There’s no doubt about it. Pizza reigns supreme in the hearts — and stomachs — of America.
The sweet, yet savory, sauce. The rich, melt-in-your-mouth cheese. The crunch and chew of a well-baked crust. The perfect, portable triangular slice. Plus the endless varieties, traditions and styles you’ll find sprinkled throughout the nation, elevating pizza to a culinary art form that’s second to none.
We know a thing or two about pizza, yet we also know when to bow our heads in respect of the vast, creative and delicious interpretations of this classic Italian dish, born in Naples but bred and reimagined here in the United States.
The country is brimming with pizza-famous cities, and we’ve looked into the crème de la crème. Buckle in and get ready for a culinary tour de force across the best pizza cities in the United States — and make sure to bring along some extra napkins.
New Haven, Conn.
Any list of U.S. pizza cities would be incomplete if it failed to mention New Haven, Conn. This small, coastal city may be best-known as the home of prestigious Ivy League university Yale, yet it also has fostered one of the most unique and cherished pizza landscapes in the country.
New Haven’s pizza style is characterized by a twist on the classic Neapolitan slice — those thin, coal-fired oven-cooked crusts with fresh mozzarella and tangy tomato-based sauces, shaped into a perfectly platable circle. In New Haven, many pizzerias keep the fire ovens, yet branch out when it comes to toppings and crust dimensions. In fact, New Haven’s pies will come in somewhat ovular shapes — even rectangles — with lightly charred crusts that straddle crunchiness and chewiness.
Cheese is less pronounced in New Haven-style pizzas, though you won’t be lacking toppings. Classic pizza combinations in the town include pecorino romano cheese and oregano or the cult-famous white clam pie, adorned with olive oil, garlic, grated cheese and fresh littleneck clams.
What’s more, many places in New Haven don’t necessarily assume familiar ingredients like mozzarella or tomato sauce are part of your topping order. You may have to request these ingredients, instead of their regional favorites of garlic and clams.
Stop at Franke Pepe’s for the home of the white clam pie, or check out other New Haven pizza institutions like Sally’s Apizza, Mike’s Apizza and Zuppardi’s.
New York City, N.Y.
The history of New York is akin to the history of pizza itself. A fusion of culture and creativity, both have a spirit of innovation that still harkens back to the city’s immigrant roots. All this makes New York City an undeniable addition to the list of best U.S. pizza cities, and one that won’t disappoint, no matter what you’re in the mood for.
While you’re guaranteed to find any kind of pizza — and any kind of cuisine, at that — in the city that never sleeps, its namesake variety is one you just can’t pass up. New York-style pizza is the cousin of classic Italian Neapolitans, with their thin, crispy crusts cooked for only a few minutes in high-temperature coal ovens. These slices come topped with shredded or fresh mozzarella and garnished with basil or oregano, plus a rich, herb-flavored tomato sauce thinly spread across its center.
New York City’s five boroughs each have their notorious pizza joints, though Brooklyn arguably comes out on top when it comes to popularity, reputation and abundance. It’s Brooklyn pizzerias like Di Fara, Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s that made icons out of New York’s huge, sliced-and-folded pizza-eating style, which requires both hands to eat. Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island all have famous pizza restaurants, from prolific Patsy’s to Denino’s and Totonno’s.
Perhaps no pizzeria is as legendary as Lombardi’s in Manhattan. Opened in 1905 and temporarily closed for a brief hiatus in the late 1980s, it is considered the first and oldest pizzeria in the country. And, just like the olden days, they still only take cash.
Yes, they’ve got chicken wings. But Buffalo, N.Y., also has its own interpretation of pizza to bolster its overall foodie reputation.
Buffalo-style pizza marries the best parts of Chicago deep dish and classic New York-fashioned Neapolitans. It’s a softer, thicker pizza overall, cooked at lower-than-average temperatures and with more dough at its base and in its outer crust. What results is a light crunch to the most exterior parts of the crust, but an aerated, lighter interior. Buffalo-style pizza dough is more bread-like than traditional thin pizza or flatbread crusts.
