On the Road Eats: Stars' Favorite Pizza Restaurants
Whether you prefer cracker-thin crusts or the gooiest deep dish, here are some saucy favorites, as seen on Food Network.
Photo By: Jason Little Photography
Photo By: Jason Little
Photo By: Thomas McGovern
Photo By: Jason Little Photography
Photo By: Jason Little ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved
There’s no denying pizza’s wide appeal — with its crispy-chewy crust, melty cheese and sky’s-the-limit-toppings — but when it comes to picking favorites, loyalties run deep and opinions are fiercely defended. Whether the pie hails from a pizza capital like Chicago or an up-and-coming pie-loving town, Food Network stars have strong opinions. Click through for the pies that have won the hearts (and stomachs) of these expert tasters.
The Original Vito & Nick's Pizzeria, Chicago
Chicago may be known for its deep-dish pies, but this Chicago spot goes in the opposite direction, with wafer-thin pies. Since 1946, the family-owned Original Vito & Nick's Pizzeria has served queue-worthy pies, including an egg-topped breakfast pizza. Though he tried to hide the eggs below pepperoni before the pie was fired, Guy quickly became a convert on Triple D. “If you’re not a big egg fan, the only way to eat eggs is to say ‘I want it on a pizza with thin crust from Vito and Nick’s, covered in fried pepperoni,’” Guy said. He was so smitten he included the pizzeria in his Best of Pizza special.
Sotto, Los Angeles
The restaurant built its pizza oven using 16,000 pounds of imported materials from Naples, via the Panama Canal. On Best. Ever., Alex Guarnaschelli, who misses New York pies when she’s in California, hailed the creative gourmet topping combinations at Sotto that she says take pizza “to a whole other level in LA.” Her favorite, most-gourmet pizza, is the Guanciale, which includes scallions and fennel pollen in addition to the smoky cured pork and the ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses and is fired for one minute to reach charred perfection in that immaculately crafted oven. “If I close my eyes and take a bite of this pizza, I almost think I’m in New York,” Alex enthused.
Photo courtesy of Sotto, by Mary Costa
Go to: Sotto
He’s tried pizza everywhere, including New York and Italy, but when Unwrapped host Marc Summers wants the best margherita, he heads to Philadelphia’s Osteria for the classic tomato-sauce-and-mozzarella pie. Per Marc, the star of the “mind-blowing” pizza is the crispy, Roman-style crust that’s “so thin you can read a newspaper through it.” To get that covetable texture, the margherita — which is first topped with a San Marzano-based tomato sauce and whole-milk mozzarella from Philly’s Di Bruno Brothers — is baked in a Wood Stone brick dome oven over a 600-to-700-degree fire (built with a mix of oak and ash woods). It takes just two and a half minutes to cook the pie to charred perfection before it’s finished with fresh basil and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Photo courtesy of Steve Legato
Go to: Osteria
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven, Connecticut
The competition is fierce when it comes to New Haven pizza, but it’s the White Clam Pie that earned Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana — serving thin-crust pies for more than 90 years — a spot on Top 5 Restaurants. Clams (hauled straight from the Long Island Sound) originally appeared on the menu “on the half shell,” but by the 1950s, owner Frank Pepe had started using them as a pizza topping. The proprietary thin-crust dough is topped with littleneck clams — on Top 5 Restaurants, Sunny Anderson marveled at the 700 pounds of bivalves hand-shucked daily — minced garlic, imported Pecorino Romano and Italian extra virgin olive oil, and dried oregano, then cooked to crisp, lightly charred perfection in a 600-degree coal-fired oven.
Little Dom's, Los Angeles
Los Feliz neighborhood Italian restaurant Little Dom’s is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which means that Angelenos can get their pizza fix at any time of the day. For a pie-style start, follow Will Work for Food host Adam Gertler’s lead and order the Breakfast Pizza. It features an airy crust made from a blend of caputo, rye and bread flours, topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, speck (smoked prosciutto), a sunny-side-up farm egg and fresh basil, all cooked in a 900-degree, wood-fired brick oven until the crust is crisp and the eggs just-set. Adam’s pro tip: Ask for two eggs.
Photo courtesy of Little Dom's
Go to: Little Dom's
Though you may need a knife and fork to dive into this classic Chicago-style deep dish, on Best. Ever., Jeff Mauro called this “the most-comforting pizza one can imagine.” The classic well-sauced deep-dish cheese pie is Jeff’s pick. It’s cooked in a seasoned cast-iron pan that’s sprinkled with cheese to give the crust extra texture. “The thing that separates Pequod’s from everybody else is that caramelized lacy crust of cheese around the perimeter,” Jeff explained. “It’s magical. It’s the only pizza that I eat from the crust to the point.”
Go to: Pequod's Pizza
Via 313, Austin
New York and Chicago are cities that are synonymous with pizza, but as host Geoffrey Zakarian noted on Top 5 Restaurants, “Detroit is now a major rival for America’s pizza crown.” At Via 313, the unique Detroit-style pizza satisfies both thin- and thick-crust enthusiasts. The buttery, focaccia-style dough takes a full day to make before it’s pressed into an inch-thick layer in rectangular steel pans (which, in another nod to the Motor City, used to hold auto parts). Opt for The Detroiter, which features layers of smoked pepperoni, Via 313’s secret sharp cheese, rich Wisconsin mozzarella and natural-casing pepperoni. The pie is cooked in a 525-degree oven, which allows the crust to caramelize along the edges and achieve an ideal crisp-to-chewy ratio throughout. It’s finished with the housemade Detroit sauce (adding it after the pie cooks prevents the crust from getting gummy) and a sprinkle of oregano.
