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The Best Pizza Is …

On Pizza Day, the Ringer staff goes to bat for what they think is the best slice of pie in the universe

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We hereby declare Tuesday, August 28, to be Pizza Day, a day to celebrate all the magic (and marinara) of one of earth’s greatest foods. (To be completely honest, Pizza Day was originally meant to be timed to the release of the pizza-themed romantic comedy Little Italy, starring Emma Roberts and Hayden Christensen; when we realized that Little Italy hits theaters this week only in Canada, we said, “Eh, let’s celebrate pizza in August anyway.” Who needs an excuse to honor pizza, right?) To kick off this momentous event, staff members of The Ringer have submitted their choices for what they believe to be the best pizza on the planet.

Combo Pizza From Costco (Locations Throughout the United States)

Alison Herman: Before my mentions set aflame like the roof of my mouth after a particularly fresh slice, a caveat: I’ve lived in New York. I know what “good” pizza tastes like.

Admit it, though: Unless you grew up in the tri-state area, your formative pizza memories probably predate a palate trained to appreciate the crust structure of a quality Neapolitan. They’re basic, utilitarian, and more likely than not, chain-sourced. If they’re not literally of the Costco combo pie, they’re of something roughly analogous to it. A Costco pie tastes like a sleepover. It tastes like a trip to the grocery store. It tastes like a classroom pizza party to reward everyone for trying hard on their book reports. The toppings are boring to those now accustomed to prosciutto and high-quality goat cheese, but exciting if your other options have historically been limited to cheese and pepperoni: pepperoni, plus sausage, plus vegetables. The serving size is massive, good for a crowd (or more likely, a really hungry pair of tweenagers). The ideal pairing is an equally oversized tub of frozen yogurt that costs $1.50. It’s pizza for the people, and I will defend it till I die — though my delicate adult constitution can no longer handle more than a slice at a time. Youth is wasted on the young.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza From Pequod’s (Chicago)

Robert Mays: Every time I hear someone from outside Chicago dismiss deep dish as a cheese-and-dough casserole masquerading as “pizza,” I always wonder where the hell these people have eaten. That’s the worst kind of Chicago-style pizza, one that’s ruined by a single, continuous texture in every bite — a “pizza” that becomes a gooey, chewy brick with no discernible difference between any of its components.

Pequod’s pan pepperoni remedies that problem by slapping you in the face with a combination of textures that the worst Chicago pies lack. The pepperoni is laid on in such thick, overlapping layers that every bite is guaranteed to include at least a slice or two. Unlike the heavy stuff seen in some other deep-dish creations, the dough is light and airy, almost resembling a thick focaccia. And to cap it off, there’s the signature caramelized cheese lining the pan, which provides a burnt, crisp finish. So go ahead, wave off Chicago’s deep-dish creations as one monotonous blob. I promise that you’ll regret it.

Pepperoni, Jalapeno, and Pineapple Pizza From Gumby’s (Columbia, Missouri)

Megan Schuster: The best pizza can be found in a small college town called Columbia, Missouri. Specifically, it’s located at 1201 E. Broadway, just east of the ever-popular Penguin Piano Bar and, conveniently, a couple of blocks from my apartment for my senior year in college. Columbia has many fine pizza establishments, and some people may tell you that the best pies actually come from Shakespeare’s. But while Shakespeare’s is delicious, nothing compares to the memories I have of scarfing down a pepperoni, pineapple, and jalapeno pizza from Gumby’s. Just how good is that pizza really though, you might ask? The answer: One of my roommates used to eat half a pie with extra jalapenos, even when she forgot her heartburn medication, causing her indescribable pain and discomfort the next day. And then the next week she’d do it all over again — it was just that good.