What’s more, Buffalo adds its own spin on pizza through its sauce. Tomato-based pizzas are still easy to spot, but you’ll find tangy and peppery flavor notes rather than the sweet, herb-infused base of most East Coast pizzas. What’s more, white-sauced pizzas are popular in the region. These can incorporate traditional toppings like mushrooms and onions, but often employ diverse cheese blends, from ricotta and goat to freshly grated Parmesan.
The capital of the country always seems to have something going on — and its food scene is no exception.
Pizza in Washington, D.C., mirrors the cultural and ideological diversity of its hometown. Grilled pizzas — though founded and popularized in Rhode Island — are common on D.C. pizzeria menus, as are other pizza varieties, like square-cut Sicilian pies with their notoriously thick crusts, and “Grandma” pizza — thin-crusted, rectangular and containing tomato chunks.
Yet perhaps nothing encompasses the nature of pizza in Washington, D.C., as much as its size. Washington, D.C., pizzas are iconic for their larger-than-life “jumbo slices,” of which many can’t fit comfortably in the eater’s hands — or, for that matter, on a single plate. What’s more, these pizzas have garnered almost a cult-like following for their scale and Instagram-worthy snapshots, with numerous Washington, D.C., restaurants, chains and even food trucks offering these enormous slices for patrons.
Duccini’s and Bestoli’s Pizza lay claim to these jumbo pieces of pizza within their restaurants. But other popular establishments throughout the city also serve them up, day or night.
Keeping up the East Coast’s pizza credibility is the town of Robbinsville, N.J. Though technically a township tucked near the greater Philadelphia area, Robbinsville earns a spot on the list of best pizza cities because its pizza culture is interwoven into its very founding fabric — or, should we say, into its tablecloth?
Robbinsville is a pizza lover’s paradise, both for historical and gastronomical reasons. It boasts two near-mythic pizzerias: Papa’s Tomato Pies and De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies. The former gets credited as the country’s longest continually operating pizzeria, first opening its doors in 1912, while the latter is a landmark in its own right. Papa’s is also the second-oldest running pizzeria in the entire nation, behind only Lombardi’s in New York City.
Together, these pizzerias create a pilgrimage of sorts for the pie lover. Among U.S. pizza cities, Robbinsville holds a special foothold. It helped establish pizza in the public’s awareness and spread its influence as a culinary commonality, one nearly all Americans can relate with. They also still use decades-old recipes and simple, well-sourced ingredients. Head to Robbinsville for no-fluff, no-nonsense pizza with a little slice of American history.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Pizza purists beware: Los Angeles — indeed, most of California — takes pizza and runs for the inventive hills, breaking boundaries with toppings, sauces and spices since its first pizzeria opened up here in the 1930s.
Los Angeles sits at the epicenter of this creative energy, with pizzerias perfecting California’s gourmet-style signature pies. It’s where barbecue pizza was invented, as well as Thai-inspired chicken-and-peanut-sauce flatbread fusions that some love and others love to hate.
Yet Los Angeles’ gourmet flair means pizzas topped with anything and everything delicious, from cream cheese and smoked salmon to bacon and marmalade to Swiss chard, sweet potatoes and a fried egg. Craving pizza with alligator sausage? Don’t worry, this U.S. pizza city has that, too.
Thin- and thick-crust lovers alike will find plenty to munch on, as will those looking to balance creative twists with culinary pizza staples. Restaurants like Milo and Olive serve up classic Neapolitans by the slice, straight from their wood-burning oven, while places like Sotto get funky fresh with local ingredients like fennel pollen, asparagus and house-cured meats.
San Francisco, Calif.
While in the Golden State, take a trip up the coast to experience another of the best pizza cities in the country: San Francisco.
The gastronomical scene of San Francisco is continually on the nation’s cutting edge. Yet interestingly, the classic Neapolitan-style slice dominates in the Golden City, bringing Naples to the West Coast in a way few other cities have mastered.
