ Yelp
The first location of Brixx Wood Fired Pizza opened in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1998, and today there are nearly 30 locations, primarily in the Southeast. Pizzas and fresh focaccia are cooked in a brick oven. Signature pies are all 11 inches and include the Bronx Bomber (spicy Italian sausage, prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and Gorgonzola), Sausage & Spicy Honey (spicy sausage, four cheeses, tomato sauce and Sriracha honey) and Pear & Gorgonzola (sliced pears, mozzarella, Gorgonzola, walnuts and caramelized onions). There are also wings, sandwiches, pastas, creative desserts like the s’mores pizza and a wide variety of wine and beer on offer.
Founded as The Pizza Parlor by Tulsa, Oklahoma, school teacherKen Selby in 1961 and officially rechristened Mazzio’s Italian Eatery in 1979, Mazzio's now has locations throughout the South and Midwest, primarily Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi. The chain specializes in pizzas with three crust styles — thin, original and deep pan — and six sauces — traditional red, spicy red, sweet red, alfredo, barbecue and garlic basil olive oil. Cauliflower, gluten-free and stuffed-crust pizzas are available, and giant “Calzone Rings,” toasted hoagies, wings and pasta dishes round out the menu.
Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant/Yelp
Bertucci’s, founded in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1981, utilizes a brick oven at each of its 58 East Coast locations (the vast majority are in Massachusetts). You can craft your own pizza or try one of its creative specialty pizzas, like the one topped with roasted chicken, broccoli, mozzarella and lemon pepper cream sauce. Calzones and a whole slew of starters, salads, classic Italian entrees and pasta dishes are also available.
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom/ Yelp
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom, named after a classic pinball game, was founded in 1976 in Boulder, Colorado, by a group of friends. The company prides itself on using fresh, high-quality ingredients and pouring a variety of creative draft beers. Today, the chain has locations across the country and serves beer-friendly starters like Buffalo chicken rolls, as well as pastas, burgers and sandwiches along with a host of pizzas that are served on either a thick or thin crust.
Pieology Pizzeria/ Yelp
Founded in 2011 as a build-your-own pizza concept, Pieology can be thought of as the Chipotle of pizza. Six different crusts are available, and as guests go down the line, they can choose from seven sauces, six cheeses, 10 meats and 14 vegetables. After the pizzas are finished baking, guests can top them with sauces including Buffalo, pesto and barbecue. Six signature pizzas are offered, as well as options of gluten-free crusts and vegan meat and cheese. There are locations in 19 states as well as Guam, but the vast majority are in California.
Chuck E. Cheese/Yelp
There’s a lot going on at Chuck E.Cheese: arcade games, slides, climbing equipment, animatronic characters (which are in the process of being phased out), prizes and, oh yeah, the pizza. While for most, the pizza is a way to refuel after redeeming your tickets, the company has put a lot of work into improving its product in the past several years. Specialty pies include barbecue chicken and Cali Alfredo with chicken, sausage, mushrooms, spinach and Alfredo sauce, and all pizzas are available gluten free. Other menu options include wings, a 30-item salad bar, cheesy bread, chicken nuggets and subs.
Jim Lemaster founded Giovanni’s Pizza in Wheelersburg, Ohio, in 1964, and today there are 110 locations in Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The menu changes slightly from franchise to franchise, but most locations of Giovanni’s offer a full Italian buffet, as well as cheese breadsticks, salads, hot sandwiches, calzones and Italian dishes including lasagna and baked spaghetti. Pizzas are available in three sizes with toppings including pepperoni, bacon, hamburger and the rest of the classics.
The first location of Rosati’s Pizza opened in a Chicago suburb in 1964 and it’s still family-owned today. Rosati’s signature blend of multiple cheeses is piled on top of dough made fresh daily into one of four crust options: thin crust, double dough, deep dish and stuffed. Go big and order the Rosati’s Monster, topped with sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, bacon, mushroom, onion, green peppers and olives. Plenty of Italian restaurant classics are also available, as well as ribs and fried chicken.
Mountain Mike’s Pizza/Yelp
Mountain Mike’s was founded in 1978 in Palo Alto, California, and has since grown to more than 200 locations in California, Nevada, Oregon and Utah. It prides itself as “the home of the legendary crispy, curly pepperoni” that’s one of the biggest restaurant trends these days. Vegetarians will also find plenty to love with Mt. Veggiemore, which is topped with mushrooms, black olives, bell peppers, artichoke hearts and sliced fresh tomatoes. Wings, sandwiches and a cinnamon sugar-topped dessert pizza round out the menu.
