It’s that time of year again, friends. The time of year when we stop eating burgers and focus exclusively on the once Italian but now quintessentially American meal of pizza. As in the past, Liz and myself and a few members of our inner pizza cabal have traveled around the country, sampling all the different beautiful iterations of pizza we have in America and picking the 33 best. Some of them are legendary repeats. Others are bold newcomers in places you might not immediately throw out in any pizza argument. All of them are delicious.
As part of the excitement, we also have a pizza bracket this year, so you, the people, can exercise your right to pick your favorite from the list. Find that here. And finally, as per usual, we expect you to fill the comment section only with high praise and links to Brookstone gift certificates. Or maybe, if you have to, some suggestions on places we missed that we’ve got to hit next year.
Bread and Salt
Rick Easton is a baker. And a fantastic one at that – so much so that even The Gray Lady decided to get down from her arthritic perch above the masses to praise his pane locale. But we came for the pizza al taglio, the Roman rectangular style he’s perfected along with everything else. We would love to recommend a certain kind, but they change as the ingredients that are available to him change, so we can only implore you to go in the afternoon as soon as they’re ready and buy them all.
When I am home in Boston, I have a routine. And that routine consists of spending upwards of six to eight hours in Area Four, usually ending that time with a pizza and two to seven beers at the bar. But because I used the restaurant for so many different things (coffee, breakfast, lunch, working, drinking, etc.) I didn’t even realize how much I was truly underrating their pizza until they opened their pizza specific shop in Union Square. The beauty is in the simplicity. As they say on its site: “12-year-old starter + flour + water + salt. No oil or sugar. Ever. 3 days of fermentation. Handcrafted cheese. 1 wood-fire oven.” And that wood-fire oven produces some fantastic pizza, friends. Opt for the Carnivore if it’s on the menu. Because even perfect simplicity can be improved by soppressata, homemade fennel sausage, and bacon.
There’s always a line at Di Fara, which is in large part because of its reputation for incredible, handmade pies. But it’s also because the founder, Dom DeMarco, now almost in his 80s, is the literal hands behind each and every creation. While his children are involved, the legend is the only person who has ever built a pizza here, making sauce with simple San Marzanos, sprinkling his blend of Grana Padano, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, and carefully snipping fresh basil across each hot pie. Rightfully, his dedication draws Dom Dreams of Pizza jokes, but the pilgrimage for a regular pie is a better goal than any bite of sushi.
The grilled pizza debate in Providence has raged on for many, many years, but we come down on the side of the originators. Al Forno’s beautiful grilled margarita pizza has been making folks happy for 30 years, which is especially crazy considering it started (and remains) an appetizer just meant to sate you before your Italian entrée comes. We could spend time talking about the three cheese blend (all Italian, mostly fontina), or the chunky Italian tomatoes, but the topper is the dotting of scallions at the very end. It elevates what would already be a fantastic pizza into something otherworldly and will make you immediately start experimenting with grilling dough at home.
Post Office Pies
Avondale is one of the most exciting neighborhoods in Birmingham for eating and drinking right now: Saw’s BBQ puts out ‘cue with Alabama white sauce that rivals the original at Big Bob Gibson’s, Avondale Brewery continues to improve the state’s burgeoning craft beer scene, and Post Office Pies holds down a spot between the two, offering pies that revolutionize the pizza scene in that city. Get the Swine Pie: Chef John Hall shows off his house-made ingredients, piling pepperoni, bacon, and sausage onto the substantial crust.
Frank & Helen’s
St. Louis, MO
Every year, we debate the inclusion of St. Louis-style pies because they’re so damn strange. Even people from St. Louis don’t seem considerably proud of their pizza in the way you might find Chicagoans or Detroiters or people from the Jersey-tomato-pie sphere. They will tell you to go to one of the fancier, Neapolitan-style places in the city proper. Perhaps it’s the cracker-thin crust. Or the very sweet sauce. Or the Provel cheese that seems made specifically to get into every crevice in your mouth and stay put. But this is America, and if St. Louis has a particularly unique style, we want to celebrate it. And so we have kept the institution of Frank and Helen’s in University City on the list. Added bonus: that cheesy garlic bread with melted Provel – it’s getting in your teeth anyway, so you might as well not fight it.