Perhaps it’s the Bay Area’s abundant access to the agricultural paradise that is California, where fresh, local produce is an expectation, rather than a novelty. It also sits on the edges of Napa Valley’s wine country, adding a perfect pairing to this city’s vibrant pizza and Italian culinary traditions.
Either way, San Francisco’s pizza scene blends freshness and flavor, old and new. You can find traditional Sicilian and Neapolitan thin crusts, but baked from sourdough starters. You can find imported, cold-pressed Italian olive oils drizzled over Brussels sprouts. You can find the tangiest, saltiest Mediterranean olive medley paired with water buffalo sausage. You’ll find the speedy, under-five-minute pie cook times, but achieved in wood-burning, rather than coal-burning, ovens — a cooking technique that is religious in its local favor. No matter what route your tastebuds carry you down, you’re sure to be surprised and satiated in San Francisco.
Eating in Portland means eating eclectic. You’ll encounter many restaurants that epitomize today’s trendy farm-to-table movement — rather, the farm-to-oven movement, as many local pizza connoisseurs have dubbed it.
Restaurants, bakeries and cafes in town are brimming with menus dedicated to local, sustainable and seasonal fare they can infuse with their Portland pizzazz. Some advertise foraged ingredients, while others rotate their menus monthly, weekly or even daily to highlight what’s in season.
Portland’s pizza, therefore, is no exception. Spots like Tastebud and Ken’s Artisan Pizza serve artisan pies whole and by the slice. They favor regional ingredients and toppings like seafood, wild mushrooms and truffles, fennel, leeks and kale. Portland is also home to many fusion and craftsman-style cuisines typical of what you’d find in California, all lending to the unique flavors and quirky combinations of its pies.
Las Vegas, Nev.
Ah, Las Vegas. Sin City’s greatest vice may actually be its voracious taste for pizza — which locals and visitors alike will say isn’t a vice at all, but one of its many playful surprises.
Whether you’re looking to dine in or take out, Las Vegas is a pizza city that takes showmanship and taste seriously. That may be in part to the robust competition among the city’s pizzerias and restaurants, as well as a burgeoning gastronomical culture pushing Las Vegas beyond the average tourist’s weekend checklist.
Chefs at its famous hotels and casinos are routinely upping their pizza game, crafting new and inspired varieties that span everything from fruit toppings to foie gras. That has spilled out to area pizzerias as well, creating some truly delicious pizza joints where you can find thin crust, deep dish and everything in between.
Last but not least, there’s Chicago — of which there’s nothing flyover about, especially its pizza scene. This city is the Midwest’s Mecca of pizza, thanks mainly to its signature deep-dish take that’s part pizza, part casserole, part culinary institution.
Who made the first deep-dish pizza remains contested lore, with a few Chicago chefs and restaurants maintaining the inventive title. Yet its claim to fame was almost instantaneous. As word spread around town, so did the buzz and personality behind this new breed of pie. Today, critics and consumers alike know it by name. People travel to the Windy City exclusively to taste this city’s signature, thick, layered, flavor-packed pizza style.
And they don’t leave disappointed. Chicago lands on the U.S. pizza cities list for its trademark deep dish, stuffed deep dish and so much more. Cut one slice and you have the idea of a pizza literally flipped upside-down, with the cheese and toppings at the bottom and the rich, tangy tomato sauce layered atop. The entire concoction bakes slowly inside a round pan, similar to a cake’s, with hot, flaky crust baking up along the pan’s edges to form its iconic “pie” look.
Deep-dish pizza favors sausage and mozzarella as its main ingredients, though you’ll find plenty of pepperonis, cured meats, peppers and mushrooms within Chicago’s most famous deep-dish menus. These pizzas are truly one of a kind — and an unforgettable dining experience.
The Best Deep-Dish Pizza in the Country
There’s nothing like deep-dish pizza. From their shape and baking style to the utensils you’ll need to chow down, deep dish represents its own branch in the family tree of pizza, and one Giordano’s is proud to have perfected.
Locate your nearest Giordano’s today. We’re not just in Chicago — we bring deep dish to the masses and carry one of the best pizza cities’ traditions well outside its borders. Explore our delivery or carry-out menus today.