Russo’s New York Pizzeria/Yelp
After spending his formative years in his Italian-born parents’ Texas restaurant, Anthony Russo went on to found Russo’s New York Pizzeria in 1992. Today, there are more than 50 locations, most of which are in the Houston area. The chain serves a huge menu of Italian specialties. New York-style pies are available with six sauces (including Alfredo, fig spread and homemade pesto), four cheeses, 19 vegetables (including portobello mushrooms and artichoke hearts), and 10 meats (including pancetta, Italian beef and Canadian bacon). The red sauce is based on a 100-year-old family recipe.
Godfather’s Pizza is a mob-themed chain that was founded in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1973. It has since become a Midwest staple. The menu features four crust varieties — original, golden, thin and mozzarella-stuffed — and there’s a wide variety of toppings and specialty pies (try the Baja Taco, with beef, black beans, red onions, green peppers, corn, taco sauce, cheddar and mozzarella). Godfather’s also offers gluten-free pizzas as well as a 52-slice “Ultimate Party Pizza” that can feed 15 people. Monkey bread is available for dessert.
The first Grimaldi’s Pizzeria opened in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood in 1990, and even though crowds line up to get in on a daily basis, it’s one of those restaurants worth waiting in line for. Folks across the country can now sample its coal-fired brick oven pizzas at any of the 40-plus locations spread throughout 11 states. You can build your own pies with a variety of toppings including spicy chicken sausage, prosciutto, baby spinach, fresh tomatoes and pesto, or go for one of the signature pies. Options include one topped with sausage and wine-braised onions, and another with artichokes, red onions, ricotta and basil pesto. First-timers might want to stick with a classic Margherita, a fusion of crisp and chewy crust, mozzarella, basil and marinara.
Hungry Howie’s Pizza was founded in Michigan in 1973 and prides itself on being the home of “the original flavored crust pizza,” a creative twist that might have had a hand in it expanding to more than 550 locations in 22 states. Those crust flavors include butter cheese, Cajun, garlic herb, sesame, ranch and onion. Gluten-free pizzas are also available, as well as oven-baked subs, salads and “Howie Bread” topped with the seasoning of your choice then filled with cheese or meat.
Papa Murphy’s takes a novel approach to pizza: “Take ‘N’ Bake.” Choose a pizza and it will be prepared — but it won’t be cooked. You take the pie home and pop it in your oven to bake when you’re ready to eat it. All the classic pizza options are available (including a stuffed pie, a gluten-free crust and keto-friendly “crustless pizzas”), and there are also desserts you can bake at home, like a “cinnamon wheel” and chocolate chip cookie dough.
The claim to fame at Chicago-based Nancy’s Pizzeria, which has nearly 30 locations with most centered around the Windy City, is the “stuffed” pizza introduced by founders Nancy and Rocco Palese in 1971. Based on a family recipe for an Easter specialty called scarciedda, these pizzas differ from traditional deep dish in that they’re constructed by stuffing cheese and toppings between two layers of crust, then topping the whole thing with sauce. Traditional thin-crust pies are also available, along with sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, wings and appetizers. Try the Chicago Beef pizza, a spin on Chicago’s beloved Italian beef sandwich, one of thoseAmerican foods you absolutely need to try.
Donatos Pizza was founded by Jim Grote in 1963, and today the Ohio-based chain is famous for its thin-crust pies loaded with “edge-to-edge” toppings. Specialty pizzas include the Serious Meat with pepperoni, sausage, ham, ground beef and bacon; and the Hot Chicken topped with crispy hot chicken, pepper jack, jalapenos, pickles and ranch (yes pickles on a pizza). Baked subs, calzones, salads and wings are also available, as are lower-carb cauliflower-based crusts.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is a Chicago deep-dish institution, with 56 Chicagoland locations, three in Arizona and one in Wisconsin. Malnati’s was founded in 1971, and its buttery crust recipe has been passed down to Lou Malnati’s sons Marc and Rick, who run the business today. The mozzarella comes from the same Wisconsin dairy that’s supplied the cheese for more than 40 years, the sausage blend is made according to a family recipe and every pizza is handmade from scratch. This is seriously one of those must-visit restaurants.
