It must be hell to be a carbophobe these days, particularly in New York. After all, you can't swing a cat in this town without hitting a delicately crisp, brightly flavored, meticulously crafted pizza. All over the city, you can see these tortured souls muddling through their starch-free lives, battling temptation at every turn.
New York, of course, has been a great pie town and a national pizza trendsetter practically since the day Gennaro Lombardi hauled a charred Margherita out of his coal oven. But never before has there been such a ridiculous wealth, such a mind-boggling abundance, such a belly-busting bounty of good pizza options, here and across the country.
Remember the Great Neapolitan Pizza Craze that rocked the pizza world a few years back? Well, that was merely a light warm-up for what's happening now. Still, it's not too much to say that the Naples Invasion is largely to thank for all the groovy new pies and pizza styles we now have at our disposal: When the Neapolitans and their acolytes saturated the local market with their drippy mozzarella di bufala and their soft and puffy cornicioni, they effectively lit a stick of dynamite underneath the pants of the American pizza-making populace. They roused us out of complacency and into action, spurring us on to step up and celebrate our homegrown pies.
Now, here in New York, for instance, there's Gourmet Stoner pizza at PeteZaaz in Prospect Heights and St. Louisstyle at Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill. Where once it looked like the New York slice would sadly go the way of, if not the woolly mammoth, then surely the late, lamented New York bagel, now there is a mini slice-joint renaissance. Even Patsy Grimaldi, who can trace his pieman lineage back to Gennaro Lombardi, has come out of retirement to open Juliana's in the Fulton Ferry District and duke it out with his nemesis down the block who holds the rights to the Grimaldi name.
The funny thing is that the Neapolitans themselves with all their purported pizza rules and minimalist-restraint bluster might have been putting us on all along. The weirdest stuff to come out of the oven in recent months might be their own wacked-out Felliniesque concoctions: the deep-fried montanaras at Forcella, the crazy-ass pies at the otherwise super-authentic Don Antonio by Starita in Hell's Kitchen. A stuffed pizza shaped like a tennis racquet? Really? They eat those things in Naples?
We have arrived at a point in American pizza's progress when it's virtually impossible to count and classify the myriad styles. For every appetite, there is a slice, and to loosely paraphrase Brillat-Savarin (not to mention Iron Chef Chairman Kaga), tell me what kind of pizza you eat, and I'll tell you what you are. To illustrate just how diverse and delicious American pie can be, our national network of Grub Street scribes have assembled 101 examples from coast to coast that shock in their audacity, inspire in their creativity, and sometimes merely comfort in their tribute to time-honored tradition.
Click on through the slideshow, and, carbophobes, please avert your eyes.
Introduction by Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite Selections by Grub Street
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The biggest growth category of the last two decades in American pizza is what could be termed the American New Wave — those otherwise-hard-to-categorize pies that are too firm to be classic Neapolitan pies, but retain many of the same qualities: top-shelf ingredients, wood-burning ovens, and deep blistering on the puffy crust. (Call it hipster pizza, if you're so inclined). More than any other category on the list, this is the group that's nodding to pizza's rich past while simultaneously pushing things forward.
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American New Wave
Black Olive, Anchovy, and CaperBoot & Shoe ServiceOakland, California
This wood-oven pizza-and-cocktail spot near Lake Merritt in Oakland was an instant hit after opening in 2009, and chef-owner Charlie Hallowell basically kept the formula from his previously opened and equally popular Pizzaiolo across town intact. His crusts are chewy, well-seasoned, and crisped all the way to the center, and the topping choices change nightly and seasonally — with greatest hits including a wild-nettle pie, and the red pie (pictured) — as they must coming from a guy who spent eight years manning an oven at Chez Panisse.
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American New Wave
Erreyday I'm Brusslin'Roberta'sBrooklyn
Pizza guys Chris Parachini and Brandon Hoy debuted this pizzeria in 2008, and while some might go for a more restrained, minimalist approach, toppings-wise, this is where you go for abundance, whimsy, and seasonal variety. You'll find Tallegio cheese, Brussels sprouts (pictured), housemade lardo, and one pie dubbed Paige's Breakfast Burrito, topped with potato, egg, sausage, and jalapeños.
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American New Wave
Chris Bianco's James Beard Award–winning Phoenix pizzeria is coming up on its twentieth year, and no national pizza compendium is complete without it. Bianco no longer makes every pizza himself, as he did for sixteen years — he stepped back from the oven in 2010 because years of wood smoke was aggravating his asthma. But the pizzas remain, by all accounts, some of the best in the country, with signatures like the Wiseguy (smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage, and wood-roasted onion), and the Rosa (pictured), with red onion, Parmesan, rosemary, and local pistachios.
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American New Wave
Lamb Merguez, Spinach, and FetaPitfire PizzaLos Angeles
Second only in L.A. pizza respectability to Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza — more on Mozza in a bit — is this growing local chain from Paul Hibler, which now has seven locations. The pizzas are wood-fired, consistently crisp, and the topping combinations are clever and delicious — like the Greens, Egg, & Ham pie with prosciutto, egg, and braised rapini; and the Merguez pizza (pictured), with wilted spinach, roasted pepper harissa, red onion, and feta.
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American New Wave
This Greenpoint spot from self-taught pizzaiolo Paul Giannone serves up unique and nontraditional pies that have been bowling critics and Brooklynites over for the past few years. The place has landed a spot on Michelin's Bib Gourmande list, and it's where you want to go in New York not for a perfect Neapolitan Margherita (though you will find that), but for more eccentric stuff like the sauce-heavy, speck-laden Spectacle, or the Hellboy, with fior di latte, tomatoes, hot sopressata, Parmigiano Reggiano, and spicy honey.
