Pizza! If you grew up obsessed with it -- postgame pizza, movie-night pizza, baby-sitting pizza, college dorm pizza, New York-, New Haven-, Neapolitan-, deep-dish-, St. Louis-, Detroit-style pizza, pizza! -- and pursued that American passion for cheese, sauce, and bread with an adult fascination for seeking the best slice, the finest pie, the Platonic Neapolitan, then the idea of naming America's best is likely contentious. Who serves America's best pizza? "My favorite spot, of course!" Americans will declare. Yes, pizza is tough to rank responsibly. But once again, that's just what The Daily Meal set out to do. (Photo Credit: Frank Pepe's)
Pizza is about as varied and beloved a genre, as opinionated a subject, and also as accessible a food as there is. Even one pie at the country's most expensive, remote, and esteemed pizza temples is within reach of the average person's budget. And every red-blooded American, rich and poor, grew up with their regional style of this national fascination, knowing it as the best. Talk about setting up an argument! "A best pizza list? I know pizza," both sides will claim. "That's not great pizza!" Which pizzerias truly serve pies to seek out, return for, and be in awe of? It's more difficult than ever to answer that question.
One of the problems with even the most well-intentioned best pizza lists is their length, or lack of length actually. Lists mentioning 10, 15, 25, and even The Daily Meal's own collection of 35 places last year just don't do the topic justice. There are too many great places that deserve consideratioand mention. Out of necessity (and sanity), writers have and often do exclude long lists of suggestions from locals, friends, and other experts. Some pick geographic representatives and select what they think are the best of each. And others have taken to declaring a list of the country's best pizza to be impossible, noting as food writer Steven Coomes did recently, that the quality of pizza is "tied to particular ingredients chosen that day and put into the hands of a particular pizza maker." "To borrow a word from the wine industry," Coomes explained, "It's about the terroir."
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It's a challenging task. Unless you've personally visited some 200 of the country's most storied and newest pizzerias, your list is going to be at best slightly flawed. Still, some are more flawed than others. So it was with great seriousness and deliberation that The Daily Meal set out to determine the 101 best pizzas in America for 2013. With more than 400 pizzas, from farther afield than those in 2012 -- from the Western states, the Southwest and Texas, the Midwest, the South, the Northeast, and New York City -- the group of pizzas we considered was bigger, badder, and better than ever.
We researched and called each pizzeria, identifying signature pies or best-sellers, and in the absence of one or the unwillingness of the pizzeria to comply, selected the margherita as a baseline or made an educated decision as to which pie to feature for voting.
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Then we turned to a panel of experts to narrow the list down to America's 101 best -- a formidable task, which is why we invited more panelists than last year, enlisting twice as many experts from across Americas. This panel included 46 American chefs, restaurant critics, bloggers, writers, and pizza authorities, most of whom -- other than Thrillist's Adam Robb, Jason Feirman of IDreamOfPizza, Peter Reinhart of PizzaQuest.com, Marc Horowitz of HiddenBoston.com, and Nicole Danna, a food blogger for Clean Plate Charlie -- preferred to remain anonymous.
What did we discover? What we think is a pretty great list. Sure, you'll wonder how San Francisco's Gialina didn't make the cut, ask aloud where New York's Pizza Moto is, and demand to know howSupino, Buddy's, and Green Lantern Lounge all missed. "Surely, Lucali and L&B Spumoni accidentally switched spots?!" Such is the challenge of trying to know the pizza good. But know the good you will.
Of the 101 best pizzas, 30 were from New York State (that includes Long Island). That being said, only three New York City pizzas made the top 10 and two of them were in Brooklyn. By contrast, two pizzas from Connecticut made the top 10, and three from California ranked among them. The takeaway? There are great pies being made in Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Seattle... and even some Southern states, but without a doubt, most of America's best pies are still in New Haven, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Phoenix. San Diego's a nice place, and local food personality Sam Zien is a great guy, but even he would not likely name that classy city among the top 10 spots in the country for pizza (seriously, TripAdvisor?).
But we're getting ahead of ourselves, right? To find out how the pizzas all ranked, you'll want to pull up to the table, pick up a slice, and check out the list.