Round Table Pizza/Yelp
Round Table Pizza was founded by Bill Larson in 1959 in Menlo Park, California, and today there are more than 440 locations. Many of Larson’s recipes are still in use. The chain is known for applying piles of toppings all the way to the edge of the pie, as well as for its wide selection of innovative combinations, like the King Arthur’s Supreme, with pepperoni, Italian sausage, salami, linguiça, mushrooms, green peppers, yellow onions, black olives and red sauce.
Jet’s Pizza was founded by brothers Eugene and John Jetts in Sterling Heights, Michigan, in 1978, and today there are more than 400 locations in 20 states. It’s best-known for its signature Detroit-style square pizza, but round pies, thin-crust, New York-style, cauliflower and gluten-free pies are available as well. Go for the Jet 10, topped with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, hamburger, Italian sausage, bacon and black olives, or the trademarked 8 Corner Pizza, every slice of which has a corner. No matter what you order from Jet's, be sure to dip your pizza in ranch. Their dressing is some of the best.
Formerly Pizzeria Uno, Uno Pizzeria & Grill has gone down in Chicago culinary lore. It was founded in 1943 by Ike Sewell, who essentially invented the Chicago-style pie, with a buttery crust piled high with cheese, sauce and toppings, and today there are 100 locations in 20 states and the original remains one of the best pizzerias in the country. Along with deep-dish, Uno also serves appetizers, steaks, sandwiches, burgers, seafood and Chicago-style thin-crust pizza.
Sbarro got its start in Brooklyn in 1956 when the Sbarro family opened an Italian market. Eleven years later, the first modern-style Sbarro was launched in the borough’s Kings Plaza Shopping center, with an emphasis on the pizza. The company freshened up its image in the mid-2010s, and today it’s still serving big slices of New York-style pizza as well as Roman-style pizzas, stromboli, pasta and salads.
Shakey’s Pizza Parlor/Yelp
Founded in Sacramento, California, in 1954, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor has hundreds of locations in California and Washington State as well as six in Mexico today. There’s an emphasis on fun as well as pizza and beer, and all locations have a game room for kids. Go for the Shakey’s Special, with salami, pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, mushrooms and black olives. And don’t forget to get some of the sliced, battered and fried Mojo Potatoes.
There are nearly 400 locations of Cici’s, the majority of which are in Texas, and it’s best known for its pizza buffet, which boasts nearly 30 varieties of fresh-baked pizza as well as pastas, soups, salads and desserts. The fan-favorite pie here is the Mac & Cheese Pizza, which is brushed with garlic butter and topped with kid-friendly mac and cheese. Wings are also on offer, but they’re not included in the buffet. The first location opened in Plano, Texas, in 1985.
Blaze Pizza was founded in 2011 by Rick and Elise Wetzel (of Wetzel’s Pretzels fame), and has become popular for its pizzas cooked in a 900-degree oven in three minutes flat. Pizzas are available with four doughs (classic, vegan and gluten free, cauliflower and high-rise), four sauces, eight cheeses (including one vegan option), eight meats and 18 vegetables, and you can finish your pie off with a drizzle of ranch, pesto, barbecue sauce or Buffalo sauce, among other options.
The recipe for Giordano’s famous stuffed pizza dates back nearly 200 years to a double-crusted Italian Easter pie served every year in Turin, Italy, similar to the one that inspired the signature pie at No. 19 Nancy's. In 1974, Italian immigrants Efren and Joseph Boglio opened the first location of Giordano’s in Chicago, and its massive deep-dish pies, loaded with stretchy cheese and fillings including meatballs, pesto chicken, garlic broccoli, bacon and sausage are a Chicago must-eat. Thin-crust pies, sandwiches and pasta dishes are available as well.
California Pizza Kitchen at Westwood/Yelp
California Pizza Kitchen was founded in 1985 in Beverly Hills by attorneys Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax. The casual dining chain is renowned for its innovative pizzas, including its famed barbecue chicken pizza. Visionary chef Ed LaDou brought the idea for gourmet pizza toppings — as opposed to the standard pepperoni and sausage — over from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, where the groundbreaking pizza topped with smoked salmon remains one of America’s most iconic dishes. The menu is loaded with gourmet pizza offerings like Thai Chicken, Carne Asada and California Club, as well as thin-crust, gluten-free and “take-and-bake” offerings. If you’re not in the mood for pizza, there are plenty of soups, power bowls, salads, pastas end even entrees like a 12-ounce rib-eye and cedar plank salmon.