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American New Wave
Pesto PizzaPauline's PizzaSan Francisco
Pauline's was a true pioneer in the American New Wave pizza movment, opening over 25 years ago. Their dough remains uniquely yeasty, perfectly crisped from center to edge, with a steaming, fresh-baked-bread interior. This crust becomes a vehicle for everything from seasonal vegetables from one of their two local farms, to housemade chicken sausage or linguisa, to their signature, pleasantly pungent basil pesto and pine nuts.
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American New Wave
Half Sausage/Half PlainApizza SchollsPortland, Oregon
Pizzaiolo Brian Spangler has been turning out superlative pies at this Portland destination since 2005. He makes his own sweet fennel sausage in house, and he's mastered the use of his very conventional, electric (you read that right) pizza oven, using an infrared thermometer gun to keep the temperature up at 700 degrees. The resulting crust is just as crisp, blistered, and charred as many a wood oven might make.
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American New Wave
Homemade Sausage PieFranny'sBrooklyn
Husband-and-wife owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens brought a piece of Alice Waters's Berkeley to Brooklyn when they opened Franny's in 2004. It remains great not just because of their simple, seasonal approach to artisanal pizza-making and excellent toppings like housemade pepperoni and meatballs, but also because it's a place where the crisp, pliable crust is the star, and you won't ever see much left on plates.
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American New Wave
At Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette's critically acclaimed Italian spot in Boston's South End, it's not uncommon to find calf's brains in your ravioli or blood sausage on your pizza. Bissonnette's passion for nose-to-tail cooking finds one of its best canvases in the bone-marrow pizza (pictured), with beef-heart pastrami and horseradish.
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American New Wave
Country HamGarage BarLouisville, Kentucky
New Jersey–born chef Michael Paley opened this popular spot in Louisville's trendy East Market District (a.k.a. NuLu, a.k.a. New Louisville) in 2011, in what was formerly a roadside gas station, and, before that, a saloon. He wanted to bring the regionality of Italian pizza to the American South, and so he puts things like country ham, local squash, and Brussels sprouts on his wood-fired pies, all cooked in a Stefano Ferrara oven. As an added bonus, on top of the bourbon-driven cocktail menu, they serve regional soft drinks nearing extinction, like Cheerwine and Nehi.
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Chicago is of course the city most associated with deep-dish pizzas — often thick, long-cooked, sauce-on-top concoctions that are "filled" instead of "topped." But while the Windy City is well-represented here, there are plenty of other places carrying on the tradition, too.
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Deep Dish SausagePizano's Pizza and PastaChicago
The same year (1943) that Enrico Fermi's atomic scientists made the first atomic pile, the first Chicago pizza was being pushed into an oven a few miles north at Pizzeria Uno. The crust of this original Chicago style is a buttery short dough, hard and biscuitlike, forming a shell strong enough to hold the thick layer of cheese, toppings (preferably including the fennel-heavy Italian sausage favored in Chicago), and crushed tomatoes. Historians dispute whether the real inventor was owner Ike Sewell or chef Rudy Malnati, but locally it's the Malnati family that carries the tradition on with the Lou Malnati's and Pizano's chains founded by different sons of Rudy Sr.
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Pan Sausage and PeppersBurt's PlaceMorton Grove, Illinois
For some pizza-makers, "pan pizza" (in which the ingredients sit on top of bread, foccacia-style) is merely a cheaper way to make a pizza tall than with layers of more expensive ingredients. For Burt Katz, however, it was an art form of its own distinguished by his technique of ringing the pizza with cheese that would caramelize into a crisp, lacey black edge. Katz founded and sold several local chains (Pequod's, Gulliver's) and passed into obscurity … until online food fans discovered he was still at work in a northern suburb, and promptly spoiled his easing into retirement by giving him fame on the cover of Saveur and in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Today the septuagenarian single-handedly feeds a packed house five nights a week — and you have to call ahead to reserve your pizza's oven time.
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Stuffed Spinach PizzaThe Art of PizzaChicago
Inspired by an Italian Easter pie called scarciedda, Nancy's Pizza owner Rocco Palese invented the stuffed pizza in the late sixties; cheese and toppings bake between two dough crusts, topped with tomato sauce, in a pizza that is, as detractors say, as much casserole as pizza. Several local chains offer the stuffed style, but fans give top honors for freshness of tomato sauce and seasonings to a small spot in a strip mall called the Art of Pizza.
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Stuffed Veggie With PepperoniPapa Del'sChampaign, Illinois
Hey, you can't send Chicago kids off to the University of Illinois in downstate Urbana-Champaign without giving them some hope of deep-dish pizza for late-night munchies, can you? Owner Bob Monti (the Del's comes from a frat brothers' nickname — Del Monti, get it?) is the son and grandson of Chicago pizza-makers who went off to U of I in the sixties to study biology, but wound up starting a parlor and making pizzas for the last 40 years instead.
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Brass MonkeyLittle Star PizzaSan Francisco
San Francisco's best (and most popular) deep dish builds a tall cornmeal crust wall to hold in the ingredients. The star attraction is the Little Star, spinach with ricotta and feta, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. That's a pretty great combination, but if you need meat even on a pizza this substantial, the off-menu "Brass Monkey" takes all of that and adds sausage, too.
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Cornmeal Crust PizzaZelo PizzeriaArcadia, California
Los Angeles has a number of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza places, but the most interesting is Zelo Pizzeria in Arcadia, east of Pasadena, whose ingredient list — with things like roasted eggplant, fresh corn, and balsamic-marinated roasted red onion — puts a distinctly Californian spin on the Chicago model.
