Special Report

25 Best Pizza Places in America

instantvantage / Flickr

Pizza got started as food for the poor. It was born in southern Italy and originally involved only the cheapest of ingredients — leftover bread dough from the baker’s oven, tomatoes (which were abundant in the region), cheese made almost instantly from the milk of local cows or water buffalo, and herbs (principally basil) that grew like weeds in the landscape.

It’s hard to imagine what the Italian farmer who made pizza with those simple materials — or the pizzaiolo in Naples who turned it into a symbol of the city and its most famous export — would think of a pie covered with ham and pineapple, smoked salmon and capers, or Thai-spiced chicken. Yet all those things, and many more, are found on pizza in America today.

Almost 15% of Americans are said to eat pizza every day (and 25% of males between the ages of 6 and 19). Last year, we spent a cumulative $46.24 billion on pizza from restaurants and pizzerias. According to some surveys, in fact, pizza is our favorite food as a nation, outpacing even the burger and the hot dog. (But if you’re hungry for the latter, these are the best hot dog joints in every state.) 

There are said to be about 77,000 establishments around the country serving pizza primarily or almost exclusively. 24/7 Tempo undertook to come up with a list of the 25 best — a daunting task. To do this, we compared and extrapolated from both nationwide and regional rankings on a host of websites, including The Daily Meal, Food & Wine, Eater, Thrillist, Patch, Bloomberg, Food Network, Gayot, Time Out, American Eats, and Yelp, as well as city-specific ratings from such acknowledged pizza capitals as New York City, New Haven, and Chicago.

Of course, those are just a few of the best cities for pizza-lovers.

Click here to see America’s 25 best pizzerias

Many pizza experts consider Connecticut to be the best state for pizza, and indeed it scores four places (including No. 1) on this list. New York (including Brooklyn), Chicago, and New Jersey are represented by more than one entry each, and in all some 17 states are covered.

Source: Courtesy of Paul S. via Yelp

25. Al Forno
> Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Johanne Killeen and the late George Germon opened this riverfront Providence landmark in 1980. While there is a full Italian menu, the place soon became famous for its grilled pizza. They didn’t have a pizza oven, but Killeen and Germon realized they could cook their pies on their wood-fired grill. In addition to a Margherita and some other basics, Al Forno offers such unusual variations as one with fried calamari, spicy arrabbiata sauce, and fresh herbs and another with garlic-scape and basil pesto.

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Source: Photo by Pizza G. via Yelp

24. Faraci’s Pizza
> Location: Ellisville, Missouri

Run by the sons of the founders of the original Faraci’s Pizza in nearby Ferguson — like Ellisville, in the greater St. Louis area — Faraci’s makes (not surprisingly) St. Louis-style pizza. That means square, and cut into squares, with an unleavened crust and generous portions of Provel cheese, a local specialty that’s in effect an amalgam of provolone, cheddar, and Swiss. All the usual toppings are available, and there are a few signature combinations — for instance, Nonna’s Meatball Pizza, with house-made meatballs and tomato sauce.

Source: Photo by Deb M. via Yelp

23. Supino Pizzeria
> Location: Detroit, Michigan

Detroit is underrated as a pizza town, and Supino sets a high standard at its two city locations. The menu lists just eight versions with tomato sauce and five white (no sauce) pizzas — including a quattro formaggio (smoked gouda, goat cheese, feta, mozzarella, and Italian parsley) in the first category and a Smoky (smoked ham, smoked gouda, roasted garlic, and ricotta) in the second. Three varieties are also available by the slice. Organic ingredients are featured when possible.

Source: Photo by Camille M. via Yelp

22. Colony Grill
> Location: Stamford, Connecticut

The food at this 1935-vintage Irish-American tavern is pizza, period. No antipasto, no salad (well, there is a salad pizza), no dessert. The thin-crust bar pizzas here, which have a local cult following, are available with only about a dozen possible toppings. Whatever else patrons choose, almost everybody adds jalapeño-infused hot oil, which seeps down through the cracks in the slightly crisped cheese on top. Some order extra chiles (called “stingers”) to bump up the heat. In recent years, Colony has opened three more Connecticut locations plus one each across the border in Port Chester, New York, and in Arlington, Virginia.