Pepperoni Slice From Di Fara (Brooklyn)

Jason Concepcion: Boy, do I miss living within walking distance of this place. The joint is world famous and it shows in the wait times, which can be upward of an hour. The late Anthony Bourdain, when asked where to eat in New York City, praised the place lavishly and often. Indeed, the history of Di Fara’s is genetically engineered to arouse the latent Bourdain lurking in our gullets. Dominic De Marco, the proprietor, has been making pizzas there, alone, by hand since 1959 after emigrating from Italy. Now here’s the thing: When the pizza there is good, it’s freaking incredible. Dripping with olive oil, just the right amount of cheese and sauce, the crust thin and blackened to a crisp, dotted with dime-size slices of pepperoni. When the pizza’s not very good, you’re like, Why did I wait an hour for this? Cut the place some slack, though. Dom is over 80 now and he’s stepped back to let his kids carry some of the load. Try to go when he’s making the pies. Who knows how much longer you’ve got?

Spicy-Ass Pepperoni Pizza With Unicorn Sauce From Mikey’s Late Night Slice (Columbus, Ohio)

Michael Baumann: I grew up in Voorhees Township, N.J., which is in a part of the world where you can walk into any strip-mall storefront with an Italian guy’s name over the door and leave with top-notch pizza for a modest price. My family were loyal Sanremo’s customers for years, then switched to Masso’s, while my high school friends grew up on Dominic’s. You can drive from Sanremo’s to Masso’s to Dominic’s in less than 10 minutes, and all three establishments serve pizza that’s better than just about anything you can get north of Connecticut, south of Richmond, or west of the Appalachians.

The one exception is Mikey’s Late Night Slice in Columbus, Ohio, a small chain of modest storefronts that serves pizza of similar style and quality to the East Coast joints I grew up on: big, floppy, greasy slices, like a cheesy, fatty banana leaf. I used to live within walking distance of the Clintonville location, a mile and change north of Ohio State, and while I’d occasionally go pick up a pie after Mikey’s opened at 5 p.m., my fondest memories came after karaoke night at Ledo’s Tavern, the High Street cornerstone the Clintonville Mikey’s abuts. Spicy-ass pepperoni is exactly what it purports to be: A wide slice of pepperoni pizza livened up with banana peppers, red pepper flakes, and a dash of sriracha. It’s delicious on its own merits, light-years beyond any other Midwestern pizza I’ve ever had. But most importantly, spicy-ass pepperoni’s punch of flavor and water-bomber quantities of fat are as welcome to a drunk person as a life raft is to a drowning man, and the thin, foldable crust reminded me of home. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted out of not only pizza, but food.

Totino’s Pizza Rolls (In Stores Everywhere)

Danny Chau: My experience at Anthony Mangieri’s Una Pizza Napoletana back when it existed in San Francisco was educational, illuminative. I’ll always remember the brussels sprout and pancetta pizza I scarfed down by myself at the Motorino in the East Village in the time it took the people right beside me on a first date to finish half of one. Totonno’s coal-oven-fired monuments to simplicity might just be my platonic ideal for pizza to share with friends. But these are all experiences passed down to me, products of hype that come prepackaged with an ever-expanding weight of expectation from everyone who had recommended the restaurants before me, and everyone who will after me.

My favorite pizza will always be divorced from the expectations of adulthood. My favorite pizza is the first Totino’s pizza roll right out of the microwave — the pliant, likely undercooked shell serving as a Trojan horse for the molten nectar encased within it. That first bite is everything: searing pain, screams of terror and elation, strange satisfaction. It’s pure and perfect and both pre- and post-hype. It’s about anticipation, not expectation. And unlike the slowly decaying body that will house its magic, that experience never gets old.

The Pizza From Valley Mart #10 (San Antonio)

Shea Serrano: The best pizza in America (and possibly the world) is made at Valley Mart #10, a convenience store on the edge of San Antonio that I only know about because I worked there in high school and my mom literally worked there for decades. Were I smarter about food, I might be able to explain to you why the pizza is so good (part of me wants to say that the sauce “tasted like the horns in ‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious’” but I’m not so sure that’s the right way to write about food). And were I smarter in general, I might be able to fully contextualize what it was like to be a 17-year-old with an endless supply of pizza on your hands for free, and then to find out that actually, you weren’t a 17-year-old with an endless supply of pizza on your hands for free because you were supposed to be paying for it every time you ate it. But I am not. I am only my level of smart, which is to say a regular amount of smart. And so all I can tell you about the pizza at Valley Mart #10 was that it was delicious. Very delicious. Extremely delicious.