Antico Pizzeria Napoletana
At this point, opening a wood-fired, Neapolitan pizza joint isn’t a novel idea. But opening a Neapolitan pizza joint that launches a veritable Little Italy out of a not-well-loved neighborhood of Atlanta is impressive. Six years after Giovanni Di Palma started his empire, Antico still delivers crisp, thin pies topped with simple, carefully considered ingredients. Go for the basic Margherita D.O.P. and add Calabrian peppers for a bite of heat to dance with the buffalo mozzarella, garlic, and basil. And then save room to explore the rest of Gio’s spots; we recommend a cup of gelato at Caffè Antico.
St. Paul, MN
Don’t blow Punch off just because it’s become a mini-chain. When the Italian-born co-founder brought his authentic Neapolitan pies to the Twin Cities, he completely changed the pizza landscape, and the quality and dedication to the style has, impressively, transferred over to each new location. Whichever one you go to, grab a Margherita Extra and make it Doppio, so you get extra tomatoes, olive oil, and double mozzarella di bufala, which, we promise, you want.
New Haven, CT
There have been rumblings in the pizza world about quality going down at Frank Pepe now that he’s decided to open multiple spots (including one in Boston, YAY!). Those rumblings are false. The New Haven OG still makes some of the best damn thin-crust coal-fired pizza in one of the best damn pizza towns in America. The white clam pie is still a legend. And the original tomato pie is right behind it. Haters beware.
Now on our list for two straight years, Cane Rosso continues to prove that even amongst the people who shot J.R. in the ‘80s AND WON’T SAY WHO ACTUALLY DID IT, Neapolitan pizza can thrive. It helps that it adheres to the principles of Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, and each pizza is a damn masterpiece. It also helps if you make fun of those who might try and put a certain salad dressing on your pizza.
If you’ve never been to Roberta’s, it’s easy to pass the Bushwick restaurant off as over-hyped. Labels like “hipster haven” are tossed about with fervor, and the concrete-block, ramshackle architecture is talked about more than the pies and, well, there truly is a lot of hype. So we’ll just say this: Roberta’s is damn delicious and deserves all of the talk that constantly swirls about it. Take a group, hope there’s a seat in the back to drink while you inevitably wait, and then order every pie on the menu. Or at least order the Speckenwolf (speck, mozzarella, mushrooms, oregano) and the Lil’ Stinker (mozz, Parm, tomato garlic, onion, pepperoncini) and the Beastmaster (mozzarella, Gorgonzola, sausage, capers, jalapeño). It’ll only take two bites for you to finally understand what everyone’s been talking about.
By now you know the drill: get here at 11:30am or earlier, or face the possibility that they might run out of dough. Get two slices. They will be Sicilian. Get a beer. Walk outside and ask the old Italian guys sitting on the stoop and whistling at girls if they mind if you sit on the stoop with them. Eat the pizza. Drink the beer. Don’t bring up Roberto Baggio.
Chicagoans have fallen so hard for the charred, bubbly crust on these pies born from a screaming-hot 800-degree coal-fired oven (get it) that the restaurant recently expanded to a second location (sellouts!). Luckily, an extra kitchen means more room to experiment, and the new joint’s added standouts like guanciale with rosemary cream & potato to an already deep roster of flawless crust creations (the white pizza with whipped ricotta is basically happiness in cheese and crust form).
New Haven, CT
Whereas Frank opts to go big and expand, Sally stays right there on Wooster. It’s like the yin and yang of the New Haven pizza world, and it would feel weird to include just one. If you have never been before, you have to get the White Fresh Tomato because it is very much the truth, but the underrated move here is the White Potato, which intrigued me and not just because of my Irish heritage. Something about the rosemary and potato mix on that coal-fire crust makes it feel like you’re eating an old-school brunch of sorts. But definitely don’t tell them that.
Hazel Park, MI
With apologies to Buddy’s and Cloverleaf, we had to include Loui’s in Hazel Park. Not only was it the most beloved of all the Detroit-style pizza places when we asked a bunch of local chefs, it’s also got everything else we love: a throwback atmosphere that is authentic rather than a business model, and oh yeah – those damn fine red-top pizzas. Go for cheese & pepperoni and, depending on the elasticity of your pants, add in some sausage.
Coals Artisan Pizza
Opening in 2011, Coals delivered the first coal-fired pizza oven to Kentucky. To most people, that’s passable news, which is why you have to try its pies to figure out what’s so incredible here. The 900-degree oven turns the incredibly fickle, painstakingly crafted, high-moisture dough into thick, crisp, charred bases for pizzas that take their names from the Louisville neighborhoods. Go for our favorite, the Waverly, which piles on rich prosciutto, sweet fig jam, and funky Gorgonzola, plus the more expected Asiago and mozzarella and Parmesan to balance out the flavors.