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The Fat SchmuckerSchmuck's Pizza PubJohnson City, Tennessee
Okay, it's a weird combination: the Yiddish name, the Chicago-style deep dish, and the country music performers and open-mike nights, but somehow the massive, robust deep-dish pizza brings it all together at this eastern Tennessee spot.
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Chicago-Style Deep DishArmand's Chicago PizzeriaWashington, D.C.
Are there a lot of transplanted Illinoisians in D.C.? (Besides the ones at 1600 Pennsylvania, we mean.) We suspect so, considering that the capital's best-known deep dish has won Washingtonian magazine's "best pizza" poll every year since Bill Clinton's first term. Ironically, one who isn't a transplanted Illinoisian is owner Lew Newmyer — he's from Atlantic City, but was converted to deep dish on his first visit to Chicago.
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Classic Deep DishGarces Trading CompanyPhiladelphia
Why hasn't anyone in Chicago reinvented deep dish the way Jose Garces has? Admittedly, Garces is a Chicago native and this dish is billed as a tribute to his hometown, but maybe it took the distance to Philadelphia to allow him to rethink deep dish from the outside (a thin, delicate crust made with duck fat) to inside (oven-roasted San Marzano tomato confit, a mix of fresh mozzarella and Gruyère, and toppings ranging from boquerones to chorizo).
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Chicago Pan PizzaPizzeria ScottyMilwaukee
Milwaukee has more than its share of terrific tavern-cut thin-crust pizzas, but what keeps this West View spot hopping is the menu of deep-dish choices — pan and stuffed — that owner Scott Vaughan has made in faithful replication of his hometown's style since he moved up from Chicago in 1985.
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One of the most varied styles is the thin-crust pizza, a blanket term for pizzas that can come in all sorts of forms: unleavened cracker crusts, super-crispy tavern-style pizza that's popular in the middle of the country, and even an Alsatian specialty that might not qualify as proper pizza, even if it maintains all of the delicious trappings.
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St. Louis–Style PizzaImo's PizzaSt. Louis
Just as Chicago is almost exclusively associated with deep-dish pizza, St. Louis is a city known for its fondness for incredibly thin crusts and a proprietary processed cheese blend called Provel (it's Cheddar, provolone, and Swiss). Imo's, a chain that dots the area, turns out what could be considered paragons of the form. In typical thin-crust fashion, the pizza itself is cut into squares, since the crust is too crispy to fold.
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The Saint LouieSpeedy RomeoBrooklyn
Speaking of St. Louis–style pizza, it joins the long list of regional food favorites being reinterpreted in Brooklyn. The crust isn't as thin as the real deal, but the Provel cheese is true to form, and the pickled peppers help cut through the cheese blend's creaminess.
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Hot Oil PizzaColony GrillStamford, Connecticut
You can't help but respect a place that only has one thing on the menu. That's the case at the Colony Grill, where cracker-thin pizza is the only choice. You can pick your toppings, but the only real decision to make is whether you want that pizza with or without the place's signature chile-infused hot oil. You want it with.
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New Haven ApizzaFrank Pepe and Sally's ApizzaNew Haven, Connecticut
New Haven pizza — "apizza" — could be its very own category. Coal-fired, but sturdier, saucier, (most important here) thinner in crust than standard New York pizza, the style has a devoted following (even if it is slightly thicker than our other thin-crust options). So who puts out the best? It's hard to say for sure, which is why we're including two New Haven favorites.
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Tarte FlambéeThe Bar Room at the ModernNew York City
It's debatable if tarte flambée, the classic thin-crust Alsatian dish, is technically pizza, but the designation is secondary to taste — and the dish sure tastes like a fantastic pizza. The country's best remains chef Gabriel Kreuther's, served inside MoMA. Pick from either the traditional version topped with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon; or an Americanized rendition with hen of the woods mushrooms, chives, and cheese from Vermont.
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Old Forge PizzaArcaro & GenellOld Forge, Pennsylvania
Old Forge pizza is a little-known regional style that never really broke out beyond its region. (Even if Old Forge the town declares itself the pizza capital of the world.) The square pies are similar to thinner versions of Sicilian pies, and like St. Louis–style pizza, Old Forge piemakers eschew pure mozzarella in favor of a specialty cheese blend. Arcaro & Genell's is the spot often associated with the style, but you can find versions at spots like Jigsy's and Revello's, too.
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Marc Vetri and Jeff Michaud stand behind a serious selection of pizzas at their Philly restaurant, cultivating wood-fired Neapolitans for mortadella and pistachio-pesto pies, and layering hand-pulled, paper-thin Roman-style pizza with indulgent toppings like octopus and smoked mozzarella, lobster with rapini greens, and this baked egg and cotechino "Lombarda."
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Deluxe Thin CrustCasa BiancaLos Angeles
A Southern California pizza shop that proudly turns out the thin-crusted bar-style pizza of founder Sam Martorana, Casa Bianca is a packed L.A. staple. It didn't help thin the crowds when, in 2011, L.A.'s Pulitzer-winning Jonathan Gold, then working at the L.A. Weekly, called it one of the city's 99 Essential Restaurants.
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Sausage Pizza (With Whatever Other Toppings You Want)Vito & Nick'sChicago
Yes, non-Chicagoans think the Windy City is a deep-dish town, but there are still other options, like the thin, crispy-crusted bar-style pies served at this South side institution. (The shop traces its roots back 90 years.) The place gets a lot of love from the media — even Guy Fieri deigned to feature this place on his Food Network show — and its devoted customers, meaning it will be around for years to come.
