While imitation is the goal of many Neapolitan purists, who import their 00 flour and San Marzano tomatoes for Italian authenticity, the best pizza in America also spans regional styles like deep-dish Chicago pizza, Detroit’s square slices and New Haven’s coal-fired pies. We rank the country’s finest purveyors, from classic cheap pizza joints to gourmet eateries. So, for the best pizza in America, follow your nose to the pizzerias below. Follow Time Out USA on Facebook; sign up for the Time Out USA newsletter
America’s best pizza joints
At Di Fara, dough is made fresh several times a day and the Neapolitan pies—cracker-thin crust with a pleasing char and a subtle Parmesan zing—are painstakingly crafted. The signature pie is an exquisite blend of bright plum-tomato sauce, puddles of rich buffalo mozzarella, zesty sausage, peppers and onions, all topped with drizzled olive oil from a copper pot and snipped basil leaves. Watching living legend Domenico DeMarco concoct it is damn near theatrical—if a bit on the long side. The hike for many of us to this no-frills Midwood spot will take a while. But trust us—one bite is worth the wait.
Pizza lovers on a New Haven, Connecticut, pilgrimage might find it tough to decipher which Frank Pepe is truly the original. Lines form for the main location at 157 Wooster Street (the “new” Pepe's, since 1937), but less so for the Spot, just down the block at No. 163 and only open Fridays through Sundays—though the latter is the first location, in business since 1925. Don’t fret: Both use a coal-fired oven with a healthy patina of char, and both turn out excellent thin-crust pizzas that are unabashedly blackened and usually too big for whatever table you've managed to score. Pepe’s is justifiably famous for its bright-tasting original tomato pie and the white clam pizza with a generous helping of quahog clam meat—either one will haunt your future pizza fantasies.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Ed Schipul
Who would’ve suspected that a pioneer of the artisan pizza movement would come out of Phoenix? Yet that’s exactly what Pizzeria Bianco’s Chris Bianco became when he opened his first location in the back of a grocery store in 1988. Bianco went on to win a James Beard award in 2003, which is no surprise to anyone who’s tasted his yeasty, charred pies (the Wiseguy, with roasted onions, house-smoked mozzarella and fennel sausage is a favorite). He’s since expanded beyond Heritage Square to the Shops at Town & Country and downtown Tucson. Also in the Bianco portfolio is Pane Bianco, where brother Marco (who makes the pizza dough) turns out wood-fired bread and other Italian specialties.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/hedrives
Yes, Pizzeria Beddia has its frustrations: The two-year-old Fishtown spot is only open from 5:30 to 10:30pm Wednesdays through Saturdays and only makes 40 pizzas per night. There’s no phone, bathroom or seating, and orders are capped at two pies per party—cash only. But those willing to deal with these caveats and line up as early as 3:45pm—maybe earlier now that Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton has awarded the joint the title of “best pizza in America”—are rewarded. Joe Beddia’s pies are audibly crisp on the bottom and soft on top, fired in a 600-degree gas oven for 10 minutes. The final touch—based on a technique he learned from pizza master Dom DeMarco in Brooklyn—is generous shavings of aged Old Gold cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.Photograph: Ben Stango
Husband-and-wife team Brian Spangler and Kim Nyland originally ran a bakery in Scholls, Oregon, making pizzas for family and friends on their days off. In 2005, they opened Apizza Scholls on SE Hawthorne; the couple chose the name after connoisseurs compared their blistered-outside, soft-inside crust to those made in New Haven’s many “Apizza”-monikered parlors. To some pizza snobs’ surprise, these results are achieved in an electric oven. Though the restaurant started serving weekend lunch last year and now takes limited reservations, waits can drag on. But the 38-inch pies (11 inches at lunchtime), topped with local ingredients like Olympia Provisions salumi, Jacobsen sea salt and house-cured bacon, are worth it.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/midnightzulu
Though Flour + Water’s menu has expanded, pasta and pizza are still the stars of the show. The kitchen staff slaves over every ingredient, cultivating and coddling textures and flavors until they meet the restaurant’s exacting standards. Pizzas emerge from the 900-degree Italian wood-fired oven after exactly two minutes and arrive exquisitely thin with perfectly charred and blistered crusts, topped with delicacies like fior di latte, squash blossoms, house-made pork sausage and Calabrian chili.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/lesleyk
With exposed brick and plasma-screen TVs, Pequod’s is firmly a neighborhood bar. But Pequod’s is a bar that serves some of the best pizza in the city. The signature pan pizza is ringed with caramelized cheese, and slices are massive—one piece makes a meal. Add veggies to lighten it up a bit, or go all in with the sausage pie, dotted with perfectly spiced, Ping-Pong ball–size pieces of seasoned ground pork.
Opened in 2008 in the no-man’s-land of Bushwick, ramshackle pizzeria Roberta’s debuted without gas or a liquor license, just an oven and two hot plates, drawing post-shift chefs and hipsters for creative pies such as the Bee Sting, a salty-sweet blend of oven-crisped sopressata, crushed tomatoes, punchy chili and a few sticky swirls of honey that masterfully cut the spice of the salami. A DIY ethos pervades the spot, with plates incorporating pickings from the backyard garden and a food-centric radio station. But the menu evokes a focused simplicity, even as it evolved to encompass locally cured meats, thoughtful salads and handmade pastas.
