When John Hall moved back to his hometown of Birmingham, he brought with him experience on the line at Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern, Per Se, and Momofuku, and, most importantly, the cred of operating an illegal pizza pop-up out of his NYC apartment. With two handmade brick ovens, crusts that took six months to perfect, and a bevy of house-made toppings, like sausage -- plus a brewery next door supplying the booze, Hall’s spot is revolutionizing pizza in Bama’s largest city.
Stunt pizzas can be a red flag, and Moose’s Tooth has them in spades. And shrimp. And salmon. And bratwurst. But here’s the thing: the stunts are as good as the mainstays, served up on a choice of thick or thin crust (get thick: it’s cold outside) and paired up with house-made beer and sarsaparilla. The pies would make even Bill Seward’s harshest critics reconsider the wealth of the Alaska Purchase.
This wasn’t even close. Chris Bianco’s legendary place, which arguably started the artisanal pizza trend, is the best pizza in AZ by several miles and has been for 25 years.
Little Rock, Conway
A traditional American pizzeria this place is not: ZAZA specializes in Neapolitan stylings, and has some surprising toppings on their crispy wood-fired pies. They only use the finest Italian ingredients (like San Marzano tomatoes and doppio zero flour) to make specialty pizzas like the 3 Little Pigs with bacon, ham, and pepperoni. Also Italian and delicious: their gelato.
California is tough. Not so much in the Southern part of the state, where Mozza reigns supreme, but in the SF area, there are a lot of contenders. So with respect to Una Pizza, Ragazza, Tony’s, and Delfina, we’re going with Pizzaiolo in Oakland. For nearly 10 years, Charlie Hallowell’s East Bay joint has consistently put out fantastic Neapolitan/NorCal-style pizzas. Many have come close, and the argument could be made that some places have individual pies that are better, but no one has mastered that unique California style at such a high level for as long.
One of Denver's premiere restaurateurs opened up this pizza place, and it's a passion project. Mozzarella is made in-house, and pizzas don't conform to any particular style -- it's all his own.
We’ve pretty extensively explored Connecticut’s pizza scene in the past, and it is unequivocally one of the best in the country. The best and most hotly debated places are located in New Haven, where warring coal-fired spots have duked it out for generations. But while Sally’s is one of the premier pizzerias in the country, we still have to give the title to the OG New Haven apizza-slinger: Pepe’s. Their white clam pie, served without tomato sauce, is a national treasure, simple as that.
The legend started in 1960, when Dominick Pulieri and his brother-in-law and sister came to Delaware to open a pizzeria. And despite the fact that people in Delaware in the '60s were like “wait, what’s pizza again?”, they’ve prospered and expanded, thanks to their now-signature swirl of sauce above the cheese. Some fancier folk may oppose this choice, as it is certainly not gourmet, but this pick was ALL ABOUT NOSTALGIA, FRIENDS, especially when you order the Baker’s Choice with pepperoni, mushrooms, sweet peppers, sausage, onion, garlic, and even more cheese below that sauce swirl, then act like a true Delawarean (?) and go down to the beach and eat it.
Miami’s got more than a few good pizzerias, and the popularity of the NY-style slice there is undeniable. That being said, if you so much as suggest that Lucali is their best pizzeria, they’ll pelt you with oranges or whatever. Besides, Steve’s is the local favorite for home-grown thin-crust pies, and it’s open until midnight every night, so hard-partying types can get their fix, too.
Antico just turned 5, but with respect to newer spots, like Fritti, the first spot to bring Neapolitan style to Georgia gets our nod, as it continues to churn out crisp, thin pies that take a perfectly timed two-minute stint in the oven and consistently keep lines out the door.
Though local legends like Boston Pizza and JJ Dolan’s were in the running, we had to go with the newer kid on the block, Inferno’s, which spits out thin, Neapolitan pizzas from an 800-degree Kiawe wood-fired oven that they call “The Beast.” Get the Guava Smoked Pork with fresh mozzarella, Maui onions, local Kilauea BBQ sauce, and their Shinsato pork. It’s very for real.
Sometimes, the best pizza is just an old-fashioned, hand-tossed pie. Flying Pie does just that, with a salty, garlicky dough topped with bicep-straining toppings. Unless you’re from New York or named Corleone, this is what you think of when you think of good pizza.