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Bar PieEddie's PizzaNew Hyde Park, New York
The Long Island bar-pie specialists have been turning out thin, crispy, small pizzas for 70-plus years, but that doesn't mean they're stuck in the past. In 2010, Eddie's launched its own Manhattan food truck that turns out the shop's signature item. No beer, though — which means you might still want to make a trip out on the LIRR to check out the original.
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As the Underground Gourmet made clear in the intro, the Great Mid-Aughts Neapolitan Pizza Boom helped created the carb-friendly pizza world we live in today. What follows are classics of the form: minimally sauced-and-cheesed pies straight from (usually) carefully built wood-burning ovens.
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Though Stephen Starr himself calls the pies served at his Pizzeria Stella a cross between classic Neapolitan and New York pizzas, it's filed here under the former. Simply dressed, blistered and leopard-spotted to perfection (courtesy of a last minute, sawdust-fueled burst of heat), the classic Margherita serves as a benchmark for the style.
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Don’t let the fact that the wood-fired oven that Jonah Fliegelman and his friends turn out at Pitruco’s pizzas from sits atop four wheels fool you. They are no novelty. As far as classic Neapolitan pies in Philly go, these are as legit as they come. Pictured here is Fliegelman finishing a whipped-ricotta and roasted eggplant pie with a drizzle of olive oil — just as tradition dictates.
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Flour, mozzarella di bufala, San Marzano tomatoes — everything at this West Village pizzeria comes from the pizza motherland. Chef-owner Roberto Caporuscio even imported craftsmen from Italy to construct Kesté’s wood-fired oven. If you want a more authentic taste of Neapolitan pies, you’ll need to renew your passport and book a flight to Naples.
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When Anthony Mangieri uprooted Una Pizza Napoletana and took it to the West Coast, Belgian-born chef Mathieu Palombino quickly snatched up the East Village property and its highly coveted, made-in-Naples Acunto wood-burning oven for a second location of his immensely popular (now defunct, but opening again soon) Brooklyn Neapolitan-style pizzeria. As a testament to his Old World pizzaiolo skills, Palombino kept the fires burning and the pies coming throughout the power outages caused by Superstorm Sandy.
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MarghertiaMother DoughLos Angeles
A new guard of skilled pizzaioli have helped pull L.A. out of its chain pizza rut in recent years. Among them is Bez Compani, the Naples-trained, Neapolitan pizza-making mastermind behind Mother Dough, who counts Frodo Baggins actor Elijah Wood as a devotee. Just five pies grace the menu, each of which is carefully stretched and cautiously topped, so the mother of their ingredients — the crust itself — doesn’t get lost in the mix.
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IlariaUna Pizza NapoletanaSan Francisco
Una Pizza Napoletana founder Anthony Mangieri does pizza like Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye does music: Simple. Pure. And unfazed by any extraneous poser bullshit. And before shipping out to the West Coast, his very serious approach to America’s most favorite fun food defined pizza perfection in New York’s East Village. In San Francisco, he continues his mission as the keeper of the wood-fired pizza flame.
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Margherita (and Others)Harry's PizzeriaMiami
Like Starr did with Pizzeria Stella in Philadelphia, and Anthony Mangieri in San Francisco with Una Pizza Napoletana, Michael Schwartz started blazing a new trail for pizza lovers in Miami with the wood-fired oven at his casual pizzeria. Though regulars insist pies like the short-rib or pulled pork are must-orders, the simple Margherita’s perfect balance of crunch and chew in the crust, subtle char, and delicate sweetness of San Marzano Tomatoes never disappoints.
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Though it began as a mobile operation with a wood-fired oven attached to the back of a beautifully restored REO Speed Wagon, Nomad Pizza came into its own when it settled down last year with its second fixed location, just off Philly’s South Street. With a small selection of perfectly executed Neapolitan pies, it’s gained a faithful following of pizza purists and become something of a critics' darling at the same time.
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NeapolitanOven & ShakerPortland, Oregon
Few pies better embody the beautiful simplicity of Neapolitan pizza than those served at Portland’s Oven & Shaker. Toppings are added sparingly before going into the wood-fired oven to ensure that all the flavor components — from charred crust to San Marzano tomatoes to buffalo mozzarella — come shining through in the finished product.
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NeapolitanAntico Pizza NapoletanaAtlanta
Genuine, wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas used to be few and far between south of the Mason-Dixon line. Thankfully in more recent years, that’s all changed. Perhaps the most authentic these days come from Atlanta’s Antico Pizza Napoletana, where master pizzaiolo Giovanni Di Palma takes what can only be described as a purist’s approach to the pizza-making craft.
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What constitutes the classic "New York"–style pizza? There's the thin-but-still-chewy crust and the wide, floppy slices that make folding mandatory. Lombardi's started things in Little Italy more than 100 years ago, and now you can find great pizza on almost every corner in the city — and lots of less expected places around the country.
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It's impossible to pick a "best" New York spot, generations-old allegiances being what they are. In fact, even New York's newest no-frills pizza joint has decades of history, run by none other than pizza O.G. Patsy Grimaldi. He hasn't lost a step. The crust, straight out of the coal-fired oven, is thin, chewy, and charred. This is a classic New York pie; don't call it a comeback.
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Pizza maven James Spillane billed his pie as "an American spin on the traditional Neapolitan style pizza" before leaving to start Armitage. Nevertheless, this is one of the only coal-oven pizzerias in Chicago, and the charred crust achieves the perfect balance of crisp-meets-chewy. It's no surprise that Spillane is a former East Coaster — he hails from Massachusetts.