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Source: Photo by Kyle P. via Yelp

21. Burt’s Place
> Location: Morton Grove, Illinois

Revered writer and TV personality Anthony Bourdain called the pies here “the only deep dish pizza I ever loved.” Staking a claim to serving “Chicagoland’s finest pan pizza,” Burt’s does a pretty good job of living up to its boast. It’s particularly known for its perfectly caramelized crust, slightly charred, and for the high quality of the cheese it uses. The limited number of toppings include Burt’s own blend sausage, mixed bell peppers, and fresh spinach. The restaurant offers a thinner “1/2 dough” option “for our carb conscious customers.”

Source: Photo by Charlie T. via Yelp

20. Apizza Scholls
> Location: Portland, Oregon

“Apizza” is the Italian-American dialect word for pizza often used in Connecticut, but the concept translates neatly to the West Coast here. All pies are 18 inches in diameter and, says the restaurant, “baked on the darker side.” Among the unusual house pizzas is the Diablo Bianco, with ricotta, roasted tomato and pumpkin seed pesto, fresh jalapeños, black pepper, and herbs. Apart from a few basics like garlic, anchovies, and basil, “build your own” pies are limited to a maximum of three ingredients, only two of which can be meat.

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Source: Photo by Jessica C. via Yelp

19.Monzú Italian Oven + Bar
> Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

It all begins with the dough at this industrial-look Italian restaurant and pizzeria. Chef-owner Giovanni Mauro makes his (for both pizza crust and house-made breads) with a starter made with local apricots and a mother starter from the Italian island of Ischia that’s said to be more than three centuries old. Pies are shaped somewhere between a rectangle and an ellipse and come in two sizes — small and family. The Pork Reigns pizza combines braised pork, house-made sausage, applewood-smoked bacon, prosciutto cotto, salame calabrese, and guanciale. The dough starter is echoed by the Apricot, with apricot jam, bacon, Laura Chenel goat cheese, pine nuts, and arugula.

Source: Photo by Christina N. via Yelp

18. Pizzeria Vittoria
> Location: Savannah, Georgia

At this lively indoor-outdoor restaurant, chef Kyle Jacovino — a veteran of the kitchens at several restaurants owned by star Southern chef Hugh Acheson — makes thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizzas in a handful of variations. These include a traditional Margherita, a Siciliana (capers, olives, anchovies, lemon sauce, and mozzarella), and an ever-changing Farmers Market Pie, made (says the menu) with “veggies & protein sourced from our farmers weekly.”

Source: Photo by Lauren D. via Yelp

17. Pizzeria Lui
> Location: Lakewood, Colorado

“All pizzas are cooked at 900 degrees and come slightly charred,” promises this rustic Denver-area roadside pizzeria. The pies are one size only (14 inches in diameter) and come in both red and white variations. The Margherita is classic. Less so the seasonal Peach Pit (fresh peaches, crispy prosciutto, mozzarella, ricotta, pistachios, arugula, and spicy honey) and the Street Taco (homemade chorizo, tomatillo salsa, mozzarella, red onion, cotija cheese, corn, and cilantro).

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Source: Photo by Christopher K. via Yelp

16. Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza
> Location: Elizabeth, New Jersey

This 103-year-old pizza institution, still owned by the founding family, bakes pizzas to order in coal-fired brick ovens: Patrons can request their crust soft, light golden, golden, dark golden, or brown/black. Besides red sauce and cheese, some 24 toppings are available. The fun thing to do, though, is to order one of their 10 vintage-dated pies, made according to whatever the fashion was at various points in the past. The 1940 Genuine Tomato Pie, for instance, is just sauce, no cheese or other toppings. The 1957 is extra thin. The 1964 is garnished with extra-virgin olive oil and parmesan.

Source: Photo by Michael U. via Yelp

15. Nana’s Bakery & Pizza
> Location: Mystic, Connecticut

Noted food writer John Mariani recently reviewed the restaurants of this far-eastern Connecticut shore town and found the pizzas at Nana “close to any I’ve had in Naples and Sicily, with a crust with a crisp but pliant texture….” Nana’s is the work of James Wayman, former chef and partner at Mystic’s acclaimed Oyster Club. Here, with just a few indoor and outdoor tables, he focuses (as he did at Oyster Club) on local and regional ingredients. One thin-crust organic sourdough pizza is topped with Seacoast mushrooms, organic tomato sauce, and Mystic Cheese Co. Melinda Mae. There are also thick-crust 13-by-18-inch sheet pizzas, one with a bolognese sauce made with pork and beef from Wayman’s nearby Grass & Bone butcher shop and Mystic Cheese Co.’s Finback.