This pick might be a bit controversial, what with Chicago’s myriad of awesome deep-dishes... and “stuffed” pizzas, which are basically the same thing but even more like casseroles. However, well-behaved pizza writers seldom make history. So, after some intense debate, we decided to go with (GASP) a thin-crust joint. Vito and Nick’s crunchy-edged game is incredibly strong, they’ve been doing it since 1932, and their square-cut slices contain hidden treasures that even the deep-dish guys could learn a thing or two from.
Jockamo’s cheese-loaded pies lie somewhere in the pizza spectrum between pizzeria-style and deep-dish -- and what a sweet spot they’ve hit. Try the Cheese Louise (with cheddar, ricotta, Parm, mozz, smoked Gouda, bacon, and red onions) for a seriously aw-shucks moment.
Iowa City, Ankeny
Two of our editors go on a pilgrimage to Iowa City every year, and can personally attest to the beauty of Wig and Pen’s Flying Tomato Pie, which is a sort of pan/stuffed pizza hybrid that involves an entire grocery store’s dairy section of cheese, and a buttery crust. That originality alone is enough to put them at number one in the Hawkeye State.
Don't come if crust is your go-to or if you're into clean hands. These pies have cheese and extra-creative toppings running up to the edge of the dough, and they aren't stingy in piling it all on either. And their 'zas are far from normal: go with the ever-popular, cream cheese-laden enchilada or the chicken carbonara that boasts a layer of Alfredo sauce. So, yeah, maybe just grab a bib and a fork and knife, because you're not coming out of here clean.
Louisville’s got a crazy good food scene, and no pizzeria is more representative of Kentucky pride than Coals, an upscale joint that has a variety of pies named for various neighborhoods around the city (the Waverly is especially popular). All their offerings are 1,000-degree coal oven-fired, chewy-crusted, and delicious -- no matter what 'hood you’re from.
LA’s food capital has a shockingly high number of worthy pizza spots (Pizza Delicious, Ancora) but the pies at Domenica, Alon Shaya and John Besh’s Italian spot in the Roosevelt Hotel, combine an extensive house-cured salami program, hand-pulled mozz, and thin crusts for pies that continue to be so good that they required a spot all their own: Pizza Domenica opened this year.
OTTO started as a Portland pizzeria, and its unique brand of hearty New England-inspired eats have since spread into Massachusetts, too. But you still can’t beat the original Down East pie in one of their Portland spaces: mashed potato, bacon, and scallion. That’s hibernation fare.
It's not quite deep-dish, but it's close: a thick crust (fortified with the power of lard!) and cheese that's burnt just the right amount. And only in MD can you safely order an Old Bay-seasoned crab pizza and not be disappointed.
Let it be known that Massachusetts’s pizza scene is not exclusively limited to Boston -- as of writing this, Worcester, the North Shore, and some funky pies out in the Amherst area are all more serious contenders now than ever before. But Galleria Umberto (in the North End) is our top pick for its simplicity and flat-out authenticity -- they only have one slice (the Sicilian), and you’ve gotta get there early to get it, since they’re only open as long as they have dough to use. So do yourself a favor and spend a little bit of yours.
There are great pizzas all over Michigan -- from Ruggero's in Flint Town to This Old House in Cheboygan to Vango’s way up in Marquette -- but for the Detroit-style experience, nothing beats Buddy’s. Square slices with caramelized cheese on every corner? Check. Slightly burnt pepperoni? Double check. It’s not just Michigan’s best pie. It’s the definition of an entire region’s style.
This small Minnesota chain has some of the most solid credentials (the owner’s from Italy, and sources his ingredients and oven directly from his homeland) and some even solid-er pizza. Their Margherita DOC is blistered to perfection by wood fire, topped with San Marzanos, and studded with mozzarella di bufala for that extra down-home touch.
The tiny Northern Mississippi town may be far from Manhattan, but TriBecca Allie’s wood-fired oven and charred crusts pay homage to the owners’ hometown. Most pies stick to Neapolitan simplicity, but the Magnolia Rosa Insalata, which won the shop a silver medal in the 2010 American Pizza Championship, is worth a break from tradition: the pie adds Mississippi pecans to a mozz and red onion pizza, which is then topped with balsamic-tossed mixed greens and pine nuts.
Though the Gateway to the West is known for its unique style of pizza that uses Provel, and that pizza is delicious in its very own special way, you’ve got to choose Gerard Craft’s wood-fired pizza joint as the best. Especially once you try the Roman, topped with sizzling bacon, chili, tomato, garlic, and two types of cheese.