Here we go again. Tom Douglas’ artisanal pizza project makes no bones about it being laser focused on very legit ‘za. After all, check the name. But the reason that we’ve chosen to include it again is a little bit because we’re obsessed with the subtle sweetness from that applewood-fired oven and a little bit because it has this strange smoked duck and concord grape pizza on the menu right now, and I apologize to the purists but it is AMAZING.
Papa’s Tomato Pies
While it’s not easy to live in the shadow of New York pizza, New Jersey pies hold their own thanks in no small part to Papa’s Tomato Pies. First, it’s important to note that this is the oldest continuously operating pizzeria in America (Lombardi’s is older, but had that decade of closure), which, to us, brings the Garden State more cred than Bon Jovi, although definitely less than The Boss. Second, Jersey has its own pizza style originating out of Trenton: tomato pie. If it’s your first go around, just go for a plain pie: a light layer of cheese is added to a thin crust, then covered in sauce, which gets all caramelized and piping hot while cooking, turning into the best version of sauce that you’ll ever have.
Hood River, OR
When the topic of the best pizzas in the Pacific Northwest comes up, it inevitably goes to Portland’s Apizza Scholls whose pizza is good enough to make it worth enduring long lines. But out in the idyllic Hood River – one of the best small beer cities in the US – Double Mountain is firing up charred, New Haven-style pies that are on par with Scholls, but without the fuss. These suckers would make Frank Pepe proud, right down to the ciabatta bounce. The specialty pies are great (especially if heirloom tomatoes are in season), though with a pie this finely crafted, you’re best to just roll with the simple house-made sausage, onion, and mushroom – which packs sweet, spicy, and salty into each bite – or go spicy with hot capicola and hot peppers, which you can temper with some of Oregon’s best beer. And frankly, taking an hour to drive through the Columbia River Gorge is a way better use of waiting time than staring out into the abyss of Portland’s Hawthorne Blvd.
Stephen Lanzalotta has been making bread for years. Gorgeous, airy, crispy bread. So perhaps it was inevitable that he would eventually move on to making gorgeous, airy, crispy “slabs” of Sicilian pizza for his relatively new Maine pizzeria. Though it offers up all kinds of delicious Sicilian street foods (Italian jerk chicken!!!), you must get the Hand Slab – his original, simple, delicious, giant piece with crushed tomatoes and a Wisconsin provolone-mozzarella blend picked for its uncanny combination of melt-ability and flavor. And then maybe get a spicy meat wedge for dessert.
Thrillist’s Deputy Editor Matt Lynch is from Chicago, lives there now, and holds sway over our picks for the Midwest. But such is my enthusiasm for Pequod’s that he kindly (begrudgingly?) leaves the spot open for me each year. This love began in the early aughts when I dated a Chicago native who lived within the delivery radius of said pizzeria. And so it became a tradition to order Pequod’s whenever we’d returned from a bar or a party or eating at another pizza place.
The beauty lies in that damn crust, which is cooked in a cast iron pan and caramelizes into this crunchy handsome thing that’s making my mouth water as I type. If you ask for the “Kevin Special,” they will pretend they have no idea what you’re talking about, so maybe follow up by explaining that it’s actually just sausage and green olive.
Flour + Water
San Francisco, CA
On my first wedding anniversary, I lost a tooth biting into a slice of Flour + Water pizza. This may not sound like high praise, but in truth, the tooth was fake and loose, and the chewy, airy, delicious crust shifted it when I took a bite. So what do you do when you lose a front tooth during your anniversary dinner? Well, if you’re at a place with pizza as good as Flour + Water, you go to the bathroom, jam your tooth back in, and eat three more slices by cramming them into the back of your mouth.
Anyway, Executive Chef Thomas McNaughton may now have his hands full with other projects (and a new baby), but the quality of the pizza they’re producing under Evan Allumbaugh has stayed excellent, and the selection is frankly long overdue. The styles change daily, but recently F+W had a salumi pizza with Mangalitsa pancetta, stracciatella, broccoli rabe & Calabrian chili, and in flavor alone it was worth giving up another couple teeth.