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14. Lombardi’s
> Location: New York City, New York

Opened in 1905, Lombardi’s stakes a claim to having been the first pizzeria in America. The original closed in 1984, reopening in 1994 a block away by founder Gennaro Lombardi’s grandson. The place is best-known for its classic Margherita pizza, though there are also a number of specialty pies, including one with pesto instead of tomato sauce and a version with breaded eggplant slices and ricotta.

13. Cane Rosso
> Location: Dallas, Texas

This Dallas favorite started from a wood-burning oven mounted on a trailer and has grown into a small chain with six units in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and one in Houston. There are antipasti, salads, sandwiches, and a few pastas, but the focus here is definitely wood-fired pizza — cooked in less than 90 seconds in 900-degree ovens. Build-your-own options and some classics are available, but there are also such imaginative pies as the Billy Ray Valentine (smoked bacon, bacon marmalade, vodka sauce, Sweety Drop peppers, and house-made mozzarella) and the PBR (pepperoni, house-smoked brisket, roasted onions, candied jalapeños, house-made mozzarella, and BBQ sauce). And because this is Texas, diners can kick up the spice level on any pizza with Calabrian chiles and Yellowbird Hot Sauce for an extra two bucks.

Source: Photo by Hattie J. via Yelp

12. DeSano Pizza Bakery
> Location: Nashville, Tennessee

The wood-burning ovens here turn out authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas, including a classic Margherita made with San Marzano tomato sauce and mozzarella di bufala. Specialties include the lasagna pizza (San Marzano tomato sauce and mozzarella di bufala plus meatballs, ricotta, and scamorza) and the Diavola (San Marzano tomato sauce, soppressata, pepperoni, scamorza, and Calabrian chiles). There are a number of additional locations around the country, including L.A., Austin, and Nashville.

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Source: Photo by Jenilee via Yelp

11. Santarpio’s
> Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s favorite pizzeria, by most accounts, the cash-only Santarpio’s offers an array of choices, all but one made with “Italian cheese.” Specialties combine that cheese with ground beef and onions; chicken, broccoli, and garlic; or sausage, mushrooms, and peppers (among other things). The cheese-less exception is an unusual — and garlicky — shrimp scampi pizza.

10. Pizzeria Mozza
> Location: Los Angeles, California

Famed L.A. chef-restaurateur and baker Nancy Silverton (founder of La Brea Bakery) sells some of the best pizza in the West at this adjunct to Mozza, the restaurant she owns with New York’s Joe Bastianich. Among the California-fresh variations are one with squash blossoms, tomatoes, and burrata; another with brussels sprouts, guanciale, red onion, and mozzarella; and a “BLT” with bacon, guanciale, onion cream, roasted tomatoes, arugula, and aïoli. A selection of imaginative, mostly vegetable-based antipasti are also served.

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Source: Courtesy of Lou Malnatis

9. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
> Location: Chicago, Illinois

Pizza purists like to say that Chicago-style deep-dish pizza isn’t pizza, it’s a casserole. Be that as it may, the genre’s multitude of fans — both in Chicago and around the country — hail Lou Malnati’s. Founded by deep-dish pioneer Malnati in suburban Chicago in 1971, the enterprise has grown into an empire with 57 Chicagoland locations plus a scattering in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Arizona. The signature is The Lou (spinach cooked with garlic, onions, and basil, together with mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and three cheeses in a garlic crust). There are also gluten-free variations and even — if you insist — thin-crust pizzas as well.

