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 Philadelphia.
3. The Original Tacconelli's Pizzeria’s White Pizza
"Please keep in mind we are a one-man, one-oven operation," notes The Original Tacconelli’s website. "Waiting time may vary." Indeed, this is Philadelphia’s pizzeria célèbre, so expect a wait to match. Especially if you haven’t reserved your dough, in which case you may be waiting until the next day (Tacconelli’s advises that the best time to call is between Wednesday and Sunday after 10 a.m.). It may not always have been this complicated to get a Tacconelli’s pie (you have to assume times were simpler back in 1946 when it started serving pizza), but most who have had it will tell you it’s worth the effort.
There are four pies listed on the menu: Tomato (no cheese), Regular (a little cheese and sauce), White (salt, pepper, cheese, and garlic), and the Margerita (fresh basil and mozzarella). These are wide crusts, liberally sauced and topped, and not uniformly presented. You can choose from a list of toppings to customize your pies (spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage, sweet peppers, anchovies, onions, prosciutto, basil, and extra cheese), just keep in mind that there’s a three-topping max on each pie, and that some have noted that the owner sometimes prefers to limit it to two. The pie to order, however–which came in at #82 on our list—is the "Signature," which may not be listed: white pizza with spinach and chunks of tomato and garlic.
2. Pizza Brain’s Forbes Waggensense
“Increase the piece!” It’s the world’s first pizza museum, for heaven’s sake, and those in the know, know that when you’re craving great pizza, just head to the nineteenth-century brick building in the Kensington neighborhood to eat thin-crusted pizza cooked in the double-deck gas-fired oven at the cash-only joint Kickstarted by Ryan Anderson, Joseph Hunter, Brian Dwyer, and Michael Carter. As you wait for the crew to cook your pie, you can bask in Pizza Brain's unique ambience, check out their pizza memorabilia museum (featuring what the Guinness Book of World Records called the largest collection of pizza memorabilia in the world), or rummage through their pizza tattoo book for a few laughs. Pizza Brain’s "Jane" is their version of a Margherita, a cheesy trifecta of mozzarella, aged provolone, and grana padano blended with basil, and that’s a good place to begin, but the pizza that snagged the #80 spot on our compilation is the Forbes Waggensense: mozzarella, fontina, grana padano, basil, smoked pepperoni, and tomato sauce.
1. Osteria’s Parma
Nominated for the Best New Restaurant award by the James Beard Foundation in 2008 and home to James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Mid-Atlantic 2010, Osteria has some super credentials, and quite a bit of hype to live up to. Marc Vetri, Jeff Michaud, and Jeff Benjamin conceived the idea while on a trip in Tuscany, and you have to be glad they followed through. The pizza at Osteria is very traditional (and you’ll want to order a Margherita as your baseline), with a gourmet twist, offering pies like the Polpo, comprising octopus, tomato, red chile flakes, and smoked mozzarella; or the Lombarda, with baked egg, Bitto cheese, mozzarella, and cotechino sausage for a creamy and mild flavor. It’s hard to go wrong with their menu, but the pizza that scored #68 in our ranking is the Parma: Mozzarella, Fontina, arugula, and prosciutto di Parma. Osteria’s success and acclaim recently spawned Pizzeria Vetri, a 30-seat restaurant in Philadelphia's art museum district, the first of the Vetri family restaurants dedicated exclusively to the art of authentic, Italian pizza-making.