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Coalfire's Spillane is also behind this newish spot, which is much more casual than Coalfire. There's no fancy, artisanal cheese; just shredded hard mozzarella, ruby red sauce, and thin crust. At $11 a pie, you can swing the cash-only requirement.
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The pies that Mark Iacono turns out from his wood- and gas-powered oven are as tough to pin down as Iacono himself. The thin-but-chewy-crusted pizzas aren't quite Neapolitan, and they aren't classic "New York" pizza, either. No matter: They're some of the very best in the five boroughs. Just make sure you call before you go: Iacono can close shop with little warning. It's open now, but call anyway: You can reserve a spot for yourself and skip the often-very-long lines.
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This pizza spot's oddly located near Logan airport, but it's worth the trip. Santarpio's has been serving pizza since 1933, and you're lucky if you see an actual menu in this old-school joint. The gas oven cooks cornmeal-dusted pies, and they're made well-done. The result is a tough, crunchy crust that you'll have to ravage to eat.
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MargheritaTony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Slice HouseSan Francisco
Tony Gemignani is a man of firsts: He was the first American to win the coveted Best Pizza Margherita award at the World Pizza Cup in Naples (yes, that's a thing). And he was one of the first to open a coal-fired, New York–style pizza spot in San Francisco. Be prepared to wait; he's got a cult following.
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Cheese PieBronx PizzaSan Diego
There's nothing fancy about this cheap pizza place, but that's the beauty of Bronx. A thin and foldable crust, tomato sauce that's most definitely not San Marzano, and a whole lot of cheese evoke some of the best pies you can find in New York. There's seating in the back, but we suggest you take it to go.
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Turns out far west Seattle is home to a good East Coast pie. A Californian couple opened Giannoni's in 2007, and the graffiti mural on the wall is telling of its hip modernity. A gas oven produces oozing orange pies filled with basil, whole-milk mozzarella, and a fresh sauce made out of crushed San Marzanos.
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Born-and-raised New Yorkers swear by the pizza at this northern Miami restaurant. It's a hole-in-the-wall joint, and it's open until 4 a.m. on weekends (like all cheap pizza places should be). No frills, greasy, and bubbling with cheese: Lowbrow-Brilliant.
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Cheese & Tomato SauceValentino's New York Style PizzeriaAlexandria, Virginia
New York–style pizza isn't elitist, so it sure isn't limited to the biggest cities. This pie is marked by its super-sweet sauce, which is a love-it or hate-it for pizza fanatics. Interesting tidbit: The owners, who hail from Queens, only use natural spring water to make their pies.
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Sicilian pizza — an Americanized adaptaion of sficione, foccacia's Sicilian relative — doesn't get as much love as Neapolitan and coal-fired pies, but that doesn't make the style any less a part of the country's pizza canon. In fact, the square, thick-crusted versions served throughout the U.S. prove there's much to love about this variety.
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This sharp-edged, room-temperature specialty of the Philly suburbs comes slathered in a sauce of chunky tomatoes and garlic atop a focaccialike crust, cheese-less save for a shake of grated Parm. Here you'll find the definitive source of this simple style, where both sauce and pan-baked dough are made in-house.
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Angelenos seeking the rather lo-fi pleasures of an East Coast–style Sicilian slice need look no further than this Downtown newcomer, where a dense, crunchy sourdough crust is spread with herb-spiked sauce atop an elongated rectangle blanketed in slightly charred cheese.
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SicilianL&B Spumoni GardensBrooklyn
This is probably the most famous Sicilian slice on Earth (Sicily included). Droves of tourists, TV crews, and NYC natives train it to Bensonhurst to take a swing at L&B's legendary crackly crust, layered with olive oil and a potent, sweet-and-tangy San Marzano sauce over a slight sprinkle of cheese.
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Not only does this Windy City bakery make its own bread, but the original Grand Avenue location also employs the city's oldest coal-burning oven to hatch its sharply sauced, melted-mozzarella-topped Sicilians, piping hot from the oven in full sheets and served in room-temperature slices or by the preordered pan.
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Palermo PizzaFamous Ben'sNew York
With its notorious Palermo slice, this tourist-targeting Soho joint serves the city's truest example of Sicilian sfincione, a cheese-less brick on a pan-fried crust. Deceivingly simple looking, the slice packs a punch through its flavorful base of finely diced anchovies, garlic, and sweet onions, under a sprinkle of breadcrumbs.
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Square PizzaGalleria UmbertoBoston
Steady lines betray the modesty of this North End pizza parlor, where pies fly from the ovens in massive, full-sheet rectangles until the diner runs out (and they always do). Opposed to the sloppiness of so many cheese-less Sicilians, Umberto's lofty crust overflows with melted cheese and a rich, tangy sauce.
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Detroit PizzaBuddy's RestaurantDetroit
This red-checked classic claims the creation of Motor City's original square pie, spreading the deep-dish and Sicilian hybrid throughout Detroit. To maximize the caramelized crunch on its deep crust, Buddy's often twice-bakes the pie in a sunken pan, casting a die-cut, diagonal edge easing into the morass of melted cheese and sweet, rich sauce.
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Sicilian SlabMicucci's GroceryPortland, Maine
Stephen Lanzalotta's small-batch slabs sell fast in the corner of this deli, made plain by long lines and paper plate love letters. A super-light crust, spread with bubbles, char-marks, and brick-red brows, gets a scant pass of sauce and sowing of Parm and mozzarella. But the real secret is in the baker's obsessively tailored dough.