8. Roberta’s
> Location: Brooklyn, New York

This hip pizza purveyor in Brooklyn’s funky Bushwick neighborhood is famous for its wood-oven Bee Sting pizza, tipped with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, soppressata, chiles, and honey. There are also seven other house specialties, including the Just a Biber (taleggio and peppered goat cheese, asparagus, pickled onions, chives, and dried Turkish urfa biber chiles) and design-your-own options with a choice of about 20 toppings. Some of the vegetal ingredients are grown onsite. (There’s a second Brooklyn location, along with one in Los Angeles and three pizza stands at Urbanspace food courts around Manhattan.)

Source: Photo by Alex A. via Yelp

7. Pizzeria Delfina
> Location: San Francisco, California

“Inspired by the best pizza of New York City and Naples, Italy,” claims this farm-to-pizza-oven San Francisco favorite (there are three other Bay Area locations). Among the more unusual possibilities here are two pies based on pasta preparations — pizza alla Norma (eggplant, smoked mozzarella, ricotta, black olives, and Calabrian chiles) and pizza carbonara (farm eggs, guanciale, pecorino, scallions, and black pepper).

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Source: Courtesy of Pizzeria Bianco

6. Pizzeria Bianco
> Location: Phoenix, Arizona

From its origins in the back of a grocery store in 1988, has grown into an essential destination for pizza-lovers in the West. Pies come from both a wood-fired oven (among them a version with house-smoked mozzarella, wood-roasted onions, and fennel sausage, with optional add-ons including San Daniele prosciutto and Gaeta olives) and a classic New York pizzeria-style deck oven (producing New York-style pizzas, not surprisingly, including one with three cheeses — aged provolone, montasio, and local Rovey Farms sheep’s cheese). Founder Chris Bianco was the first pizzaiolo to win a James Beard Best Chef award. He has a second Phoenix location and three other restaurants.

Source: instantvantage / Flickr

5. Di Fara Pizza
> Location: Brooklyn, New York

Variously known as “the Joe DiMaggio” and “the godfather” of pizza in Brooklyn, 84-year-old Domenico DeMarco opened this pizzeria in 1965 and has been making pizzas himself, by hand (and with the help of his children), ever since. Numerous publications have rated his the finest pizza in New York, and the late food writer and globetrotting TV personality Anthony Bourdain was a fan. The Di Fara 50th Anniversary Pie is made with sausage, semi-dried cherry tomatoes, meatballs, wild onions, and garlic. The Louisa is a square pie with sun-dried roasted peppers and kalamata olives. Unlike most of the pizzerias on this list, Di Fara — with two Brooklyn locations — also sells slices, either regular or square. (There is an outpost of Di Fara in Las Vegas, Dom DeMarco’s Pizzeria & Bar.)

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Source: Photo by Martine K. via Yelp

4. Sally’s Apizza
> Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Aficionados who don’t think Frank Pepe’s (see No. 1) makes quite the best pizza in Connecticut (or in the country) opt for Sally’s instead. The pies are similar — the place was owned for almost 80 years by relatives of Frank Pepe himself — but Sally’s also offers some different choices, including a Garden Special with fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and basil, and a White Potato Pie with thin-sliced spuds, onions, mozzarella, and parmesan. (Sally’s is about to open a second location, in Stamford, Connecticut.)

3. John’s of Bleecker Street
> Location: New York City, New York

This 92-year-old classic serves 14- and 16-inch medium-thin-crust New York-style pizzas from a coal-fired oven. Some 15 toppings are available, and specialty pies range from The Sasso (aged mozzarella and tomato sauce) to The “Fifty” (meatballs, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and olives in addition to the sauce and cheese).

Source: Courtesy of Razza Pizza Artigianale

2. Razza Pizza Artigianale
> Location: Jersey City, New Jersey

In 2018, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells dubbed Razza’s “the best pizza in New York” even as he admitted that it wasn’t really in New York at all (but just across the river). In addition to the usual toppings, the possibilities on these superior pizzas might include fermented chile paste, pine nuts, Pennsylvania cream, or New Jersey summer squash.

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Source: Photo by Mike P. via Yelp

1. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
> Location: New Haven, Connecticut

The pizza by which all others must be judged, according to many fans — coal-fired, with a thin, charred, blistered crust. Its signature is the white clam pizza (with fresh shelled clams, garlic, oregano, and pecorino romano); another favorite is the fresh tomato pizza (in summer only). There are now a dozen locations around Connecticut and in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, but the New Haven original remains the best.

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