Pizza is arguably America’s most varied and beloved dish, one whose devotees are some of the most opinionated, and yet it remains one of the most accessible foods there is. Even the country’s most expensive and esteemed pizza temple is within reach of the average person’s budget. Every red-blooded American grew up with his or her preferred regional style of this national fascination, knowing it as the definitive best. Today, there’s better pizza, more knowledge about it, and interest in it everywhere. That accessibility and loyalty makes for some tremendously spirited debate.
Considering the passion pizza inspires, responsibly declaring America’s Best Pizza can be challenging. But The Daily Meal doesn't shy away from the challenge. For our third annual pizza ranking, we again sought the nation's best pies and slices, considering more places than ever in our quest for the best. We researched and added 275 more pizzas and recruited a group of 30 more experts to weigh in than for our 2013 list. Some 700 pizza spots were considered by 78 panelists, comprising The Daily Meal’s in-house pizza experts and city editors, American chefs, restaurant critics, bloggers, writers, and pizza authorities. We compiled the data, and although there could only be one winner, there is plenty of seriously good pizza being made across America, including in Atlanta.
4. Ammazza’s Margherita Pie
Instead of limiting themselves to Neapolitan- or New York-style pizzas, brothers Jason and Hugh Connerty decided that they were more interested in combining the characteristics they liked from each style to create a truly unique pizza experience at Ammazza in the Old Fourth Ward. That began with three-day-risen dough cooked in their 900-degree-F wood-fired oven, but also meant not limiting themselves or their menu to ingredients from a single region in Italy — Ammazza makes their own fresh mozzarella daily and uses meats cured and prepared by The Spotted Trotter in Kirkwood (and yes, count sprinkles for the kid’s pie among non-Italian region derived ingredients). Their Margherita scored the #81 spot in our compilations, but we’re confident that any of the other 14 pizzas on the menu from this true Atlanta favorite are sure to please your pizza palate.
3. Don Antonio by Starita’s Montanara Starita Pie
Bringing more than 50 traditional and contemporary-style Neapolitan pizza pies crafted with homemade mozzarella, renowned Neapolitan pizza chefs Roberto Caporuscio and Antonio Starita have joined forces at Don Antonio by Starita on the west side of Midtown in New York City, and now, in Atlanta as well. There, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas are made with homemade mozzarella and a lesser-known style, the Montanara Starita, is made using a combination and technique that was created by Starita more than 10 years ago and has started being emulated by other pizza makers: the pizza dough is flash-fried. That’s right, it’s fried, then topped with Starita’s signature tomato sauce and smoked buffalo mozzarella, then fired in the oven – and it snagged the #46 spot on our list of the 101 best pies.
2. Antico Pizza Napoletana’s Pepperoni Pizza
Antico Pizza Napoletana may only be open a few years, but that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to discussions about the best pizza in Atlanta. Giovanni Di Palma’s Antico is generally considered by most Atlantans as the city’s best pizza, and many of them would argue it’s among the top in the country. And it’s difficult to argue, as their classic pepperoni with a thick puffy crust and cheesy center might just be one of the best pizzas you’ve ever tasted. It just beat out competitor Don Antonio by Starita for a higher standing, and came in at #45.
1. Varasano’s Nana’s Pie
What is it with these computer guys turned pizzaiolos? Like Paulie Gee, who has characterized himself as having “masqueraded as a computer geek,” Bronx-born software engineer Jeff Varasano found a passion for pizza that led him down a saucy, bubbly road to pizza stardom. The beneficiary has been Atlanta, where Varasano has made a well-documented six-year stab at recreating his version of the Patsy’s pizza, which has credited with changing his life. The fact that the pizza isn’t quite Patsy’s-esque isn’t a bad thing. There’s a much taller cornicione, one featuring a shard-thin exterior that gives way to pliant air pockets and a soft underlying crust, which means more textural variation with each bite. Varasano's serves eight specialty pizzas, and two traditional pies: the Margherita di Bufala, or "Nana's," which is the house special: mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce with a “secret blend of herbs” and the suggested sweet roasted red peppers. It topped all the local competition and was the highest-scoring Atlanta-born pizza in compilation, coming in at #25.