Pepperoni Pizza From John’s of Bleecker St. (New York City)

Andrew Gruttadaro: Above all else, pizza is about comfort. As a food that many of us have eaten more than any other food, the essence of pizza is its reliability — not its capacity to be a vehicle for innovation, or the way it can evolve and regionally adapt. No, pizza’s greatness lies in its ability to give you what you expect. Which is why the best pizza in the world can be found at John’s of Bleecker St., a simple restaurant with a simple idea of what pizza is, that simply does it better than anywhere else. The salty cheese, the cracker-like crust — singed in all the right places — and the mildly spicy sauce. Sitting in a booth at John’s, at a table that’s been carved to shit by decades of visitors, with a pitcher of beer — you feel like you’re exactly where you should be, eating a pizza that nuzzles up to you and tells you everything is going to be OK.

The Sicilian From Pompeii’s (Port Huron, Michigan)

Shaker Samman: They don’t make good pizza where I’m from. For most of my young life, Jet’s and its competitors — Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Hungry Howie’s, Little Caesars — were the only options for the carb-and-cheese-loving youth of Port Huron, Michigan. At least that’s what I was led to believe. For on the far end of town sat a little pizzeria, tucked in between a Dairy Queen that I spent years thinking was abandoned and a movie theater that had been turned into a gymnastics club. Pompeii’s Pizzeria & Italian Eatery made the first good slice of pizza I’ve ever had. It was from their Sicilian pie — standard fare, nothing too special — and for a 14-year-old who loved pizza more than he loved his family, it was nothing short of revelatory. And though the years have gone by, and I’ve had some *cough* superior slices, none will ever top that first bite of a real pie from Pompeii’s.

Salami Pizza From Federico II (Montefalco, Italy)

Miles Surrey: As a kid, I did the “eat” portion of the Eat Pray Love odyssey of self-discovery — praying and loving, still TBD — on a family vacation in Italy. The entire two-week trip was a glorified carbo-load of different pastas, pizzas, and cornettos. And the very best pizza I had — out of all the pizzas — was courtesy of Federico II in Montefalco, a small town in the Umbria region of central Italy.

The selling point for Federico II was that it overlooked the picturesque town square, bustling with activity, while the selling point for the salami pizza was, well, the salami, some of which was sliced proportionate to the size of my dumbstruck face. Was it something in the country air that inspired me to inhale the pizza so quickly as to burn the entire roof of my mouth? Perhaps. But in a country renowned for one of the world’s greatest culinary concoctions, it was the best pizza I’d have on the trip. By the time we boarded for home, I could barely put on my pants.

The Pizza From Mother Bear’s Pizza (Bloomington, Indiana)

Kate Halliwell: No matter your opinions on thin crust versus thick crust, New York slices versus Chicago deep dish, we can all agree on the universal truth of pizza: the best pizza is the pizza that’s in front of you. That’s why I, a recent grad of Indiana University, have no time for these fancy NYC or Chicago pizza places that my older, more worldly colleagues know and love. For the entirety of my freshman year, I lived in a dorm right across the street from Bloomington, Indiana’s most beloved pizza place: Mother Bear’s. Featuring a disturbingly developed furry mascot and a “Munchie Madness” deal that threatened to upgrade my Freshman 15 to a Freshman 50, the restaurant was impossible not to immediately fall in love with, as all Hoosiers inevitably do. Is it the world’s best pizza? Maybe not, but it’s Bloomington’s best, and for four years of my life, that’s all that mattered.