Pizzeria Beddia won’t make it easy for you to grab a bite of its pies: there’s no phone, it’s only open four days a week – and even then only five hours – and there are only 40 pies sold each day. So, get in line long before the 5:30pm open time, and don’t bring friends – seriously. It also limits two pies per party, and you’re going to want all of those to yourself. Get a basic tomato and mozzarella pie and a pizza with spicy Arrabbiata sauce, and layer on the toppings. It’s simple – seriously, don’t expect fancy toppings – and that’s the beauty here: Joe Beddia took the lessons of simplicity from some of the legends of America’s pizza scene, learning from the men behind Di Fara and Pizzeria Bianco (both on our list) to create this tiny pizza destination. Philly, if you’ve been waiting for a reason to call in sick to work, this is it. Getting a spot in line is truly that important.
New York, NY
As it keeps making this list, we’ll try and keep it short: it does the classic Neapolitan style with that charred crust with the black spots. It started in Brooklyn, and came to Manhattan in some sort of opposite-of-people-trying-to-have-kids move. It is now famous in Hong Kong and some other Asian places. And if you don’t get its soppressata picante or its addictive stracciatella, YOU ARE A DAMN FOOL.
It must make every pizza place in Austin go crazy when they realize their best pizza comes out of a truck in front of the Violet Crown Social Club. And it must make everyone in Detroit crazy to think that some of the best iterations of their pizza are coming from a food truck in Austin (though, to be fair, it was started by Detroit expats). And it does make me crazy thinking about how fantastic the Detroiter (smoked pepperoni under the cheese, more on top) is, and how I want to order another right now and ship it to Cali. Bonus: don’t sleep on its “bar-style” pizzas, which are in the traditional tavern style. Especially the one with ham and maple syrup.
First off, this is not Detroit-style pizza. This is more like a pizza you might find in New York. Second, you won’t care about that distinguishing factor once you bite into its signature Supino with roasted garlic, black olives, chili oil, ricotta, and mozzarella. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it says “trill tomatoes and all that good stuff” on its damn menu.
New Orleans, LA
While Domenica is, in practice, a full Italian restaurant, the pizzas make it a destination, which is why PIZZA Domenica was, perhaps, the most fool-proof restaurant opening Alon Shaya could’ve made. Now over a year old, the pizza-only restaurant, with its wood-fired oven concept, thin and crisp crusts, and high-quality toppings layered in unique combinations, is just as delicious as at the original spot. Just without the distractions. Get the clam that’s loaded with spicy chilies and bold garlic, add extra clam (trust us) and some pepperoni, and appreciate the fact that the strong drink program from Domenica was also carried over: the jalapeño tequila, mezcal, ginger beer, and citrus Smokey & the Bandito pairs incredibly well with a hot pie.
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
San Francisco, CA
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: you see the menu at Tony’s, and you think, “This is crazy. There are too many styles of pizza and too many options. Can he really pull off a Detroit pizza, and a Jersey tomato pie, and a Napoletana, Romana, and Sicilian? Plus a coal-fired New Haven style? AND A ST. LOUIS?” Yes. Yes, he can. And each style would give the best pizzas in whichever particular region they come from a run for their money. And if Tony’s doesn’t offer up enough styles for you, head to Capo’s down the street, his take on all of the Chicago-style pies.
It’s now been 10 years since Pizzaiolo opened its doors on Telegraph Ave in Oakland and decided to start serving pizzas using simple techniques and local ingredients. That these pizzas ended up being some of the best pizzas in the country is a whole other thing, but it’s true: Pizzaiolo’s consistency and adherence to its mission is the reason it keeps popping up on this list (also maybe the rapini and house-made sausage pizza).
We cannot say it any stronger or in a way that better lets you read about VIPizza in a Queens accent than our freelancer John Houlihan once did, so we leave you with his words: “VIPizza on Bell Blvd in Bayside serves up the best Sicilian slice I have ever eaten. EVER. They’ve torn down and rebuilt since I was a kid, so of course you get all these jadrools who think they know something: 'It’s not the same as it was, cuz!’ 'My Uncle Lou said it used to be the best, but now it’s just okay.’ B.S. It’s incredible. It’s awesome. Be quiet. Thank you. There’s a good reason it’s been in business for half-a-friggin’ century.
"There’s no reason to get a regular slice at VIPizza. I’m sure it’s probably great, but I’ve never had one because, WHY? So many places have a low turnover on Sicilian. It’s the most hit-or-miss thing in the world. Either it doesn’t heat up right because it’s been sitting out too long, or they don’t put enough effort into it because they don’t sell as many… whatever the problem, VIPizza doesn’t have it. Perfect Sicilian slice. Marone.”