-Arthur Bovino, The Daily Meal
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On South Main Street in the heart of Providence, R.I., Al Forno offers a quintessential Italian dining experience for those who can’t afford the flight. Husband-and-wife owner-chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Americans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza. The restaurant bakes their pies in wood-burning ovens as well as on grills over hardwood charcoal fire. Their most notable grilled pizza? The margarita. It’s served with fresh herbs, pomodoro, two cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil. Click Here to see The Complete List of 101 Best Pizzas in America Photo Credit: Al Forno
Some spaces are cursed. Others? Blessed. When Anthony Mangieri shuttered Una Pizza Napoletana at 349 East 12th St. and headed West, Mathieu Palombino took over the lease, renamed the space Motorino, and the East Village pizza scene hardly skipped a beat. Motorino offers a handful of spirited pies, including one with cherry stone clams; another with stracciatella, raw basil, and Gaeta olives; and the cremini mushroom with fior di latte, sweet sausage, and garlic. But contrary to every last fiber of childhood memory you hold dear, the move is the Brussels sprouts pie (fior di latte, garlic, Pecorino, smoked pancetta, and olive oil), something both Hong Kong natives and Brooklynites can now attest to since Palombino opened (and reopened) his Asian and Williamsburg outposts earlier in 2013. Photo Credit: Motorino
Click Here to see The Complete List of 101 Best Pizzas in America Although this San Francisco restaurant claims to specialize in house-made pastas, their pizza is formidable. Baked in a wood-fired oven, the thin-crust pizza at Flour + Water blends Old World tradition with modern refinement, according to chef and co-owner Thomas McNaughton. Pizza toppings vary depending on what’s in season, making each dining experience unique, but Flour + Water’s textbook Margherita is amazing. Heirloom tomatoes, basil, fior di latte, and extra-virgin olive oil… if only the simplicity implied by the restaurant’s name could be duplicated in pizzerias across the country. Photo Credit: Eric Wofinger
Sally's Apizzacg is a New Haven classic, operating from the same location where they opened in the late 1930s in New Haven's Wooster Square. Their pizza is traditionally thin crust, topped with tomato sauce, garlic, and "mozz." The pies look pretty similar to what you'll find down the street at Frank Pepe, which any New Haven pizza believer will note is because the man who opened Sally's is the nephew of the owner of Pepe. The folks at Sally's will be the first to tell you that Pepe makes a better clam pie, but their tomato pie (tomato sauce, no cheese), well, they have the original beat there. Photo Credit: Passion-4-pizza.com
Click Here to see The Complete List of 101 Best Pizzas in America Say Roberta's is in the new class of restaurants that has fanned the flames of the Brooklyn vs. Manhattan debate, call it a great pizza joint, recall it as a frontrunner of the city's rooftop garden movement, and mention that Carlo Mirarchi was named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine, and you'd still be selling it short. Roberta's is in Bushwick six stops out of Manhattan on the L, and it’s one of the city's best restaurants (it even serves one of the city’s hardest-to-score tasting menus). In Bushwick! Pizza may not be the only thing at Roberta’s, but its Neapolitan pies are at the high end of the debate about the city's best (and according to an interview with the blog Slice, inspired another great pizzeria on this list, Paulie Gee’s). Yes, some of them have names like "Family Jewels," "Barely Legal," and after disgraced New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Wiener "Carlos Danger," but you can afford not to take yourself seriously in an environment where Brooklyn hipsters and everyone else tolerate each other when your pizza is this good. As much as the Amatriciana and the Bee Sting (when Roberta’s goes mobile) may tempt, the Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, basil) is Roberta’s pizza Lothario. Photo Credit: Ryan G. Rice
Renowned baker and chef Nancy Silverton teamed up with Italian culinary moguls Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich to open Osteria Mozza, a Los Angeles hot spot where the famous clientele pales in comparison to the innovative, creative fare. The pizzeria, which is attached to the main restaurant, offers a variety of Italian specialties, from antipasti to bruschetta, but the Neapolitan-style pizzas steal the show. Their list of 21 pies ranges from $11 for a simple aglio e olio, a classic cheese pizza, to $23 for a more unique pie with squash blossoms, tomato, and burrata cheese — a delicious and simple pizza that transports through the quality and nuance of its ingredients. So it’s no surprise that Batali and Bastianich have taken a stab at duplicating the success of this model pizzeria, opening in Newport Beach, Singapore (!), and soon, San Diego. Photo Credit: © Flickr/ Muy Yum