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Sicilian PizzaDiPrima DolciPortland, Oregon
This New Yorker in the northwest offers fluffy, light Sicilian pizza both by the slice and whole pie, taken seriously enough to get more than just one obligatory treatment. Here you'll find a broad, delicious focaccia-style crust with mozzarella-topped marinara and additions like meatball, pork sausage, and pepperoni.
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Sicilian SliceRizzo's Fine PizzaQueens, New York
While most Sicilian slices are marked by the conquest of sluggish starch under a splatter of sauce and cheese, Astoria's 54-year-old Sicilian specialist dominates its hearty-crusted rectangles with a thick deluge of the good stuff; herb-saturated sauce and a single sheet of mozzarella encapsulated in a crackly, paper-thin parapet.
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There are plenty of slices on this list so far, but some pizzas truly are best appreciated when cut. And while slice joints are as integral to New York's food culture as bagel shops and delis (and appropriately represented on this list), that doesn't mean you can't find a good slice outside NYC.
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New York–Style SliceArinell PizzaSan Francisco
Arinell's slices are elegant, no-frills, and covered with an even layer of hot cheese. The crust is thin and puffed at the edges, slices fold neatly, there's the slight sheen of grease, and the uniform touch of char underneath gives it a good chew. Tastes even better reheated.
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"Pizza"Grandaisy Bakery and Sullivan St. BakeryNew York
Whether you opt for the woodsy mushroom mix with rosemary, plain pomodoro, the baby-artichoke-embedded carciofi, or the aged-pecorino-layered bianco, these slices are springy with a great crumb, which is not something you'd associate with pizza, but it works wonders in this case. Pretend this is the ancestor of all modern pizza — it probably is.
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Chicago isn't exactly a slice town, because the pies there are typically thicker than a Steven King paperback. Most of the ones you do find have often been kept in a warming box that inexorably renders cheese into leatherette. The sixties-era Villa Palermo does a great classic Chicago joint pizza: A flat crust put through a roller, sweetish sauce, a heavy blanket of tangy cheese, and lumps of garlicky, fennel-heavy Italian sausage.
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Special SlicesDi Fara PizzaBrooklyn
You've probably heard the stories about Domenico DeMarco, the Midwood, Brooklyn, pie-maker who's been on the clock since 1959 and won't let anyone else touch the oven inside his Avenue J shop, where he makes the most soulful pizzas in New York. The stories are true. If you make it there and can't wait for a pie, try to get two slices: There's a bowl of sliced Calabrian chiles in oil for your first slice. Eat the second slice plain.
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Plain Slice or the Sophia LorenCiccio's PizzaBrooklyn
Ciccio's, which has been open on Avenue U in the far-flung Brooklyn neighborhood of Gravesend for approximately forever (and reopens February 11 after a hiatus), is not likely to start attracting pizza tour buses anytime soon. That's criminal, because the slices are great and stand up to most other New York parlors. The cooks sprinkle all the outer crusts with sesame seeds, including the sauce-less Sophia Loren, an oddly perfect, thin-crust pie topped with a little garlic, very large slabs of fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes that look like they were flattened by a steam roller.
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Tomato PieTomato PieLos Angeles
The space-agey Tomato Pie loads its house pie with sauce, sharp cheese, and parsley. The crust may puff up, up, and away, but the caramelized flavor that comes from olive oil brushed on the dough and Romano sprinkled on top keeps it all grounded.
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Epic SliceMauro's PizzaHollywood, Florida
One of the cheapest, tastiest, and largest slices in the country (it takes two paper plates to hold one). The crust is thin and floppy, the cheese is cooked until bubbled and brown, and the sauce is tart. The staff here is legendarily stern, however, so when you order your slice at the counter, have your cash in hand and don't deviate from the rules — they may refuse to serve you if you say the wrong thing.
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Potato, Bacon, and CheddarMarcello's PizzaSan Francisco
Marcello's is beloved because its slices are cheap and hot, and service is quick. Its roster of 50-something toppings boggles the mind. Try "Gabriel's" pizza, layered with rosemary and garlic potatoes, broccoli, bacon, and Cheddar. It may not be traditional, but it's pretty close to sublime.
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Pepperoni SliceBrown Dog PizzaTelluride
Telluride's Brown Dog is an underrated gem that specializes in Detroit-style pies and only sells slices late at night. Tiny fried discs of spicy and salty fried pepperoni arrive on raftlike, thick, and porous crust, with brown crackly edges. Good by itself, but perfect with whatever happens to be on tap.
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Williamsburg SliceWilliamsburg PizzaBrooklyn
Nino Coniglio opened Williamsburg Pizza in 2012, but the red and white wraparound awning and its proximity to the BQE make it seem like the corner joint has been there forever. The plain slice is consistently excellent, and if the flavor of its sauce, creamy and sharp cheeses, and crisp crust were parts of a Venn diagram representing all things that make New York pizza great, this place would easily have the most overlapping circles.
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Chefs and non-pizza restaurants are in other categories on this list, but some pizzas' defining feature is their close ties to a big-name chef. And those chefs often can't help but put their own takes on the menu — either by working in high-end techniques and ingredients, nodding to the world of fine dining, or simply selling a top-notch pizza in a white-tablecloth setting. Read on to see for yourself.
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Smoked Salmon Pizza With CaviarSpagoLos Angeles
Before Puck and the late Ed LaDou popularized Spago's gourmet take with toppings like barbecued chicken, Cajun shrimp, and duck sausage, pizza was just pizza. As Spago reopened last summer with a whole new menu, it was a testament to the duo's imagination when regulars refused to let this bagel-and-lox-inspired pie disappear.