We say it every year, and we’ll continue to say it every year until the drones eventually take over: having a best pizza list without Chris Bianco’s pizzeria would be like having a school with no teachers. The man is almost singlehandedly responsible for starting the pizza renaissance in America and has inspired many of the chefs also on this list. But if you require some sort of timely hook to get to Arizona, fine: he now has an outpost in Tucson, too.
Vito and Nick’s
Despite the national attention paid to the heftier deep dish, this is the kind of pizza most Chicagoans were raised on: thin, cracker-y crust cut into smaller squares (making it all the more easy to talk yourself into “one more piece”), and nobody does it better than Vito & Nick’s, a South Side institution that hasn’t changed in decades, other than maybe adding some new plaques from the local Little League teams it sponsors. Get yourself a sausage pizza and a pitcher of Old Style and experience a true Chicago legend.
Los Angeles, CA
This is the place for East Coast expats to go when they’re eating their feelings after another one of their screenplays based on their life growing up in Westport gets rejected. Nancy Silverton’s joint is also by far the best pizza in California south of San Francisco, and one of the best examples of the power of the California-style: charred Neapolitan style pizzas using local Cali ingredients with aplomb. Or in some cases, an actual plum.
(CNN) — Never before has the New York City pizza scene been as strong and diverse as it is today. World-famous pizzaiolos are continually trying to break ground in this food epicenter to see if their pies can compete, and other types, such as Detroit-style pizza, are starting to become popular pizza contenders too. Even the venerable Anthony Mangieri -- who is considered to be one of the most respected pizza-makers in the world -- has returned to NYC from San Francisco to reopen Una Pizza Napoletana and rejoin the ranks of New York's elite.
Sure, you can still find dollar slices from one of the many grab-and-go stores that still litter the city, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not visiting one of the many world-class pizzerias that New York City has been blessed with. These pizzerias take the time to source the freshest ingredients and make sure each pie is made to perfection. This means there is often a wait (and a higher price tag), but that's quality for you. Whether you're craving Neapolitan (soft, chewy crusts baked in a wood-fired oven and topped with fresh toppings), Neo-Neapolitan (similar to Neapolitan but with a sturdier crust), a square Sicilian (rectangular pizza with a thick crust,) or a good ol' New York-style (big, wide slices with a light layer of sauce and a lot of cheese on top), these are the best pizzerias in New York City.
* Pizzerias are listed in alphabetical order.
The Hot Italian pie from Beebe's in Long Island City in Queens is worth a trek to the borough.
Queens doesn't have much of a reputation when it comes to pizza, but Beebe's, located in the Boro Hotel in Long Island City, is helping to fill that void.
While there are a number of specialty pies on the menu, diners are able to customize pies to their liking. You can choose the Margherita, vodka or blank page (mozzarella, housemade ricotta, pecorino and garlic) as a base and add on all types of toppings from anchovies to sweet fennel sausage.
The Stracciatella, which is topped with a housemade stracciatella cheese and blanketed in arugula, is one of the most popular pies on the menu. The Hot Italian is also a crowd favorite, and the Mike's Hot Honey drizzled on top adds a touch of sweetness and heat. Of course, you can't go wrong with the classic 'Roni. And while vodka pies served in NYC can be hit or miss, Beebe's gets it right. Add meatballs for an ethereal experience.
38-28 27th St, Long Island City, NY 11101
Best Pizza in Williamsburg (Brooklyn's hippest neighborhood) puts out a particularly good white pie.
Frank Pinello certainly seemed to have a lot of confidence when he opened a pizzeria in 2010 and decided to call it Best Pizza. Good thing, there's truth to the name, for Pinello's pizza is the best in Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn's hottest neighborhoods. Best Pizza has the feel of a local slice joint, where you can pop in and grab a slice (go for the white or square grandma) if you need a quick fix.
Best Pizza's white slice has a serious claim to being the best in NYC. It's topped with creamy ricotta and a generous helping of sweet caramelized onions. Sesame seeds decorate the crust to lend even more crunch and enhanced flavor.
33 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Denino's Pizzeria and Tavern
The clam pie from Denino's Pizzeria and Tavern in Greenwich Village can also be found at the Staten Island location.
While Staten Island is not the birthplace of the thin, bar-style pies that the New York City borough is known for, it was certainly popularized here. And if you're getting pizza on Staten Island, Denino's Pizzeria and Tavern is your spot.