The Pizza From Giuseppina’s (Brooklyn)

Amanda Dobbins: Some pizzas I have loved: Fascati Pizzeria on Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights, where I would take the two kids I babysat for a Friday-night treat. (One plain slice for each kid, two for me.) Grimaldi’s just down the hill, where I first learned about the Brooklyn pizza wars. (Margherita with pepperoni.) Koronet near Columbia University, my first taste of the jumbo slice. (Just one, extra napkins.) Motorino — the East Village branch, which was the agreed-upon halfway point between my Manhattan friends and me. (Brussel sprout pizza, the cheapest wine on the menu.) The great promise of New York City is a pizza for every occasion. Giuseppina’s, it may not surprise you to learn, was a date-night occasion: low lighting, Sinatra playing, pinot grigio by the glass. The pizza, made by Chris Iacono, brother to Mark Iacono of Lucali fame, is top-tier: charred-but-chewy crust, slightly more cheese than its fancy pizza counterparts. (This is a good thing.) The vibe, unlike fussier Brooklyn establishments, is warm and friendly and — at least once upon a time, to me — undiscovered. I know about it because my husband took me there, back before he was my husband. We’d order a pie with mushrooms and talk only to each other. I hope you get to try it sometime.

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Canadian Bacon Pan Pizza From Pizza Hut (El Salvador)

Paolo Uggetti: When you grow up in El Salvador, Pizza Hut is actually … a restaurant. My childhood is littered with memories of walking into the spacious room with red leather booths, friendly waiters, a play place, a make-your-own salad bar, and a menu that spanned from delicious paninis to a killer cheesecake. Birthday parties, family gatherings, Sunday afternoon dinners after church — Pizza Hut was the go-to spot; events were held there and going there was an event, too. The holistic experience made every bite of Pizza Hut’s pan pizza that much better. The slice was simple, but it provided the perfect combination of doughiness that made it feel like a pizza and not a flatbread, and just the right amount of crunch from the pan that gave it the necessary texture. It was an immaculate three-way marriage of cheese, sauce, and dough. Oh, and as far as the topping goes, I have always been a ham/Canadian bacon > pepperoni kind of person. Sue me.

Tie-Dye Pizza From Rubirosa (New York City)

Nicole Bae: Pizza is all about getting that perfectly balanced bite, and the perfectly balanced tie-dye pie from Rubirosa makes it really easy to do so. It’s a thin-crust pizza with tomato and vodka sauce finished with a pesto curlicue on top. It doesn’t have any “look at me” aesthetic elements like Prince Street’s curled pepperoni cups or Roberta’s bubbly crusts, so it may not be the most photogenic in the city (though people are inclined to take a shaky pic of the pie in dim lighting anyway). Who cares what it looks like when it tastes the way it does? Crispy (but not crunchy) and rich (but not greasy) with an even distribution of sauce and cheese in every bite. It’s the best pie in New York, and thus, by some mathematical property that I don’t know the name of, the best pie in the United States.

Margherita Pizza From Una Pizza Napoletana (New York City)

Chris Almeida: If you’re at Una Pizza, chances are you already know that the place isn’t really about you — it’s about the pizza. Owner and chef Anthony Mangieri makes that implicitly clear. He’s worked for 22 years honing his process, picking the perfect tomatoes and sourcing the perfect mozzarella and kneading and fermenting his dough for the perfect amount of time. There are no unexpected flourishes or gimmicky ingredients here, no attempt to cover up any part of the process. For years, Mangieri, a shokunin who has chosen pizza, didn’t let anybody else make the pies. “Why is it in the restaurant world, it’s alright that you go and the owner, the so-called great chef, is at home watching TV while there’s a bunch of people cooking for them, but you’re going in for their food,” he asked in a quirky video from 2014. “If I go to see Iron Maiden, it better be Iron Maiden. I don’t want to see a cover band of Iron Maiden.”

Now, though, the process has given way to the realities of time. Mangieri is 46. He has a wife and a daughter. The labor of making every pizza every night doesn’t sit so well with his body anymore. I’ve been to the Lower East Side iteration of Una Pizza three times since its opening in May; my monthly Fancy Meal Out. Twice, an apprentice has been shuttling the pies in and out of the oven’s fiery mouth. The pizza has to be good — it’s not cheap — and it is. The change hasn’t been a problem. So far, the cover band has still managed to put on the best show in town.

