Pizza Perfection: 101 Awesome American Pies (and Slices)
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Grub Street Best Pizza

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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

Photo: Charles Haynes/Flickr

Black Olive, Anchovy, and Caper

Boot & Shoe Service

Oakland, 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

Photo: Dominic Perri

Erreyday I'm Brusslin'

Roberta's

Brooklyn

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

Photo: roboppy/Flickr

Rosa

Pizzeria Bianco

Phoenix

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

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Lamb Merguez, Spinach, and Feta

Pitfire Pizza

Los 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

Photo: Dominic Perri

Hellboy

Paulie Gee's

Brooklyn

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

Photo: Andrei Riskin/Grub Street

Pesto Pizza

Pauline's Pizza

San 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

Photo: midnightzulu/Flickr

Half Sausage/Half Plain

Apizza Scholls

Portland, 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

Photo: Dominic Perri

Homemade Sausage Pie

Franny's

Brooklyn

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

Photo: Coppa

Bone Marrow

Coppa

Boston

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

Photo: Courtesy of Garage Bar

Country Ham

Garage Bar

Louisville, 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

Photo: Michael Gebert

Deep Dish Sausage

Pizano's Pizza and Pasta

Chicago

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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Stu Spivack/Flickr

Pan Sausage and Peppers

Burt's Place

Morton 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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Michael Gebert

Stuffed Spinach Pizza

The Art of Pizza

Chicago

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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Papa Del's

Stuffed Veggie With Pepperoni

Papa Del's

Champaign, 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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Alanna Hale

Brass Monkey

Little Star Pizza

San 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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Gourmet Pigs

Cornmeal Crust Pizza

Zelo Pizzeria

Arcadia, 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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Schmuck's Pizza Pub

The Fat Schmucker

Schmuck's Pizza Pub

Johnson 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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Deep-Dish

Photo: F. Sheehan

Chicago-Style Deep Dish

Armand's Chicago Pizzeria

Washington, 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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Jason Varney

Classic Deep Dish

Garces Trading Company

Philadelphia

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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Deep-Dish

Photo: Pizzeria Scotty

Chicago Pan Pizza

Pizzeria Scotty

Milwaukee

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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Imo's Pizza

St. Louis–Style Pizza

Imo's Pizza

St. 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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Danny Kim

The Saint Louie

Speedy Romeo

Brooklyn

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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Chris Preovolos/Hearst Newspapers

Hot Oil Pizza

Colony Grill

Stamford, 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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Frank Pepe and Sally's Apizza

New Haven Apizza

Frank Pepe and Sally's Apizza

New 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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Melissa Hom

Tarte Flambée

The Bar Room at the Modern

New 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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Arcaro & Genell

Old Forge Pizza

Arcaro & Genell

Old 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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Osteria

Lombarda Pizza

Osteria

Philadelphia

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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Deluxe Thin Crust

Casa Bianca

Los 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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Michael Gebert

Sausage Pizza (With Whatever Other Toppings You Want)

Vito & Nick's

Chicago

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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Thin-Crust

Photo: Eddie's Pizza

Bar Pie

Eddie's Pizza

New 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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Neapolitan

Photo: Starr Restaurants

Margherita

Pizzeria Stella

Philadelphia

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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Neapolitan

Photo: Tony DiPietro

Eggplant

Pitruco

Philadelphia

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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Neapolitan

Photo: Melissa Hom

Margherita

Kesté

New York

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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Neapolitan

Photo: Melissa Hom

Margherita

Motorino

New York

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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Neapolitan

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Marghertia

Mother Dough

Los 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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Neapolitan

Photo: Brian Smeets

Ilaria

Una Pizza Napoletana

San 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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Neapolitan

Photo: Genuine Hospitality Group

Margherita (and Others)

Harry's Pizzeria

Miami

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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Neapolitan

Photo: Susquehanna Photographic

Neapolitan

Nomad Pizza

Philadelphia

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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Neapolitan

Photo: Oven & Shaker

Neapolitan

Oven & Shaker

Portland, 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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Neapolitan

Photo: Antico Pizza Napoletana

Neapolitan

Antico Pizza Napoletana

Atlanta

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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New York–Style

Photo: Dominic Perri

Sausage Pizza

Juliana's

Brooklyn

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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New York–Style

Photo: Michael Gebert

Margherita

Coalfire

Chicago

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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New York–Style

Photo: Michael Gebert

Cheese Pie

Armitage

Chicago

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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New York–Style

Photo: Dominic Perri

Pizza Pie

Lucali

Brooklyn

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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New York–Style

Photo: Marc Hurwitz/Hidden Boston

Italian Cheese

Santarpio's

Boston

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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New York–Style

Photo: Brian Smeets

Margherita

Tony's Coal-Fired Pizza and Slice House

San 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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New York–Style

Cheese Pie

Bronx Pizza

San 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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New York–Style

Photo: Christopher Boffoli

Margherita

Giannoni's

Seattle

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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New York–Style

Photo: Steve's Pizza

Plain

Steve's Pizza

Miami

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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New York-Style

Photo: Valentino's

Cheese & Tomato Sauce

Valentino's New York Style Pizzeria

Alexandria, 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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Sicilian

Photo: Collin Keefe

Conshohocken-Style

Conshohocken Bakery

Philadelphia

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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Sicilian

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Sicilian

Pizzanista!