Using a gas oven with bricks inside, Denino's cooks its pizza at about 575 F (300 C). Unlike other places that may use coal or wood and crank the heat to more than 800 F (425 C), Denino's cooks its pies at a lower temperature for a longer amount of time -- about 11 minutes. The result is a cracker-thin, crunchy crust that manages to maintain its shape -- no folding required here.
Joseph Castellano, who owns the Greenwich Village outpost in Manhattan, considers the dough the most important part of Denino's pizza. That firm crust holds up well even with the copious amount of clams piled on its famous clam pie, which is the best you can get in NYC. Pizza connoisseurs may argue that the best clam pie in the region actually hails from Frank Pepe's in New Haven, Connecticut, but I stand by my Denino's praise.
524 Port Richmond Ave, Staten Island, NY 10302 | 93 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012
Dom DeMarco has been slinging dough at Di Fara in Brooklyn since 1965.
It's a few minutes past noon on a cool and drizzly Friday when Di Fara's gates go up, and its doors open to the line of customers that have gathered outside. "We got a late start today," Margaret Miales, one of Dominque DeMarco's daughters says, as she finishes setting up shop.
Her setup includes a blank sheet of paper and a pen. It's how she takes orders and how Di Fara pizza has been taking orders since 1965 when DeMarco opened the joint in a quiet part of Brooklyn known as Midwood.
It's a cash-only spot where customers visiting from all over the world will gladly fork out more than $5 for a slice of the pizzeria's Margherita, a slice that many will wait over an hour for. In spite of the no-frills shop, the prices can raise eyebrows. But, says Mieles of Di Fara's price point: "We go the extra mile to source our ingredients."
Thanks to DeMarco's handiwork -- he's 81 and often still behind the counter tossing around dough and painting it with sauce, fresh mozzarella and other classic pizza ingredients -- it's the stuff of delicious legends. If you're lucky, you'll find yourself front and center when DeMarco wields a pair of scissors and expertly cuts fresh basil over his masterpiece.
1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230 | 103 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Emily in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn dishes up interesting flavor combinations. You might find pickled chilis and honey waking up your taste buds.
Named after his wife, Emily was opened in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in 2014 by Matt Hyland.
Learning everything he knows about pizza from Luca Arrigoni from Sottocasa (another pizzeria in NYC), Hyland applied those lessons to help build the rapidly growing Emily empire. The pizzas at Emily are wood-fired like a Neapolitan but charred like New Haven pizzas.
Hyland jokes and calls it "New Havapolitan."
The signature pie is the Emily, which is as distinctive as they come, as it's topped with truffle Sottocenere, honey and pistachios. The Colony is also one of the most requested pies, which has pepperoni, pickled chilis and honey on top. While Emily is the flagship restaurant, Hyland can also be credited with helping to popularize Detroit-style pizza in New York with Emmy Squared.
A hybrid between a Sicilian and a deep-dish pizza, this outpost serves up square pies with thick crusts that are typically baked twice and then topped with sauce afterward.
919 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238 | 35 Downing St, New York, NY 10014 | 364 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211 | 83 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003
John's of Bleeker Street
A sausage and pepperoni pizza from John's of Bleeker Street retains its crisp in spite of the heavy helping of meat.
John's of Bleeker Street is practically an NYC institution, serving its first pizza in 1929. It's considered to be one of the four original pizzerias in NYC alongside Lombardi's, Patsy's and Totonno's.
John's hasn't changed its recipe since its inception, and pizzas are still made the same way with the cheese going on first before adding sauce on top, which allows the cheese to melt right onto the dough and prevents the dough from absorbing too much moisture from the sauce. And the coal-fired oven that's been a part of the restaurant for decades is still churning out six pies at a time at a blistering 850 F (454 C).
One step inside the restaurant is like walking through history. The booths and tables have carvings dating back decades, and diners are welcome to carve their name into the graffiti-covered wood -- just leave the walls alone.
Something that has changed at John's is the meatball recipe, and it's better than ever before. So, make sure you add meatballs on at least one of your pies, and if you're having trouble deciding, split the pie up and get different toppings on each half. Don't be afraid to load up on toppings, as the thin, crunchy crust is sturdy and holds up great even with a mess of ingredients piled on top.
278 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
The House Special No. 1 coming out of the oven at Juliana's in Brooklyn, NY is actually better than its neighbor's pies at Grimaldi's.