Go to: Via 313
Max Brenner, New York
When he thinks of “best pizza” for the end of the meal, Chopped judge and chef Aarón Sánchez’s vote goes to the Chocolate Pizza at Max Brenner. He hails the owner as a modern-day Willy Wonka, and indeed, only a candy genius could come up with such a sinful slice. The crust has all the makings of a pizza, including a regular yeast-and-flour dough, but the sauce and toppings are sweet. Belgian milk chocolate and white chocolate chunks are scattered on top of the dough base, then quickly cooked in a toaster oven until the chocolate melts into a thick sauce. Mini marshmallows are sprinkled on top and baked till browned (just like cheese), then topped with caramelized bananas, all-natural peanut butter and hazelnuts to create a heavenly banana-split-meets-s’mores confection. Digging into it might be a messy endeavor, but for Aarón, it’s definitely a love affair.
Photo courtesy of Max Brenner
Go to: Max Brenner
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., Chicago
Chopped judge Marc Murphy had never heard of a pizza pot pie, but his first bite of the one at this Lincoln Park spot convinced him it deserved the title The Best Thing I Ever Ate. “This is one of the weirdest and tastiest things I’ve ever had,” he exclaimed. Now a Facebook sensation, the pie layers cheese and a special sauce inside a fluffy Sicilian crust. Flip the behemoth over to unveil the gooey filling, then dig in. “It’s a pizza party,” Marc assures us.
Pizzeria Lola, Minneapolis
When it comes to pepperoni pizza, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri only has eyes for Pizzeria Lola’s My Sha-Roni. The artisan, “off-the-hook” pizzas at this local Twin Cities joint star a flour-and-yeast dough that takes 48 hours to process, including the addition of a poolish (or dough starter) for extra texture and flavor. The base is coated with a ladleful of housemade red sauce, topped with Wisconsin mozzarella, housemade fennel sausage (made with ground Berkshire pork) and natural-casing pepperoni, then baked in a large, copper-clad French wood-fired oven called a Le Panyol. Make room at your table for Lady Za Za, another Guy-approved pie that’s topped with kimchi (it’s owner Ann Kim’s mom’s recipe) and Ann’s homemade Korean sausage, laced with ginger, sesame and gochugaru.
Go to: Pizzeria Lola
Prova Pizza, Los Angeles
Tia Mowry, host of Cooking Channel's Tia Mowry at Home, loves pizza, so when she’s looking to indulge she heads to Prova Pizza in LA for its signature Vesuvio Pizza, named for the volcano in Naples. The double-decker delight starts with a thin-crust base layered with ricotta cheese, locally made fresh mozzarella, imported salami and organic basil, all topped and sealed with a second layer of dough and finished with a coating of San Marzano tomato sauce. When the pie slides into the 850-degree wood-burning oven, the dough slowly puffs up and the sauce rolls down from the middle to the edges; when it reaches maximum expansion, it’s pulled from the oven and a hole is poked in the top to let the volcano pie erupt with steam. With this pie’s crispy-chewy crust, bubbly sauce and oozing cheese, one slice isn’t enough for Tia: In true Guilty Pleasures fashion, she devours the whole thing.
Go to: Prova Pizzeria
Joe Squared Pizza, Baltimore
Square pies with gourmet toppings are the name of the game at family-owned Baltimore pizzeria Joe Squared Pizza. At first, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri was skeptical about the Bacon and Clam Pizza — it’s inspired by bacon-topped clams casino — but the flavor combination ended up bowling him over. It starts with Joe Squared’s signature thin-crust sourdough (made from a 200-year-old starter that owner Joe Edwardsen brought back from Italy) that’s layered with a roasted garlic sauce and a trio of fresh mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and Asiago cheeses. In addition to applewood-smoked bacon (sourced from North Country Smokehouse) and Atlantic littleneck clams, the briny pie is topped with Vidalia onions, olive oil and oregano, then quickly baked in an 800-to-900-degree coal-fired oven until the crust is amply charred and the cheeses bubbly.
Go to: Joe Squared Pizza
Serious Pie, Seattle
Chef Tyler Florence loves Seattle’s Serious Pie for the quality ingredients its chefs use, especially when it comes to their take on a mushroom pizza that he deemed “so good it should be illegal” on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The focaccia-style dough goes through a two-stage fermentation process before getting the luxe topping treatment with locally foraged seasonal mushrooms (like golden chanterelles and black trumpets) and Sottocenere, a velvety, ash-aged Italian cow’s milk cheese flecked with shaved black truffles. The pie is cooked in a 600-degree applewood-burning oven, which lends the crust a sweet-smoky flavor and a chewy, blistered texture. It’s finished with a drizzle of California olive oil, a sprinkling of Murray River pink flake salt and some freshly cut herbs, typically from Serious Pie’s own farm in Prosser, Washington.
Go to: Serious Pie
Gino's East of Chicago, Chicago
Chicago is synonymous with deep-dish pizza, and one of the top spots to enjoy one is Gino’s East. Duff Goldman may be best-known for his fantastical cake creations, but his taste in pizza skews toward the meat-lovers’ end of the spectrum, as he shared on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. At Gino’s East, he opts for the Sausage Patty-Style Pizza, which stars a 12-ounce disc of sausage that he calls “the Frankenstein of meat.” The restaurant uses a dough press (typically used for thin-crust pizza) to flatten their pork sausage balls into sausage “frisbees” that are laid on top of their signature crust (a top-secret recipe), blanketed in fresh mozzarella and then baked in a Blodgett deck oven until golden. In addition to that legendary deep-dish crust, you’re guaranteed a taste of sausage in every bite.
Go to: Gino's East of Chicago