Founded in 2008 by the husband-and-wife duo of Scott and Ally Svenson, Seattle-based MOD Pizza stands out in a few major ways: Pies are made assembly-line style, more than 30 toppings are available (including pesto, house-roasted red peppers, fresh rosemary, spicy or mild Italian sausage and fig balsamic glaze) and all pies — no matter how many toppings — cost just one price. Ten specialty pizzas are also available, including the Mad Dog (mozzarella, pepperoni, mild sausage, ground beef and red sauce), Dominic (white sauce, Asiago, basil, red onion, sliced tomatoes and mild sausage), and Calexico (mozzarella, Gorgonzola, chicken, jalapenos, hot Buffalo sauce and red sauce). This is one of those chains that should really go national.
Founded by native Italian Pat Giammarco just outside of Toledo, Ohio, in 1978, Marco’s Pizza boasts more than 900 locations across 35 states and four countries. The sauce recipe was created by Giammarco himself, the dough is made with premium flour and pies are topped with a combination of three cheeses. Build your own pie or choose from one of the specialty pizzas, and don’t leave without getting some CheezyBread and CinnaSquares.
Mellow Mushroom was founded in Atlanta in 1974, and the majority of its locations are in the Southeast. There’s a big emphasis on the cocktails and craft beer, and there are some super-creative pizzas on the menu, like the Great White (olive oil and garlic base, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, feta, ricotta, basil, mozzarella, tomatoes and onions); Funky Q. Chicken (barbecue chicken, mozzarella, cheddar, caramelized onions, bacon and barbecue sauce) and the House Special (red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, ham, bacon, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, green peppers and onions). Be sure to start with some pretzel bites served with beer cheese dip.
Photo courtesy Papa John's
“Papa” John Schnatter opened the first Papa John’s in 1984, and even though the brand has seen drama in the past few years that culminated in Schnatter’s exit from the company in 2017, it remains one of the nation’s most recognizable brands. There are locations in every state except for Vermont. Innovations like Extra Cheesy Alfredo Pizza with a parmesan crust and Hot Honey Chicken and Waffles Pizzas have attracted an enthusiastic fan base, and the cheese sticks and dipping sauces alone are crave-worthy.
Photo Courtesy Little Caesars
Little Caesars was founded in 1959 in the Detroit suburbs by the husband-and-wife duo of Mike and Marian Ilitch, and it’s perhaps best known for its mascot’s catchphrase, “Pizza Pizza!” Today it’s the third-largest pizza chain in the world with locations in more than 25 countries, selling round and deep-dish pizzas as well as wings, Italian cheese bread and Crazy Bread. Its popular Hot-N-Ready offer guarantees a hot pizza for just $5, and it’s been known to experiment with things like lasagna pizza and a Fritos pizza.
Brothers Dan and Frank Carney opened the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, Kansas, in 1958 with $600 borrowed from their mother. It took off, and soon the trademark red roof, which has since been retired, sprouted up all across the country. Pizza Hut offers four crusts (original pan, hand-tossed, thin ‘n crispy and stuffed crust), four sauces, three crust flavors (including garlic butter and toasted parmesan), eight meats and nine vegetables. Never afraid to experiment with new products like the P’Zone, other creative offerings included giant cheese-stuffed Cheez-Its and a pizza with stuffed garlic knots around the crust.
Photo courtesy Domino’s
Founded by brothers Tom and James Monaghan in 1960 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Domino’s today has more than 6,500 stores in the U.S and serves 3 million pizzas a day. Five crusts, nine sauces (including blue cheese and mango habanero), eight meats, seven cheeses and 10 vegetables are available, as well as specialty pies like the ExtravaganZZa, Philly Cheese Steak and Wisconsin 6 Cheese. Also on offer is Specialty Chicken (essentially fried chicken chunks with pizza-style toppings), wings, hot sandwiches, pastas and desserts including a chocolate lava crunch cake. And as our top vote-getter, it’s clear that many consider Domino’s to be up there with the very best pizzas in America.
More from The Daily Meal: