Pizza may have Mediterranean origins, but modern pizza is pure American. Pizza was originally sold as street food by Italian immigrants during the turn of the century, and Americans came to love it, change it (deep dish anyone?) and cultivate it into a multi-billion dollar industry. Many recent polls (including our own) list pizza as American’s favorite food. Here are the best contemporary restaurants in major cities across the U.S. as selected by the editors of LocalEats, in no particular order…
32 Spring St, New York, New York 10012
(212) 941-7994: MORE DETAILS
Presiding over New York’s illustrious pizza pedigree, Lombardi’s has more than just its famed clam pizza to recommend it. Pies come with a slice of history as well as sweet Italian sausage, imported anchovies and house-made meatballs. Undisputed godfather of NY-style pizza Gennaro Lombardi founded this Nolita mainstay in 1905, just a few doors down from the current digs, making it the first licensed pizzeria in Manhattan. Loyalists would duel anyone denying the heavenly powers of the smoky, slightly charred crust, sumptuous beefsteak tomatoes and freshly sliced mozzarella.
2355 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 771-2216: MORE DETAILS
Named after the main highway in the Campania region of Italy, the Marina District’s critically exalted A16 restaurant features upscale Neapolitan cuisine and wood-fired pizzas in a casual, well-designed environment. Cork walls and cozy bay windows attract well-dressed patrons to the bar area — a boisterous place to see and be seen with a date — while larger dining parties tend to migrate to the back, near the open kitchen. The seasonal menu features simple pizzas such as the Funghi with mushrooms, smoked Mozzarella and Grana Padano cheeses, dandelion greens, garlic, oregano and olive oil. Pastas have included ricotta gnocchi and squid ink tonnarelli, and entrees have included local halibut with roasted garlic, zucchini, squash blossoms and basil Genovese.
623 E Adams St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 258-8300: MORE DETAILS
Move over Chicago and New York: Phoenix is the new heavyweight in the fight for the title of greatest pizza in the land, thanks to downtown’s Pizzeria Bianco. Chris Bianco, a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef (that’s right: for pizza), combines his Italian heritage and New York upbringing with a zen-like approach of balance and simplicity to his national attention-garnering gourmet pies. Using farmer’s market-fresh vegetables, house-made mozzarella and bakery-worthy bread from the wood-burning oven, the establishment crafts a small selection of pizzas that includes the Wiseguy – fennel sausage, mozzarella and wood-roasted onion – and the Rosa with red onion, parmigiano reggiano, rosemary and pistachios. A few bites into the chewy, puffy, yet still somewhat thin and crispy crust will make you banish the pizza delivery number from your speed dial forever.
3715 Macomb St NW, Washington, DC 20016
(202) 885-5700: MORE DETAILS
A law in Naples, Italy, states that pizza that is called “Neopolitan” must meet certain criteria, and 2 Amys is among the parlors that meets the specifications. In this case, that’s an assurance of great pizza – soft-grain flour, fresh yeast and fresh garlic cooked in a wood-burning oven only. The Norcia has salami, sweet peppers, garlic and mozzarella. The fantastic Vongole captures everything you love about linguine with clam sauce. The pizza is tomato-less but spread with salty bits of grana (hard Italian cheese) and sweet cockles (mollusks) in their shells, with capers, parsley and fiery peppers. And there’s more than pizza. Try the deviled eggs with green sauce, suppli (fried rice balls stuffed with cheese) and polpettone (meatballs in marinara).
119 N 4th St, Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 333-7359: MORE DETAILS
Perhaps the United Nations should find out what’s in the sauce here. Pizza Lucé brings together vegans and omnivores, singles and families, early-lunch eaters and late-night noshers. An offbeat, tattooed and pierced waitstaff works in elegant, old-oak surroundings. Something about the clash of styles creates harmonious success, as Pizza Lucé is consistently voted best pizza in local media polls. The restaurant opened in 1993 in the city’s downtown Warehouse District. Today,several locations offer the same 50-topping menu, a list that includes categories that keep the vegetarians coming back: Unmeat and Uncheese. (Mock duck and soy cheese, anyone?) For the gourmand, there’s smoked Gouda, roasted eggplant, salami and basil pesto. And for the kids, there’s good old pepperoni. The baked potato pizza is the most popular pie.