Tomato Pie From DeLorenzo’s Pizza (Trenton, New Jersey)

Lindsay Zoladz: My dad grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, a city known for the world’s most passive-aggressive bridge, one glowering “TRENTON MAKES, THE WORLD TAKES” at every ungrateful driver on the interstate. Welcome to New Jersey! But perhaps the most glorious thing that Trenton makes is the tomato pie, a crispy, thin-crusted delicacy perfected by several immigrant families who settled in the city’s Little Italy about a century ago. Papa’s was the first, but — and I could get run out of town for saying this on certain corners — DeLorenzo’s tomato pies are perfection, and for my money the greatest ’za on planet Earth. Quoth Pizza Today magazine: “Unlike contemporary cheese-laden pizzas, Trenton tomato pie puts crushed tomato on top of a gentle layer of low moisture mozzarella. Each purveyor has a slightly different take, but all versions are dense and crunchy without the characteristic flop of a New York slice.” Take that, floppy ’za! There’s a familial aspect to my love of DeLorenzo’s, sure. My dad has been going to the original location so long that he has insisted some of the spitballs he blew as a kid must still be on the ceiling there. (He has also claimed that Joey Ramone once declared it the best pizza in the world, and while I’ve never found hard evidence of this fact I have a deep existential need to believe that it is true.) I have decades of memories there too, unspooling in my mind every time I take my first roof-of-my-mouth-burning crunch into a DeLorenzo’s slice. Like all the best regional foods, DeLorenzo’s still feels like a closely guarded family secret.

The Jumbo Slice From Jumbo Slice Pizza (Washington, D.C.)

Haley O’Shaughnessy: Whoever said nothing good happens after 2 a.m. never stumbled into D.C.’s Jumbo Slice Pizza (which, as a hole-in-the-wall in a city full of prestige eats, is a place only discovered by way of after-dark stumbling in). Jumbo Slice’s second- and third-best qualities are its advertising — the red awning out front plainly reads JUMBO SLICE PIZZA — and its hours, open until 3 in the morning. But most important is the way Jumbo Slice follows through on its promise of a jumbo slice. Give them $5.50 and they’ll give you a cut of New York–style pizza bigger than Antonio Silva’s head, one with more square footage than the tiny restaurant itself. The sheer size lends itself to easy folding. It’s cheesy, but not so much that the toppings slide off. The crust isn’t crunchy, but still serves as a capable foundation. Now for a disclaimer: I’ve been told that Jumbo Slice is sporadically open during the day despite its clearly listed 11 a.m.–3 a.m. hours. No matter — it always came through as a late-night staple, which is really the only time a jumbo slice of pizza is crucial, anyway.

The Boss Pizza From Gianfranco’s (Bedford Hills, New York)

Danny Heifetz: I talked about Gianfranco’s in my college interviews. The question was, “What do you do when you have nothing to do?” The answer was 25 minutes of me explaining the scientifically rigid blind taste test my friends and I conducted on our local pizza options. Gianfranco’s pizza won because of its purity, but the shop’s finest creation is a monstrosity — something called a Boss Wrap, which is chicken parmesan and penne alla vodka bundled into a wrap.

When imitators throw a bunch of ingredients into a mishmash, it’s often a cheap, thirsty, Instagram-minded gimmick. This is not that. Gianfranco’s is where the people in my town who know pizza — the families that call sauce “gravy” — eat. Gianfranco’s is the real deal, and when true purists break the rules in the name of calibrated excess, it’s a statement. It’s art. It’s delicious. It’s a local legend. Thus, time itself came to a standstill when Gianfranco’s made an announcement that changed the course of my life: the introduction of the Boss Pizza.

It tastes like all the love I’ve ever felt rushing over me all at once. It tastes like home. It tastes so good, it got me into the University of Richmond.

Pepperoni Pizza With Giardiniera From Milano’s (Chicago)

Kate Knibbs: My favorite pizza is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the pizza I grew up eating. However, I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, which just so happens to be where the best pizza in the world is from, and so you should trust me when I say that Milano’s, on 111th and Western, slings the finest thin-crust pepperoni (half with giardiniera) known to human or beast. There’s enough cheese to tranquilize a horse, the crust is so close to the platonic ideal of a crust you may worry that you’ve died and entered a perfected plane of existence, and the pepperoni is divine. It’s cut into squares, so you can eat four without feeling TOO guilty; you don’t need to fold it, it’s not floppy or soggy or any of the other things that mediocre pizza is. It’s just majestic mouthfuls of crust, meat, and toppings, as God and Ditka intended.

