Thin crust, deep dish. Square, round. Red, white. Cheese-filled, meat-topped. When it comes to pizza, everyone has got a favorite—favorite city, favorite restaurant, favorite topping(s), favorite style. And though it’s a meal that originated in Naples, Italy, Americans have claimed it as our unofficial national dish. In fact, we’ve even dedicated an entire month to honoring pizza in its many forms and preparations. This month, in fact.
In celebration of National Pizza Month, Relish is taking a photo tour of pizza across America—a cross-country culinary expedition to uncover long-loved pies and legends in the (brick-oven) making. Plus, get some tips on how to make the perfect pizza at home!
—By Jennifer M. Wood
Any American pizza tour has to begin at New York City’s Lombardi’s, America’s first pizzeria and one of the most loved for more than a century. This Little Italy stalwart still makes its pies the old-fashioned way—to order, in a coal oven, whole pies only, no slices. Though these smoky-crusted gems can be topped with more than a dozen fresh ingredients, it’s hard to beat the Original: Fresh mozzarella and a San Marzano tomato sauce topped with Romano cheese and fresh basil.
James Beard Award-winning executive chef/co-owner Jeff Michaud may have modeled Philadelphia’s Osteria on the simple Italian eateries from which it takes its name, but he’s certainly not playing it safe when it comes to pizza. “The Polpo pizza has been on our menu since we opened in 2007,” says Michaud. “We use baby octopus from the Mediterranean Sea, boil them until tender and then sear them on the plancha so they’re nice and crispy. We smoke our own mozzarella for the pizza and add some pepperoncini to spice it up a little. The combination of flavors— smoky cheese, charred octopus, sweet tomatoes and spice from the pepperoncini—make this a perfect pizza.”
At Home Tip: “The key to making this pizza (or any kind) at home is getting the oven really, really hot,” says Michaud. “Put the pizza stone in the oven a few hours prior to cooking and turn it up as high as it will go. To get it even hotter, you can also spray the inside walls of the oven with a little water right before cooking the pizza. This is what gives you that perfect, crispy crust without overcooking the other toppings.”
New Haven, Connecticut is not a pizza town. It’s an apizza town. This is the name given to the city’s legendary pies, which are made in the thin-crust Neapolitan style, with tomato sauce, oregano and a little bit of grated cheese (mozzarella is considered a topping). And there’s no apizza more legendary than Frank Pepe Pizzeria, which has been turning diners into disciples since 1925. The Original Tomato Pie is still on Frank Pepe’s menu, though it can now be made with 16 different toppings (including house-roasted red peppers and Italy-imported anchovies). Specialty items include the White Clam Pizza and the White Spinach, Mushroom and Gorgonzola Pie.
Pizza and art go hand in hand at Joey’s, a casual Italian cafe in Miami’s ultra-hip Wynwood Arts District. “The pizzas at Joey’s are about perfectly thin crust and well-paired ingredients put together in a way where the flavors make sense and—combined—pay tribute to the art of real pizza-making,” says executive chef Ivo Mazzon, a native of Italy’s Veneto region. Mazzon utilizes fresh, seasonal and sustainable ingredients to create his signature menu of more than a dozen pies, from the sausage, and bell pepper-topped Salsiccia (pictured here) to the signature Joey, featuring tuna, spicy salami, gorgonzola cheese, capers and spinach.
At Home Tip: “Don’t be afraid, try different flavor combinations,” suggests Mazzon. “I love putting sweet and spicy together. Be daring and have fun with it, but always remember a great pizza starts with great dough.”
You probably already know Pizzeria Uno. With more than 150 locations worldwide, it’s one of the best-known pizzerias on the planet. But what you may not know is that the Chicago deep dish tradition started with Uno’s founder, Ike Sewell, at the corner of Ohio and Wabash in the Windy City. It was here that Sewell changed the way people thought about pizza—from an on-the-go bite to an honest-to-goodness meal, distinguished by its deep, buttery crust that could be filled with all sorts of fresh ingredients (including authentic Italian spices, fresh tomatoes and lots and lots of cheese) and slow-cooked to perfection. That same artisan tradition continues today at Uno outposts around the globe, as well as at the original location at 29 East Ohio Street—and its second location at Pizzeria Due, built for customer spillover, on the opposite street corner.