Los Angeles

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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Sicilian

Photo: Dominic Perri

Sicilian

L&B Spumoni Gardens

Brooklyn

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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Sicilian

Photo: Michael Gebert

Sicilian

D'Amato's Bakery

Chicago

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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Sicilian

Photo: Melissa Hom

Palermo Pizza

Famous Ben's

New 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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Sicilian

Photo: Marc Hurwitz/Hidden Boston

Square Pizza

Galleria Umberto

Boston

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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Sicilian

Photo: Buddy's Restaurant

Detroit Pizza

Buddy's Restaurant

Detroit

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

Photo: Sean Robins/Feed the Monster

Sicilian Slab

Micucci's Grocery

Portland, 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

Photo: Brittany Davis

Sicilian Pizza

DiPrima Dolci

Portland, 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

Photo: Dominic Perri

Sicilian Slice

Rizzo's Fine Pizza

Queens, 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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Slices

Photo: Alanna Hale

New York–Style Slice

Arinell Pizza

San 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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Slices

Photo: Melissa Hom

"Pizza"

Grandaisy Bakery and Sullivan St. Bakery

New 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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Slices

Photo: Michael Gebert

Cheese

Villa Palermo

Chicago

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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Slices

Special Slices

Di Fara Pizza

Brooklyn

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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Slices

Photo: Adam Kuban

Plain Slice or the Sophia Loren

Ciccio's Pizza

Brooklyn

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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Slices

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

Los 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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Slices

Photo: Chowfather

Epic Slice

Mauro's Pizza

Hollywood, 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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Slices

Photo: Alanna Hale

Potato, Bacon, and Cheddar

Marcello's Pizza

San 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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Slices

Photo: Brown Dog Pizza

Pepperoni Slice

Brown Dog Pizza

Telluride

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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Slices

Photo: Dominic Perri

Williamsburg Slice

Williamsburg Pizza

Brooklyn

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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Spago

Smoked Salmon Pizza With Caviar

Spago

Los 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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Tatiana Arbogast

Fennel Sausage, Panna, Red Onion, and Scallion

Pizzeria Mozza

Los 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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Dominic Perri

The Vetri

Krescendo

Brooklyn

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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Alanna Hale

House-Cured Lardo

Pizzeria Delfina

San 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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Nellcote

Mortadella

Nellcote

Chicago

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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Melissa Hom

Grilled Clam Pizza

North-End Grill

New 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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Melissa Hom

Pizza Cavolo

Barbuto

New 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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Domenica

Bolzano

Domenica

New Orleans

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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Barbuzzo

Lardo Pizza

Barbuzzo

Philadelphia

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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Chef-Driven Pizzas

Photo: Redd Wood

Prosciutto Crudo

Redd Wood

Yountville

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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

Artichoke

Artichoke Basille

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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

BBQ

Whole Foods

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.

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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

Pesto

Amy's

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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

Pepperoni Pizza

Lou 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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

Signature Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

Home 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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

Rising Crust Supreme Pizza

DiGiorno

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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

White Pizza

California 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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

4 Formaggi

Trader 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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Frozen

Photo: Melissa Hom

Original Naan Pizza, with Spinach and Paneer

Tandoor 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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Erin Anguish

Dukes of Hazzard

All-Star Pizza Bar

Cambridge, 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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Dominic Perri

Sloppy Wagyu

PeetZaaz

Brooklyn

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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Melissa Hom

Ziti Pies

Ray's Original, and Elsewhere

New 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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Danny Kim

Racchetta

Don Antonio by Starita

New 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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Beau Jo's

Mountain Pie

Beau Jo's

Denver, 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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Danny Kim

Montanara

Forcella

New 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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Amar's Pizza

Ghost Pepper Pizza

Amar's Pizza

Detroit, 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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Beto's

Half-Baked Pizza

Beto's

Pittsburgh

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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Outré Pizza

Photo: Velvet Elvis

Inca Quinoa

Velvet Elvis

Patagonia, 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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... And the One That Started It All

Photo: Melissa Hom

The Original Pizza

Lombardi's

New 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.

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