Patsy Grimaldi may have sold Grimaldi's back in 1998, but after a long hiatus, he made his triumphant return with the opening of Juliana's in 2012. While he was no longer able to use the Grimaldi name, he was able to reclaim his old space on 19 Fulton St. alongside the coal-fired oven that he used for decades.
While tourists line up around the block at Grimaldi's in DUMBO (a Brooklyn neighborhood that stands for "down under the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges"), we recommend going to Juliana's instead. The pizza, along with the wait, does not compare. Everything from the crust, sauce and toppings are better, which should come as no surprise considering Patsy Grimaldi is one of the most renowned pizziaolos the world has ever seen.
The House Special No. 1 at Juliana's is a revelation. Topped with mozzarella, scamorza affumicata (Italian cow's milk cheese), pancetta, scallions and white truffles in olive oil, there is no pizza like it in NYC. You could argue that it is the single best specialty pie you can get in this great city. Grimaldi took something great and made it brilliant.
19 Old Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Louie & Ernie's
John Tiso from Louie & Ernie's Pizza in the Bronx has been making pizza since 1987, and this is the go-to neighborhood spot.
Any trip to the Bronx should require a stop at Louie & Ernie's. First started in 1947 in Harlem, Louie & Ernie's moved to the Bronx in 1947 and has been there ever since.
It has the feel of a true neighborhood slice joint, and everyone that goes there feels like a regular that lives up the block. Nearly every customer that walked in during our visit seemed to know everyone working behind the counter. Brothers John and Cosima Tiso took over the pizzeria in 1987 and haven't changed a thing. Everything from the sauce to the cornmeal (it's dusted on before going in the oven to add some crispiness) to the recipe for the dough is the same.
The menu is made up of only pizza and calzones, but the stand-out is the sausage pizza. The sausages are scattered liberally in huge pieces across the pizza, and the thin, crunchy New York-style crust holds up admirably. Pizzas are baked for nearly 15 minutes, which helps the crust maintain its shape.
When you think of a classic New York pizzeria, this is it.
1300 Crosby Ave, Bronx, NY 10461
Mark Iacono first opened the doors to Lucali in 2006, building most of the space by himself, including the oven used to make all of the pies. He's one of the most unlikely pizza masters to emerge from NYC, having taught himself to make pizzas with no family recipe or pedigree to build off of.
If you plan to go to Lucali, go early and prepare to wait (or resign yourself to the separate takeout line). While the restaurant now accepts reservations through Resy, the limited number of slots fill up quickly.
Coming to Lucali is part dining experience, part theater. Watching Iacono make each pie on the marble top separating the kitchen from the dining area is mesmerizing, and it's eerily reminiscent of watching pizza master Dom DeMarco work the counter at Di Fara, which should come as no surprise considering that DeMarco was Iacono's inspiration.
The menu is as simple as they come. Pies only come in one size, each of which are topped with fresh basil, and there are no pre-set pies on the menu. You start with a plain pie and add toppings such as pepperoni, onions or peppers. It's pizza at its most basic, and yet there's nothing basic about it. From the fresh toppings to the sublime sauce that tops each pie, this is the type of pizza that all pizzerias should strive to make.
Best of all, the restaurant is BYOB, so feel free to bring a few beers or a bottle of wine to enjoy alongside your food. And who knows, if you're lucky you might just catch Jay-Z and Beyoncé dining there.
575 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
The Hellboy from Brooklyn's Paulie Gee's contains fresh mozzarella, Italian tomatoes, Berkshire soppressata picante, Parmigiano Reggiano and Mike's Hot Honey.
Paul Giannone, tired of working a 9-5 job in IT, decided to give it all up in pursuit of his one true passion: pizza. And thank God that he did, because his pizzeria, Paulie Gee's, serves the best neo-Neapolitan pizza in New York.
The list of wood-fired pizzas at Paulie Gee's is as lengthy as pizza menus come, and each pie has a quirky name to boot. The Ricotta Be Kiddin' Me (fresh mozzarella, Canadian bacon, sweet Italian fennel sausage, fresh basil, and post-oven fresh ricotta dollops), Hellboy (fresh mozzarella, Italian tomatoes, Berkshire soppressata picante, Parmigiano Reggiano and Mike's Hot Honey) and Cherry Jones (fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto di Parma, dried Bing cherries, and orange blossom honey) are all favorites at this Greenpoint pizzeria.