With 55 ingredients on hand -- from pepperoni to steak strips, peas, prosciutto, asparagus, and coconut -- and sauces that include salsa, BBQ, and pesto, Cosmic might be Montana’s most customizable pizza. There’s a reason that Bozeman’s population of hippies, cowboys, outdoorsmen, and tourists flock here: there’s something for everybody.
It wouldn’t be an Omaha pizzeria without an abundance of beef, and La Casa’s hamburger-topped pie is the city’s best for overall Nebraska-ness. The flaky, golden-crusted square slices are served from a kitchen that’s been open since 1953, when the owner noticed a dearth of good pizza on the scene and decided to rectify that particular situation.
It’s from one of our favorite SF pizza masters, Tony Gemignani. He’s an 11-time World Champion Pizza Maker. It’s got 11 styles of pizza (not flavors, or anything: STYLES), and all of them are made in his meticulous way using a variety of ovens to ensure authenticity. It was a pretty easy pick.
New Hampshire’s motto (“live free or die”) is readily apparent at this funky Manchester pizzeria, where unique toppings mingle with gigantic pizzas to create a distinctly Granite State experience. Though some call it “New York-style,” you’d be hard-pressed to find another place that serves up anything like it in the area -- the Attack Cat is particularly freedom-inducing.
Its neighbor across the river might get most of the fame, but New Jersey’s got some solid pie joints that rival NYC's best. Trenton has long been known as the state’s cradle of pizza (or “tomato pie,” because the sauce is on top) giants, and deciding the contest even amongst their offerings was tough. Ultimately, Papa’s puts up a good fight, but the capital title’s gotta go to the recently relocated De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies in Robbinsville, which features knife-cut thin-crust pizzas with a hearty, chunky tomato sauce.
In New Mexico, almost everything is topped with green chile -- even the pizza, as is the case at Giovanni’s, which was started by Italian transplants by way of Queens. You can find it studding the tops of their exceptionally good bready, crunchy-crusted pizzas, and you should especially be aware of how well it pairs with pepperoni.
Competition is fierce for everything in New York (real estate, walking space, standing space in an elevator, etc.), and the pizza is no exception. But Di Fara ultimately takes the crown for the Empire State, beating out a whole slew of epically qualified contenders like Roberta’s, Paulie Gee’s, Totonno’s, Lucali, and more. How? This deep-Brooklyn joint has been run by the same guy since 1964, and he meticulously crafts every pizza by himself. He even snips fresh windowsill-grown basil onto each pie after it finishes baking. Sure, you might have to wait an hour for a full pie, but it’s worth it just to taste a slice (or three) of his genius.
Pizza... from a brewery?! Well, yeah, but it’s a three-barrel nanobrewery founded by two beer geeks focused on pairing their suds with some seriously awesome and innovative fluffy-crusted pies. The aptly named Daredevil features super-hot “ghost chili pepper salami,” so it’s probably best to have a beer on hand anyway.
Let’s get this out of the way: North Dakota doesn’t have a lot of people. But the people who are there all swear by Rhombus Guys, which was started by two young businessmen as a smoothie stand. All three uber-popular locations serve up a killer T-Rex pie smothered in Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sausage, beef, real bacon, and mozzarella. Just don’t mention it to Jeff Goldblum.
The most popular pizza style in Ohio is without a doubt the Chicago cracker-thin crust, and, though many try, no one can quite touch Rubino’s on East Main Street in Columbus. The crispy, crunchy pizza is best with sausage or pepperoni, and it has been since 1954. Go there. Eat a lot.
An iconic spot in Stillwater since 1957, Hideaway makes two styles: their original 1957 thin-crust, and a hand-tossed option. We prefer the original thin-crust they became famous in OK for, especially with the Boz, featuring mozz and cheddar, pepperoni, smoked bacon, sausage, peppers, and jalapeños. Oh, also, they used to only deliver pizzas using vintage VW Beetles. So that’s pretty grand.
The Pacific Northwest puts its stamp on a lot of foods. Pizza isn’t really one of them. But Oregon joints have mastered the art of imitation... mostly of the Neapolitan variety. Scholls, however, imitates New Haven, and pops out a perfectly chewy, thin-crust pie that would make Frank Pepe drool. It’s the finest impostor in the PNW.