261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 417-1118: MORE DETAILS
Brooklyn’s much-praised and wildly popular Roberta’s features terrific pizzas and Italian-inspired contemporary dishes such as beef carpaccio, fluke with Tuscan melon and tarragon, and scallops with carrots, pistachio and yogurt. Critic Sam Sifton of the New York Times summed it up perfectly, “Roberta’s pizzas are marvelous things.”
2128 Murray Ave # 1, Pittsburgh, PA 15217
(412) 521-9864: MORE DETAILS
Giovanni “John” Mineo originally wanted to open a bakery. But in 1958, he instead was coaxed into opening a pizzeria in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. And Pittsburgh’s all the better for it, as Mineo’s Pizza House continues to rack up best-of’s in area media polls. Run by sons Dominic and John, Mineo’s specializes in medium-crust pizza, heavy on the cheese, with a spicy-sweet tomato sauce. You’ll need more than the usual allotment of napkins to handle the wonderful, greasy mess created when eating one of the pies – also available by the slice, thick-crust Sicilian, and white (no tomato sauce) – with a selection of the usual and the not so usual toppings (meatballs, broccoli, shrimp, artichoke hearts).
17125 Conant St, Detroit, MI 48212
(313) 892-9001: MORE DETAILS
In 1936, Buddy’s was a neighborhood tavern well known for illegally serving alcohol. They only added pizza to the menu in 1946. Today, Buddy’s Pizza is well known for two things: its “Got Pizza? Give Dough!” fund-raising campaign, which has raised over $1.2 million for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and the deep-dish pizza recipe that has barely changed over the years. It’s no wonder Metro Times readers have named Buddy’s pizza the best in Detroit since 1985. Specialty pizzas include the barbecue chicken pizza with cheese, barbecue sauce, chicken, red onions and cilantro; Greek pizza with feta and Wisconsin brick cheese, spinach, roasted garlic, red onion, diced tomato, dill, and a Greek dressing; and margherita pizza with roasted garlic, tomatoes, basil, oregano, olive oil and Asiago cheese. Pepperoni slices are thoughtfully placed under the cheese to prevent charring, and all pizzas can be made without cheese or with fat-free cheese.
1650 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041
(323) 256-9617: MORE DETAILS
Infamously long lines. A drive across the Rocky Mountains – nothing can keep loyal clientele from seeking the taste of Casa Bianca’s divine creations. Though trendy restaurants throughout the country are dressing pies with the likes of oven-roasted aubergine and truffle-infused what-have-you, visitors near and far have made the pilgrimage to Eagle Rock since 1955 for the almighty simplicity of this thoroughly local-pizzeria pizza. The no-frills institution has been canonized in practically every guidebook on the shelf. One slice of the house specialty – a crispy, thin crust anointed with sweet tomato sauce, warm cheese and juicy house-made sausage – and thou shalt never think of pizza in the same way again.
6649 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60712
(847) 673-0800: MORE DETAILS
Among other things, Chicago is known for its art, architecture, old-time gangsters, Wrigley Field, da Bears, da Bulls and of late President Barack Obama, but perhaps the greatest cultural contribution of the city is the Chicago-style pizza. Lou Malnati, using the family recipe dating from the ’40s, opened his flagship restaurant in Lincolnwood in 1971. Now with more than 30 restaurants in the Chicago area, Lou Malnati’s pizzerias serve their signature buttery, deep-dish crust (deep because the dough is stretched high to fit the pan but not technically thick as is often assumed) filled with a California plum tomato sauce and copious amounts of vegetables. The thin-crust pizza deservedly draws rave reviews as well.