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Fennel Sausage, Panna, Red Onion, and ScallionPizzeria MozzaLos Angeles
L.A. and "great pizza" were grouped together only in punch lines before master baker Nancy Silverton orchestrated the creation of her flavorful, thin-crust dough at Pizzeria Mozza, where fennel sausage, squash blossoms, and stinging nettles are just a few of the twee toppings placed in the center of bubbly, crisp crowns.
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This is chef synergy: At Iron Chef regular Elizabeth Falkner's new Brooklyn pizza shop, she leaves one menu spot for another chef: Philly's Marc Vetri, who inspired this combination of mozzarella, mortadella, and pistachio pesto.
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House-Cured LardoPizzeria DelfinaSan Francisco
Craig and Annie Stoll's frenzied fans arrive for gas-fired, Naples-inspired pies; rough-lipped rounds bearing seasonal toppings and a crunchy, big-blistered cornicione. The short selection includes saavy ingredients like cherrystone clams, house-cured lardo, and caciocavallo cheese, while two daily slots are saved for specials like the can't-miss chicory and egg pie.
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Jared Van Camp's wood-fired, whole-grain "fork and knife" pizza stands apart through a hand-milled flour dough and combinations composed more like dishes than requisite toppings. Favorites include Manila clams with créme fraîche and chiles, sunny-side-up egg with D.O.P. Fontina and truffles, and burrata with squash blossoms and sun-dried cherry tomatoes.
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Grilled Clam PizzaNorth-End GrillNew York
Floyd Cardoz's delicate, thin crusts topped with Little Necks are a draw at Danny Meyer's Battery Park spot. Shucked-to-grill, clams are strewn across this white pie, which gets sprinkled with garlic, chile flakes, and an extra shot of clam juice, giving a briny burst to complete the cheese-less pizza.
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Pizza CavoloBarbutoNew York
Jonathan Waxman started his career at Chez Panisse, where the food revolution included a radical take on pizza. He keeps the pie-eyed evolution moving on Barbuto's short lunch-only menu of small, thin-crust pies, showcasing his market savvy on locavore pizzas like the "Cavolo," with kale, wild mushrooms, speck, and Fontina.
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A puffy halo of leopard-spots encircles John Besh and Alon Shaya's wood-fired pizzas, good enough to make you forget po'boys and muffaletta. Fresh and judicious ingredients reign in novel arrangements like lardo pie with toasted fennel; eggplant with tahini and goat cheese; and the "Bolzano," loaded with roast pork shoulder and bacon.
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You can't miss with Marcie Turney and Valerie Safra's seasonally shifting, wood-fired pies, be it the bucolic canvas of a white sauce "Uovo" with truffled egg, guanciale, and brussel leaves; or the "Uva," with roasted grapes, gorgonzola, walnuts, vin cotto, and prosciutto. Just don't overlook this beauty with artichoke and the chefs' house-cured lardo.
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Prosciutto CrudoRedd WoodYountville
Richard Reddington's Napa newcomer translates his extensive European fine-dining experience to a selection of wood-fired pies loaded with local largess on pizzas bearing white corn and Pecorino, burrata and fig, and this favorite, with a liberal toss of arugula under shavings of prosciutto crudo and Grana Padano.
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It's tough to make the case that frozen pizza is worth the bother when there are so many amazing shops around the country. But believe it or not, frozen pizza has made strides lately, meaning even the stuff you buy at the grocery store is a far cry from the Tombstone you used to heat up in high school.
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This frozen pizza has the same intense creamy flavor as the love-it-or-hate-it slice in New York (imagine spinach artichoke dip on top of cheesy bread). The crust mimics the original, and it's simultaneously doughy and crispy. If you don't live in Manhattan, this will give you a decent sense of what the well-inebriated patrons line up to eat at night.
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The tomato-based barbecue sauce is more sweet than spicy, but the moist chicken strikes a balance with the cheese. It's pretty true to restaurant quality in terms of barbecue pizza, which honestly, is never that gourmet anyway. Red onions are a nice touch.
Amy's, which prides itself on nutritious frozen meals, tops its pie with a heaping of organic broccoli. Putting all the health jargon aside (this is frozen pizza, after all), this is a fantastic pie. If you bake it on the rack (instead of a baking sheet), you'll get a crunchy, crackerlike crust.
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Pepperoni PizzaLou Malnati's
The famous Chicago deep-dish brand takes 45 minutes to cook, but you'll be rewarded with buttery crust, gobs of mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, and pepperoni. The crust isn't quite as thick as what you'll find in the Chi-town storefronts, but it's pretty damn close.
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Signature Sausage and Mushroom PizzaHome Run Inn
Another Chicago pizza place re-creates its pies in frozen form. You can only get these pizzas in select markets, but they're worth the hunt. And per Chicago standards, this pie is by no means light. The homemade Italian sausage is plentiful, though it's the crust that gets rave reviews.
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Rising Crust Supreme PizzaDiGiorno
It's a pizza that's ubiquitous in American supermarkets, but it's still a good pick. Yes, the crust does rise. The combination of both sausage and pepperoni makes for one hearty pie, and a sprinkling of frozen vegetables does no harm.
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White PizzaCalifornia Pizza Kitchen
The nationwide chain's white pizza is basic, but that's not a bad thing at all; it means you can doctor it however you want. It's awesome with Sriracha, which brings out the garlicky white sauce.