Philadelphia’s got some legit classic Italian cred (as well as some innovative spots like Pizzeria Beddia and Pizza Brain), so this was a tough call, but we’ve gotta hand it to South Philly's relative newcomer Gennaro’s. It’s got a pedigree that can be traced from America’s first pizza joint (Lombardi’s, also one of Little Italy’s best), and serves up simple, awesome pies with whole-milk mozzarella and crushed tomatoes.
When it comes to Rhode Island’s signature style of grilled pizza, the two legends in the game are really Bob and Timmy’s Grilled Pizza, or Al Forno, which is less a pizza place, and more an upscale Italian joint with a menu focused around their wood-fired grill. But we have to give the title to Al Forno thanks to their sublimely charred crust that they top with an addictive spicy oil.
EVO (Extra Virgin Oven) has been included on our list of the best pizzerias in America twice, so putting it on this one was kind of a no-brainer. They use local seasonal ingredients in their pies, like a killer pistachio pesto number made with South Carolina cheese.
In South Dakota, you don’t mess with comfort foods. Unless you’re Monks, which offers up thin-crust pies that screw with the tradition of getting a pepperoni pie from Domino’s. The place has everything from a Deconstructed Cuban (pulled pork, mustard, pineapple) to a pie loaded with mashed potatoes and bacon. It’d be annoying if they weren’t so damned good. But lucky for the wary, the place has one of the state’s biggest beer selections, which makes the prospect of a muffuletta pie -- and Googling “muffuletta” -- more appealing.
Memphis locals Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman meld their Italian and Southern roots to produce some of the best pies -- and, for that matter, Italian plates -- in the state. The pizzas take the best of both cuisines, like the Prewitt that has spicy boudin sausage, Fontina cheese, and -- why not? -- scrambled eggs.
Via 313 isn’t your typical Texas pizza joint. It was founded by the acolytes of a pizza school not usually seen ‘round those parts: Detroit-style deep-dish. They’re making cheesy-crusted caramelized goodness here everyday, and setting themselves apart from their competitors in a major way. You’ve pretty much gotta go with “The Detroiter,” which features two types of pepperoni.
Surprisingly, SLC’s got some great New York-style slices like hotspot Este, but it’s perennial favorite The Pie -- with its gluten-free options, spicy ApocalyptDough, and crazy toppings like smoked oysters & garlic ranch sauce -- that wins out this time.
It doesn't get more Vermont than a restaurant with (or on) a farm. In this case, it's a pizzeria where many of the veggies are sourced from the same 25 acres you'll be standing (or sitting) on while eating, and a 20,000lb wood-fired oven that churns out pies with perfectly crispy crusts.
Yes, yes, we know, this is basically DC. But it is TECHNICALLY Virginia, so we couldn’t help but pick pizza-master Enzo Algarme’s tiny spot in a strip mall in Arlington, which makes delicious wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas (plus, somehow-even-more-delicious fried calzones). Get the sausage pie, and you’ll stop questioning the NoVa-Virginia border.
Founded by a James Beard Award winner, Serious Pie is, well, serious about pies. No joke. They’ve turned a humble applewood-fired oven into a gourmet pizza behemoth, blistering some sweet crusts and churning out incredible pies like the clam, pancetta & lemon-thyme pizza.
First, they are DOC-certified, so you basically have to get the Margherita Extra. Second, the only real contender for their throne in DC in recent years has been their own spin-off Etto. Third, see the first two, and realize why they’ve held the crown in Cap City for 13 years.
Since 2003, Pies & Pints has been the go-to ‘za joint in that state where John Denver liked to drive on the country roads. And on top of their choice garlic olive oil-brushed pies (they get weird, but go for the Classic Pizza Pie), they’ve also got killer craft beer menus that change at each location, and tend to feature locals like Bridge Brew Works, and Charleston Brewing Company.
Il Ritrovo is one of three pizzerias in the entire state of Wisconsin to be certified by the Italian Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (a mark of the authenticity of their food), and it shows -- their pies are just like those you’d find in Naples, topped with imported ingredients and featuring the fluffiest crusts imaginable.
We have to admit, Wyoming was very difficult. One of the top contenders, The Pizza Place in Lusk, burned to the ground last year, and hasn’t made a comeback. So we went with a local favorite in Cheyenne run by Joe Mondello since 1986. Do yourself the courtesy of getting Joe’s Favorite, topped with sausage, plum tomatoes, and EVOO. It’s simple, but, dammit, it works (especially in Wyoming).
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Adam Lapetina is the Partnerships Editor for Thrillist, and is quite a pizza person. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.