Trying to piece together a definitive list of the world’s ten best pizza joints is a bit of a fool’s errand – to limit oneself so severely is to do an injustice to entire cultures worth of pizza composition. It seems like every region has its own spin on this comfort food classic, and everyone has their favorites. That said, here are ten cities we feel do it a little bit better than everyone else.
10. San Diego, CA
An unexpected choice? Perhaps. But this little city is actually home to quite a few celebrated pizzerias, from the unique savory and square shaped “Sicilian-style” crust at North Park’s Sicilian Thing to the creative thin crust offerings at Golden Hill’s Pizzeria Luigi that caught the eye of Food Network back in 2008. What’s more: those pizzas have kept this editor happy through many a long night of deadlines – and that, dear readers, is when an already winning pizza tastes the best.
9. New Haven, CT
Connecticut’s New Haven-style pizza may not be nearly as commonplace across the country as Chicago deep dish and New York thin crust pizzas – but for those in the know, it’s a simple and savory gem of the Eastern Seaboard. Restaurants like Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally’s Apizza pioneered the signature “apizza” of the region, where ultra plain tomato or white clam piesare baked in coal ovens and mozzarella comes only by request.
8. Los Angeles, CA
When Los Angeles decides to tackle a food group, it does it with unparalleled style and panache. Osteria Mozza, the brainchild of chefs Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton, put LA on the pizza map with red carpet-ready upscale toppings like squash blossoms and house-made burrata, and continues to stand as the perfect example of this city’s appreciation for both elegant ingredients and a great tasting pizza.
7. Sao Paulo, Brazil
When it comes to pizza, Brazil’s Sao Paulo reigns supreme in South America. Residents have reportedly gone so far as to claim for the city the title of “Pizza Capital of the World.” A flood of Italian immigrants to the city decades ago led to a melding of Old World culinary traditions with Brazil’s flair for extra bold flavors. With over 7,000 pizzerias in the Sao Paulo area, it’s tough to pinpoint the cream of the crop – but residents hit up chains like Braz for unique regional toppings like linguiça sausage, Catupiry cheese, and the “Portuguesa” with ham, onion, and hard-boiled eggs.
6. San Francisco, CA
California pizza,a style that first evolved in the 1980s at restaurants like Prego and Alice Waters’ iconic Chez Panisse, may be relatively late to the game but has grown to be just as iconic as its East Coast predecessors. These days, ultra-modern joints like flour + water and Pizzeria Delfina keep Northern California’s pizza dream alive with artisanal toppings (pork belly, salt packed anchovies, locally grown broccoli raab) atop Neapolitan style thin crusts wood-fired to crispy perfection.
5. Osaka, Japan
In Japan, even reinterpreted American style pizza becomes a site to behold, but it has nothing onokonomiyaki. Often referred to as either a Japanese pizza or Japanese pancake, the base for these creations is a batter of flour, yams, eggs, and cabbage mixed together with dashi or water, piled high with toppings like cheese, vegetables, sauces and meat, and then cooked to order on a flat teppan grill. Okonomiyaki is widely available throughout Japan, but the Kansai region’s Osaka is considered the savory treat’s birthplace. Restaurants like Tengu and Mangetsu offer Osaka-style okonomiyaki decades of craft perfection in the making.
4. Rome, Italy
Italy may be small, but its styles of pizza are as plentiful as its regions. In Rome, pizzas are often baked square and extra large, and are served up “al taglio.” (Fans of New York’s “pizza by the slice” joints can thank Italy’s capital for starting the notion of pizza on the go.)Regulars visit pizza joints like Sforno and Pizzarium for the wealth of inventive toppings that sets Roman style pizza apart from its regional neighbors.
3. Chicago, IL
Pizza in Chicago is unlike pizza anywhere else in the United States, let alone the world. If you want authentic deep dish where a single slice is a hardy meal, this is the place to be. Gino’s East is a local favorite, and while Pizzeria Uno may be a nationwide chain now, the original Chicago location(along with its sister restaurant Due) is still hard to beat – though other Chicago natives swear by the double crust stuffed style pizzas served up at Giordano’s and Bacino’s.
2. New York, NY
In the United States, New York City and quality pizza are practically synonymous. Pizzerias like Lombardi’s and the coal oven-equipped Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn represent some of the best in traditional NYC thin crust style, in business for over a century and still attracting lines practically every day of the week. There are also stylistic holdovers from the Old World: New York’s La Pizza Fresca is the one of only a handful of pizza joints in the U.S. to earn the Associazione della Vera Pizza Napoletana seal of approval for serving authentic Neapolitan style pizza. Which, of course, brings us to…
1. Naples, Italy
Where else? This is the city where it all began, and most purists consider Naples to be the one true birthplace of pizza. Just don’t show up here expecting massive American-style slices – Neapolitan style pizza is a type all its own, and the city from whence it came even has an association in place just to verify which pizzerias in Naples and abroad adhere to its strict stylistic standards. Hit up beacons like Antica Pizzeria de Michele or Margherita pizza-spawning Brandi for both the ultra-traditional and modern takes on ancient classics.