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4 FormaggiTrader Joe's
This frozen pizza is minimalistic but shockingly excellent: thin crust, four discernable cheeses, and tons of flavor. The cheese browns a bit as you cook it, and if you add a drizzle of olive oil, it's even tastier. Plus: It's vaguely nutritious.
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Original Naan Pizza, with Spinach and PaneerTandoor Chef
If you're a true frozen pizza fan, you've got to step outside of your comfort zone. This Indian pie is heavy on the garlic, but the use of paneer is a nice change. Don't expect classic naan, but this doughy crust looks and tastes different from the norm.
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Even with all the other styles listed here, there are some notable pizzas that just don't fit into a preexisting category. Instead, these are pizzas defined by their weirdness — gonzo toppings, odd forms, or even a strange ingredient prep. (Or perhaps a combination of all three.) Read on to see what we mean.
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Dukes of HazzardAll-Star Pizza BarCambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge's popular All-Star Sandwich Bar now has a pie-slinging sibling across the street, and they specialize in wacky toppings. Perhaps the strangest is the Dukes of Hazzard pizza, a perplexingly luscious combination of creamy hominy ricotta grits, maple breakfast sausage, Fresno chiles, and soft-baked eggs — given the egg factor, it's best to eat this one in-house. And, though its ingredients are breakfast-worthy, a couple of slices go down best late at night.
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This sinful shingle with a cracker-thin crust is the ultimate stoner pizza. Only the sourly sober wouldn't appreciate the twisted blend of Sloppy Joe, smoked gouda, jalapeños, corn, and, naturally, Fritos. Makes the shop's baked-potato pizza seem downright dull by comparison, really.
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Ziti PiesRay's Original, and ElsewhereNew York City
Ray's Original is said to have invented this carby New York staple, though it's surprising no one thought of it sooner. After all, what could be both more delicious and simultaneously off-putting than mounds of pasta atop pizza dough? The tomato sauce is already there, after all! (Ray's also switches things up with a penne a la vodka version, but we're purists.) Like any good thing, you'll love it at 1 a.m. and hate yourself the next morning.
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RacchettaDon Antonio by StaritaNew York City
This funnel-shaped creation looks like an edible tennis racquet (hence the name). Though Don Antonio specializes in Neapolitan pies, they get frisky with this ricotta-mozzarella-and-mushroom masterpiece, whose handle makes ingestion almost dainty. And if the shape scares you, well, there are more than 50 other pies to pick from here.
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Mountain PieBeau Jo'sDenver, Colorado
"A rite of passage," one native Coloradan says about these ginormous pies, which weigh up to five pounds. As expansive as the local landscape, they're topped with as many ingredients as you can muster (pork green chili sauce is one specialty). The crusts have a chewy braided edge, which Jo's recommends dunking in honey — if you haven't already lapsed into a food coma.
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MontanaraForcellaNew York City
What could possibly be wrong with a fried pizza? Nothing, of course, especially since this simple sauce-and-cheese version doesn't have the leaden, carnival-batter crunch that plagues some pies. It's similar to expertly oven-baked pizza, but the whole hot-oil bath seems nonetheless crucial to its taste and fluffier texture. West Coasters, take note: San Francisco's Farina also does a fine rendition.
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Ghost Pepper PizzaAmar's PizzaDetroit, Michigan
Amar's ghost pepper pizza is an eat-at-your-own risk enterprise (it says so right there on the menu). This 100 percent Halal parlor, run by a Bangladeshi family, has a mix of Eastern and Western pies, from tandoori chicken to classic Chicago deep dish. But the masochists, and even Andrew Zimmern, flock here to try their fiery pie made with ghost sauce. Ghost chiles are, of course, the hottest in the world. Cilantro and that tandoori chicken temper the sneaky burn a bit, but even Zimmern could only nibble a few bites.
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This is the quintessential pizza of your childhood memories, an adult's version of the classic English muffin pizza after-school snack. In Pittsburgh, they bake dough topped with only tomato sauce, then throw on a tangle of shredded provolone and pre-cooked toppings, like mushrooms and sausage, which are quick to warm up atop the toasty crust. It's a portable little square of nostalgia — just make sure to call it a cut, in Pittsburgh parlance, not a slice.
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Inca QuinoaVelvet ElvisPatagonia, Arizona
You wouldn't expect traditional pizza from a place called Velvet Elvis, would you? In fact, this pizza would probably frighten Elvis himself: This hulking beast requires 24 hours' notice because it takes devoted chefs (not just anyone can cook up an Inca) several hours to prepare, and as such costs $45. Layers of red vodka sauce, cheese, and vegetables arrive in a cast-iron skillet, edged with quinoa-flour crust (at least that part sounds healthy!). Almost at the Mexican border, this place is a great pitstop for your last U.S. meal: You won't need to eat again for a long time.
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French Bread PizzasFounder's Brewing Co.Grand Rapids, Michigan
French-bread pizzas — a Midwestern staple made famous by Stouffer's and invented in the sixties by Bob Petrillose at Cornell — are more like open-faced hoagies than actual pizza. Even still: It's great for soaking up booze, hence its inclusion on the menu at the tap room connected to Michigan's celebrated Founder's Brewing.
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... And the One That Started It All
The Original PizzaLombardi'sNew York City
This list wasn't about to leave off the country's very first full-fledged pizzeria, which opened in New York in 1905 and spun off dozens of New York competitors. To that end, the spot played a bigger part than anyone in creating what has — in the century since Gennaro Lombardi first fired up his coal oven — become one of America's all-time great culinary success stories. The best part: You can still get a Lombardi's pie, just down the street from the original location.