Click Here to see The Complete List of 101 Best Pizzas in America When Anthony Mangieri, pizzaiolo for the East Village’s Una Pizza Napoletana, closed in 2009 "to make a change," move West, and open somewhere he could get "a chance to use his outrigger canoe and mountain bike more often," it was the ultimate insult to New Yorkers. You're taking one of the city's favorite Neapolitan pizzerias, defecting to a temperate climate, to people who denigrate New York's Mexican food? So you can canoe and mountain bike? Traitor! Good for Mangieri, and good for San Franciscans, who inherited one of the country's best Neapolitan pies (if only Wednesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. until they're "out of dough"). A thin crust with chewy cornicione, a sauce that's tart and alive, an appropriate ratio of cheese... you could almost imagine yourself at the pantheon to pizza in Naples Da Michele, a place where the pizza is poetry and pizza poetry is on the wall. Mangieri harkens that same ethos on his website — check out the pizza poem "Napoli" — and delivers the edible version to his patrons. There are only five pies, all $25 (a $5 hike since last year), plus a special Saturday-only pie, the Apollonia, made with eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, salami, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, garlic, sea salt, and black pepper. But when you’re this close to godliness, you don’t need extras. Keep it simple with the margherita (San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil ,fresh basil, sea salt, tomato sauce) and know the good. Photo Credit: © Flickr/ Joeywan
"There’s no mystery to my pizza," Bronx native Chris Biacgnco was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "Sicilian oregano, organic flour, San Marzano tomatoes, purified water, mozzarella I learned to make at Mike's Deli in the Bronx, sea salt, fresh yeast cake and a little bit of yesterday's dough. In the end great pizza, like anything else, is all about balance. It's that simple.'' Try telling that to the legions of pizza pilgrims who have made trip to the storied Phoenix pizza spot he opened more than 20 years ago. The restaurant serves not only addictive thin-crust pizzas but also fantastic antipasto (involving wood-oven-roasted vegetables), perfect salads, and homemade country bread. The wait, once routinely noted as one of the worst for food in the country, has been improved by Pizzeria Bianco opening for lunch, and the opening of Trattoria Bianco, the pizza prince of Arizona’s Italian restaurant in the historic Town & Country Shopping Center (about 10 minutes from the original. This is another case where any pie will likely be better than most you’ve had in your life (that Rosa with red onions and pistachios!), but the signature Marinara will recalibrate your pizza baseline forever: tomato sauce, oregano, and garlic (no cheese). Photo Credit: © Flickr/ Rachael Chicks
Domenico DeMarco is a local celebrity, having owned and operated Di Fara since 1964. Dom cooks both New York and Sicilian-style pizza Wednesday through Sunday (noon to 4:30 p.m., and from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.) for hungry New Yorkers and tourists willing to wait in long lines, and brave the free-for-all that is the Di Fara counter experience. Yes, you're better off getting a whole pie than shelling out for the $5 slice. Yes, it's a trek, and sure, Dom goes through periods where the underside of the pizza can trend toward overdone, but when he's on, Di Fara can make a very strong case for being America's best pizza. If you want to understand why before visiting, watch the great video about Di Fara called, The Best Thing I Ever Done. You can’t go wrong with the classic round or square cheese pie (topped with oil-marinated hot peppers, which you can ladle on at the counter if you elbow in), but the menu’s signature is the Di Fara Classic Pie: mozzarella, Parmesan, plum tomato sauce, basil, sausage, peppers, mushroom, onion, and of course, a drizzle of olive oil by Dom. Photo Credit: Chuck Lau
Click Here to see The Complete List of 101 Best Pizzas in America If you want to discuss the loaded topic of America's best pizza with any authority, you have to make a pilgrimage to this legendary New Haven pizzeria. Frank Pepe opened his doors in Wooster Square in New Haven, Conn., in 1925, offering classic Napoletana-style pizza. After immigrating to the United States in 1909 at the age of 16 from Italy, Pepe took odd jobs before opening his restaurant (now called "The Spot" next door to the larger operation). Since its conception, Pepe’s has opened an additional seven locations. What should you order at this checklist destination? Two words: clam pie ("No muzz!"). This is a Northeastern pizza genre unto its own, and Pepe's is the best of them all — freshly shucked, briny littleneck clams, an intense dose of garlic, olive oil, oregano, and grated Parmesan atop a charcoal-colored crust. The advanced move? Clam pie with bacon. Just expect to wait in line if you get there after 11:30 a.m. on a weekend. Click Here to see The Complete List of 101 Best Pizzas in America Photo Credit: Frank Pepe’s
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