Tom Douglas’s yeasty, airy crust, blistered in an apple-wood–fueled oven, proves once again that bakers make the best pizzaioli. Combine that with thoughtful toppings like house-roasted vegetables, top-quality charcuterie or local clams, all finished liberally with olive oil, and you have some seriously craveable pizzas. Serious Pie is now available at three locations: the original on Virginia Street, a second in the South Lake Union neighborhood and the newest, inside the gigantic new Starbucks roastery on Capitol Hill. Since these pies don’t leave you stuffed, you’ll have room to enjoy the excellent veggie starters, artful desserts and superb drink list, too.
Not many great American pizzerias feature pies topped with soy-glazed Niman Ranch short ribs or kimchi and Korean sausage. Pizzeria Lola, opened in 2010 by Korean transplant Ann Kim, may be iconoclastic in some ways—including the cheeky decor, featuring a wall of exposures from the in-house photo booth—but Kim knows when to keep things classic. The New York–style crust, fired in a hulking copper wood-fired oven at the dining room’s center, is chewy and char-free, and most pie toppings stay within the Mediterranean wheelhouse. Kim also has a slice joint, Hello Pizza, in Edina, and a third pizzeria is planned for later this year.
Century-old East Boston legend Santarpio’s serves the best crisp-based cheese pizza in town with a side of nonpareil people-watching. Knock it off with the schmancy craft beers and order a Bud Light already: the atmosphere demands it, and besides, you get carded no matter what. Just remember to hit the ATM beforehand, since the place is cash only.
Pizza nerds can tell you that Detroit has a style all its own, and it started in 1946 at Buddy’s. Though the square slices are Sicilian-inspired, the industrial-weight steel pan that creates the well-done, almost fried-on-the-bottom crust sets them apart; rumor has it Buddy’s founder Gus Guerra acquired his first pans from a factory-worker pal. Buddy’s has since passed through several owners and become a local chain, but the original on Conant Street is still credited with serving the best Motor City–style pies, layered with toppings, cheese and then tomato sauce—a recipe that's been pleasing diners for 69 years.
Giovanni di Palma set the standard for Neapolitan pies in Atlanta when he opened Antico Pizza Napoletana in 2009. Patrons still queue down the block to order at the counter and squeeze into communal seating at this cramped joint, a testament to its fine pies, which are tangy, chewy and charred from their two minutes in the wood-fired oven. The brief menu offers six simply topped options, from a marinara variation with anchovies to capricciosa (mushrooms, artichokes, prosciutto cotto and Mozzarella di Bufala). Di Palma has been carrying on a one-man campaign to create Atlanta’s own Piazza San Gennaro (a sort of Little Italy in Westside) by following up Antico with a chicken restaurant, gelateria, Italian grocer and a bar; a second Antico opened in the suburb of Alpharetta earlier this year.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Robert Occhialini
Tops among Chicago’s thin-crust pizza joints is Coalfire, a little spot in West Town that turns out blistered pies with a chewy, slightly crisp edge from its 800-degree coal oven. While the crust is a work of art itself, toppings are inspired: Among the standouts are a pizza with soft, whipped peaks of ricotta that balance coins of spicy pepperoni; one with thin slices of fiery nduja, a spreadable Calabrian salami, and fresh mozzarella; and a garlicky white pie. The restaurant fills up fast, but there’s takeout and a second, larger location coming soon to Lakeview.
The Napoli-made wood-fired oven cooks Settebello’s pizzas in less than a minute. San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, flour and more are also imported from the motherland, for the truest charred-crust, floppy-in-the-middle Neapolitan facsimile in Vegas. Bright flavor combinations include the Filetto (buffalo mozz, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil) and the Carbonara (crushed tomatoes, mozzarella, egg, pancetta, cracked pepper and extra-virgin olive oil). Settebello’s original location in Henderson used to draw diners from all over the valley; since opening in 2005, the restaurant has expanded to Village Square in Vegas proper and several locations in California and Utah.
A pioneer of the Wynwood Arts District culinary scene, Joey’s is a chic Italian restaurant with an appealing outdoor patio and a menu of fresh, light-bodied Italian fare. But it’s the cracker-crisp, thin-crust pizza, inspired by chef Ivo Mazzon’s native Veneto region that keeps diners (including Jay Z and Beyoncé) coming back. The inventive lineup includes the Dolce e Piccante (fig, gorgonzola, honey and hot peppers) and the Gamberetti (mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, shrimp, garlic, spicy peppers and grana padano). There’s live music every Thursday evening to accompany your gorging.
Any Albuquerque restaurant worth a line out the door has to offer green chilies, and Farina is no exception—the spicy local obsession is available as an optional add-on to any of the restaurant’s pizzas. They’re particularly welcome on the Salsiccia, with tomato sauce, sweet fennel sausage, roasted onion, mozzarella and provolone or the Formaggio di Capra, with goat cheese, pancetta, leeks and scallions. The owners trained with Brian Spangler of Apizza Scholls in Portland before opening in 2008; their thin-crust pies get their signature char from a two-minute stint in an 800-degree oven.
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