For the more carnivorous eaters out there, the Hometown Brisket (fresh mozzarella, beef brisket from Hometown BBQ in Brooklyn, house-pickled red onions and a drizzle of Hometown BBQ sauce) is fantastic.
On any given night, you can also expect Giannone himself to come by your table for a quick chat. It's this type of personal touch that makes Paulie Gee's feel more like a neighborhood restaurant than a world-class pizzeria, and it'll have you coming back time and time again.
60 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Prince Street Pizza
Detroit-style pizza seems to be all the craze these days in NYC, but if you're craving a square pizza, Prince Street Pizza stands head and shoulders above the rest.
While the hole-in-the-wall pizza shop -- standing room only -- has Neapolitan pies on the menu that are quite good, you're coming here for the "Soho Squares." The Spicy Spring is the signature pizza here, and it's topped with fra diavolo sauce, fresh mozzarella and the type of spicy pepperoni that curls up into little grease-filled cups after coming out of the oven. And you could certainly not accuse them of skimping on the toppings, as the pepperoni cups cover practically every inch of the pizza.
Your hands will get greasy, there will be oil everywhere and you will need piles of napkins to clean up after yourself. But one thing's for certain: You will walk away happily sated. It's worth the wait.
27 Prince St A, New York, NY 10012
Roberta's makes a lot of good pizza, but the stellar choice is almost always the classic margherita.
Started in 2008, Roberta's helped usher in a new wave of pizzerias in NYC. A pilgrimage to its Bushwick outpost in Brooklyn was a must for any pizza-lover in its early years, and the waits could be expected to stretch upwards of three hours long.
While it's much easier to get some of Roberta's pizza now, with outposts spread across NYC in various food halls and pop-ups, a trip to the original location is still worth the trek. And while you should most certainly come for the pizza, you should stay for some of the fantastic non-pizza dishes coming out of the kitchen.
Roberta's makes one of the best Margherita pies that NYC has to offer, and you can't go wrong with one of the signature pies from its wood-fired oven: the Speckenwolf (mozzarella, speck, cremini mushrooms, onion, oregano and black pepper) or the Beastmaster (tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, pork sausage, onion, caper and jalapeno).
261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206 | 230 Park Ave, New York, NY 10169 | 570 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10022
Totonno's in Coney Island has been open since 1924, making it one of the oldest pizzerias in the United States.
Opened on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island in 1924, Totonno's is one of the oldest pizzerias in the United States. Despite having to rebuild the restaurant twice since 2009 due to a fire and damage from Hurricane Sandy, Totonno's is still standing today and is better than ever.
Make sure that you come hungry but not starving. The oven here is small, and on busy days expect to wait nearly an hour for your pizza to come out. Pies come in two sizes and toppings are added on as extras. The coal-fired oven gets the crust nice and crispy, but it still folds perfectly for easy eating.
You can't go wrong with a pepperoni pie with garlic, which are the perfect complements to the sweet yet slightly tangy sauce that gets layered on thick along with a generous helping of fresh mozzarella. While it's not on the main menu, you can order a white pie, which is covered in fresh mozzarella and garlic. Regulars swear by it and say it's the best they've ever had.
1524 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
Una Pizza Napoletana
A margherita from Una Pizza Napoletana in New York City is all about the base.
Una Pizza Napoletana is unlike any other pizzeria in NYC and that's due to owner Anthony Mangieri's tireless pursuit of perfection and devotion to Naples-style pizza. Mangieri considers the dough the most important part of a pizza and this care is apparent upon first bite. The perfectly charred and blistering crust has a soft, chewy interior that is so good, you'll be using every last piece of the crust to sop the oil off your plate as you devour every bite.
Pies are on the smaller side and seem perfectly proportioned for one person, which makes sense since pizzas here are not precut and require you to use a fork and knife to cut your own slices. The pies won't come cheap either, as the Margherita is one of the most expensive in the city, priced at $22.
On any given night, there are only five different pizzas served on the menu -- no add-ons or substitutes are allowed. The Filetti (fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, garlic, basil) is a standout from its selection of permanent pies. On Fridays, the Concetta (San Marzano tomatoes, piennolo, corbarino, estratto della casa, parmigiano) is served. And the only pie with meat or eggs, the Apollonia (named after his daughter and made of mozzarella di bufala, parmigiano, egg, salami, black pepper, garlic and basil), is offered on Saturdays.
Make sure you leave room for dessert, because the tiramisu is almost reason enough to to visit Una Pizza Napoletana.
175 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Stacey Lastoe contributed to reporting on this story.