The Hellboy From Paulie Gee’s (Brooklyn)

Alyssa Bereznak: The Hellboy at Paulie Gee’s is the greatest sweet and savory ’za of all time and I will hear no other opinions on the matter. You like piping-hot Neapolitan pies with chewy, browned crust and crispy soppressata? Good. You like spicy honey? Maybe you’ve never tried it, but I promise that you do. Put the two together and you have the lease to my stomach. Between 2012 and 2013, when I lived a few blocks from the flagship restaurant, I’m quite sure my body was 25 percent Hellboy. I’d work up my appetite during a preposterously long wait for a table, then, when I was finally seated, I’d fold one up and shovel it into my mouth in under 10 minutes, leaving nothing but a few stray leopard-spotted pizza crusts in my path. It never hurt that long before he became a hotshot franchise owner, Paulie himself would be there to schmooze and bring a little extra homemade something or other by my table.

The Marin With Red Sauce From Pizzeria Picco (Larkspur, California)

Claire McNear: Do I love and miss my family, now that I live on the other side of the country from my native Bay Area? Of course. Do I love and miss my pie of choice at Larkspur’s Pizzeria Picco a very similar amount? No comment.

Pizzeria Picco is a no-reservations, Neapolitan sidecar to Picco proper, the larger, more formal, bounty-of-California slinger next door. At the pizzeria, you’ll be encouraged to order a fresh salad on top of your pizza — don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I encourage you to go with my longtime go-to customization: the Marin (“roasted garlic, shaved organic potatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, rosemary oil”) with red sauce and olive oil–drizzled arugula on top. The potato slivers crisp like pepperoni. The garlic is aplenty. The sauce is tangy-sweet, the arugula is salty-bitter, the crust is thin but doughy, and the texts I get from my dad, who has taken to ordering my pizza while I’m away and sending me pictures of his empty plate as proof, really ought to be investigated by the Hague.

An Anonymous Slice of Pizza at 3 a.m. (New York City)

Katie Baker: What truly differentiates New York City pizza from all the try-hard wannabes out there has never been the ceiling; it’s always been the floor. Most people don’t know this, but I’ll let you in on one of the Big Apple’s most beautiful secrets: In the original version of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” here’s what Ol’ Blue Eyes really sang: “I want to wake up / in the city that doesn’t sleep / and find a slice half-eaten / on the nightstand heap …” New York has many hidden wonders that only become apparent when you travel outside of city limits, but chief among them is the sheer volume and superlative quality of the median anonymous 3 a.m. street corner slice.

You know the one: it’s there for you whether you’re just arriving at Penn Station after a hellish day of travel or just departing some creepy Lower East Side club after a hellish night of trance. It is typically enormous in size and thankfully nonjudgmental in disposition. Unlike the horrid imitators to be found in other cities — cough, San Francisco, cough cough — this genre of ’za does not attempt to mask its inadequacies via overwhelming amounts of oregano or, worse, cornmeal. It is what it is, and it’s got what you need.

Any Kind of Pizza From Cheese Board Collective (Berkeley, California)

Riley McAtee: Since opening in 1967, the Cheese Board Collective has had a major influence on California cuisine. Originally a shop for artisan cheeses, its success helped found the popular “Gourmet Ghetto” neighborhood in north Berkeley, and Alice Waters opened her famous restaurant Chez Panisse just down the street so that she could be close to the collective. Since the ’60s, the Cheese Board has expanded into bread and — of course — pizza, which is always vegetarian and is served in just one style per day based on the ingredients available. No substitutions.

But no one here is picking their favorite pizza based on history. The pizza at the Cheese Board is incredible. The crust is thin with a bit of a crunch to it, but never flaky or doughy. The toppings are the best around, and believe me, it makes a difference: I’ll even eat their corn pizza, and I despise corn. And the cheese, oh the cheese! They don’t call themselves “the Cheese Board” for nothing — you just have to try it.

An earlier version of this piece incorrectly referenced the Robbinsville DeLorenzo’s.


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