Portland, Oregon’s growing reputation as a true destination for adventurous foodies is evident in its pizza, too. Case in point: The Hen Egg Pizza at Sunshine Tavern, chef/co-owner Jenn Louis’ upscale pub known for its elegant interpretations of Pacific Northwest cuisine. “The simplicity of the Hen Egg Pizza really lets all of the elements shine: Great dough, good quality eggs and a little Parmesan and wild oregano for seasoning,” says Louis. “It is not heavy at any point, and you can really enjoy the eggs and pizza crust without any overwhelming other ingredients. It is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. My favorite add-ons: Arugula and tesa (house-cured pork belly that has been roasted until very tender.)”
At Home Tip: “Always make sure your dough is close to room temperature before baking,” advises Louis. “It will rise properly and yield a greater final product.”
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the mantra at Santarpio’s, Boston’s bakery-turned-pizzeria that has been churning out what are widely considered to be New England’s tastiest pies for more than 75 years (with nine Best of Boston awards from Boston Magazine to prove it). Known as Tarps to its loyal diners, everything here is handmade—including the pizza dough. And the family-run restaurant has no plans of changing that, nor its menu, which features 15 simple combinations (cheese and garlic, cheese and pepperoni, cheese and shrimp) as well as nine “favorite” combinations (like cheese, ground beef and onions; cheese, pepperoni, garlic and hot peppers; and shrimp scampi).
Leave it to Las Vegas to create an over-the-top pie! At celebrity chef Scott Conant’s D.O.C.G. at The Cosmopolitan, the signature pizza is an edible exercise in decadence, topped with rich Fonduta, hearty egg and shaved truffles. “Fonduta and truffles is a classic flavor combination,” says Conant. “But when you add the egg on top, it becomes a sloppy delicious mess.” You can bet on it!
At Home Tip: “Find a great recipe that you can execute and stick with it—the more simple, the better,” says Conant. “Also, your oven needs to be very hot and if you buy those oven bricks, they will help conduct the heat better. My best tip though is to find a fabulous pizza joint and go there!”
When it’s world-class pizza you crave, look to Tony Gemignani, the titular pizza maker at San Francisco’s Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and 10-time world pizza champion who has perfected the art of simplicity. “We only serve 73 of my Margherita pizzas per day, to commemorate my win at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy,” says Gemignani. “This pizza perfectly embodies the simplicity of the Neapolitan style: Dough mixed by hand using San Felice flour is proofed in traditional wood boxes, then topped with de-seeded San Marzano tomatoes D.O.P., sea salt, mozzarella fior di latte, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.”
At Home Tip: “When making a pizza at home, use the right type of flour,” advises Gemignani. “A high gluten, high protein flour works best if using a home oven. Make your dough the night before instead of using it right away and use a browning agent—like a sugar or malt—in your dough recipe to help your dough brown better. All of these tips will make a better pizza at home.”
Combining the best of New England and Italy, Johanne Killeen and George Germon—chef/owners of Providence’s Al Forno, have been grilling up gourmet thin-crust pizzas since 1980, leaving a worldwide phenomenon in their wake. Though best known for their Grilled Pizza Margarita—a crisp mix of pomodoro, fresh herbs, two cheeses and extra virgin olive oil (pictured here)—their ever-changing lineup of seasonal toppings (such as native pumpkin) can’t be ignored!
It’s hip to be square in Detroit, at least when it comes to pizza. Home to the headquarters of some of the country’s biggest pizza chains, including Domino’s and Little Caesars, Motor City has got its very own style when it comes to pizza—Detroit-style. Similar to Sicilian pizza in its shape and depth, Detroit-style pies are baked in well-oiled trays, not pans, to create a signature crunchy crust. No one knows how to make a square pie better than Buddy's,the 66-year-old, 10-city chain that started it all. “A Buddy’s pizza is special for numerous reasons, including but not limited to our made-from-scratch dough,” says VP of operations Wesley Pikula. “Our fresh, proprietary dough is handmade each day without oil or sugar. It is double pressed and proofed for over two hours in our blue steel seasoned pans. The topping of Brick cheese and sauce on top is what makes a signature Buddy’s Pizza.”
At Home Tip: “Purchase a high-quality pizza pan and make your pizza dough from scratch,” says Pikula. “Let your pizza rise at room temperature before baking. Be sure to use nothing but fresh ingredients—including tomatoes—for your own sauce and any other pizza toppings you would like. Bake pizza in a preheated oven and watch it, since oven temps and times will vary depending on pizza type.”
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