When I texted a friend that I was compiling a list of America’s best pizza places, she replied with three simple words: PIZZA IS LIFE.
Well, no: It’s just dough, cheese, sauce, and some other stuff (depending on who you are and where you’re from) cooked at high heat until it’s molten, and then scarfed down at the speed of Justin Bieber racing down a Miami boulevard. But something funny happened to America’s favorite drunk food (aside from the fact that it is no longer just drunk food). Pizza became cool. Like, really cool. Celebrities eat it, pop stars wear it, and everyone texts it. So yeah, pizza is life. And here’s where to get the best slices of life in the country.
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Bone Marrow Pie @ Flour + Water, San Fran, CA In a city that’s emerged as one of the country’s pizza powerhouses, chef Thomas McNaughton’s eatery still reigns supreme, thanks to his old-world Neapolitan pies topped with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. All it takes is one bite of the ultra decadent bone marrow and rapini pie to reaffirm why Flour + Water has become a California pizza mecca.
Cheese Slice @ Di Fara, Brooklyn If New York City pizza is a religion, than Di Fara is the Vatican, and owner Domenico DeMarco is the pope. Widely considered to be the best slice in all five boroughs (Anthony Bourdain and Bill De Blasio are super-fans), Di Fara has been serving up traditional pies deep in the heart of Brooklyn since 1964. But are they worth the trek out to Midwood? The $5 price tag? The two hour wait? Yes, yes, and oh my yes.
“The O.G.” Grandma pie @ GG’s, New York Nostalgia is the name of the game at this East Village eatery, where Chef Bobby Hellen does his grandma proud with his killer take on this New York City staple: A rich, zesty sauce, a wealth of melted mozzarella, and charred pepperoni sit atop a thick chewy slab of dough, whose signature square shape is the grandma pie’s most dominant characteristic. That, and being really, really awesome.
The White Slice @ Best Pizza, Brooklyn Williamsburg haunt The Brooklyn Star and Bushwick pizza temple Roberta’s have teamed up on this, the coolest corner-slice joint in Brooklyn. And while the hipster pedigree runs deep, everything about this place screams old school, from the grease-stained paper plates and doughy garlic knots, to the already legendary white slice, which manages to lives up to the shop’s ballsy namesake.
Fennel sausage pie @ Mozza, Los Angeles, CA L.A. has always taken a back seat to New York among pizza aficionados, and it’s never even been close. But Mario Batali—who despite being an honorary New Yorker originally from Seattle—gave the west coast a puncher’s chance in the national pizza debate, when he opened Mozza in 2010. It’s been dishing out some of L.A’s (and America’s) best pies ever since.
White clam pie @ Frank Pepe’s, New Haven, CT Long before every big-name chef started churning out authentic Napoletana pizzas, Frank Pepe’s wood-fired pies helped turn his eponymously named New Haven pizzeria into a national institution. Now nearly 100 years and seven new locations later, the original Frank Pepe’s—home of the fabled clam pie—remains a mandatory pilgrimage for pizza hounds everywhere.
Forbes Waggensense pie @ Pizza Brain, Philadelphia, PA Brian Dwyer and Joseph Hunter’s Kickstarter-funded pizza museum in Philly’s Fishtown boasts the largest collection of pizza-related memorabilia in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. But despite all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle kitsch, the main attraction remains the Forbes Waggensense, the elevated pepperoni pie served at the adjacent pizzeria.
The Sicilian slice @ Sal’s, Mamaroneck, NY This sleepy college town at the foot of New York State has become an unexpected pizza hub, with this decades-old pizza joint leading the charge. The Sicilian slice—a thick-crust pie drenched in an avalanche of cheese and chunky tomato sauce—has made Sal’s more than worthy of destination dining. See you in line.
Sausage & Garlic Pie @ Santarpio’s, Boston, MA Ask any Bostonian who’s serving up the best pies in town, and they’ll point you towards the city’s east side, where this local landmark has been serving up New York-style pies since the 1930s. And while selling anything in the style of their hated NYC rivals is usually considered blasphemous in Beantown, when the pizza is this good, they’ll gladly make an exception.
The Cheese Slice @ Buddy’s Pizza, Detroit, MI Detroit-style pizza, a square shaped pie with a deep dish crust, is one of the country’s best kept culinary secrets. The best (and some say only) place to get the Motor City’s take on the Sicilian slice is Buddy’s, whose twice-baked crust GQ’s food savant Alan Richman called “one of the best in America.”
Most foodies will contend that Chicago’s ubiquitous deep-dish pizzas are more casserole than anything, but Perquod’s hedonistic pies at this Lincoln Park stalwart will convert even the most cynical pizza snobs.
Marinara Pie @ Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix, AZ Neapolitan-style 'zas, with their fresh toppings and blistered crust, have become one of the hottest food trends of the past decade, and we have this man to thank: Bronx transplant Chris Bianco, who singlehandedly put Phoenix on the culinary map when he opened this downtown pizzeria in 1987. The New York Times once called it the best in the nation.
Pepperoni Slice @ Star Tavern, Orange, NJ While many pizzerias have gone gourmet, sometimes nothing beats a greasy slice with cheap mozzarella and no-frills toppings, especially after a night of getting sauced. Say hello to the Bar Pie, an American staple that’s been mastered at this classic New Jersey booze den.
Margarita pie @ Totonno’s, Coney Island, NY This Coney Island staple makes the list for sheer resilience. After coming back from a devastating 2009 fire only to be flooded by Hurricane Sandy a few years later, the third generation owners reopened their doors in 2013, and are once again selling some of New York’s most cherished coal-fired Neapolitan pies. Nice try Sandy, but some good things never die.
Tomato Pie @ Papa’s Tomato Pies, Trenton, NJ All you need to know about this beloved New Jersey institution is that after opening its doors in 1912, Papa’s has become the longest family-run pizzeria in all the land. Its namesake tomato pies are the best thing to come out of Jersey since, well, ever.