Since 2012, The Daily Meal has ranked America's best pizzas, and it's been a half-decade that's seen America's pizza landscape go from spectacular to otherworldly. It's no small feat to set out to rank the best pizzas in America, but for the sixth year in a row, we've sought the nation's best pies and slices, considering more places than ever in our quest for the best.
If you're as passionate about pizza as we are, you know our bona fides and you know the drill. We've been at this for a while. We've obsessively cast as wide a net as possible across the country to search for the best pizzas. All year, once each annual list appears, we research new spots ourselves and follow up on the discoveries of others wherever they are across the country. We tap friends for recommendations, pore over reader tips, argue, seek out experts to help us rank responsibly - and eat as much pizza as we can.
We know that no list is perfect, least of all one involving a subject about which people feel as strongly as they do about pizza. Unlike many arbitrary lists, though - rankings diversified for the purpose of geographical engagement, "expert" listicles chosen by a handful of New York City's food writers - these rankings were approached methodically and comprehensively, and bring a great deal of pizza expertise to bear.
We start by defining the perfect pie. What are the essentials? Considering the varied pizza styles (Neapolitan, Sicilian, New York, Connecticut, California, Detroit, St. Louis, bar pie, deep-dish, Grandma... we'll stop ourselves there), that's a loaded question. Suffice it to say, no matter your pizza denomination, we believe the following qualities are basic to the platonic pie: a nuanced sauce, neither too sweet nor salty (assuming that it has sauce); good-quality, well-distributed cheese (assuming that it has cheese); good-quality and sensibly combined toppings; a flavorful, savory crust; and, perhaps most important aside from the overall quality of the ingredients, a judicious, well-balanced, and pleasing ratio of sauce, cheese, toppings, and crust that maintains a structural integrity no matter the style.
(Speaking of crust, what is this fancy-pants term "cornicione" that figures in many of our captions? Cornicione, pronounced "cor-nee-CHO-neh," is Italian for cornice or moulding, and in pizza terms it means the edge, crust, or rim on a pizza.)
From defining the perfect pizza we went big, considering nearly 900 spots in every corner of the country - slightly more than last year. How did we narrow this number down to just 101? To begin with, we ate at as many pizzerias as possible ourselves. The Daily Meal's in-house pizza experts - including eight-time James Beard Award winner and Daily Meal editorial director Colman Andrews and the site's senior eat/dine editor Dan Myers, along with our city editors, Daily Meal Council experts, and Culinary Content Network bloggers - pitched in.
But we also called upon a blue-chip, geographically diverse list of pizza panelists - chefs, restaurant critics, bloggers, writers, and just plain pizza authorities - asking them to share their considerable pizza experience with us, but to vote only for places where they've actually eaten. (If you're in food media or are a recognized pizza expert and you disagree with this list and didn't vote for it, send us an email with your pizza cred and we'll consider you for our panel in 2018.) All told, 56 qualified experts weighed in this year.
So who says the 101 pizzas on this list are the country's best? A sampling of our panelists includes former longtime "Best New Restaurants" columnist for Esquire and author of Mariani's Virtual Gourmet Newsletter John Mariani, Worst Pizza's Craig Agranoff, Real Food, Fake Food's Larry Olmsted, Barbara and Eric Cheifet of Barb and Eric's Pizza Adventures, Taste of New Haven's Colin M. Caplan, filmmaker Gorman Bechard, A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours' Tony Muia, and Pizza Therapy's Albert Grande. Obviously, when pizza is the topic at hand, these folks know what they're talking about.
This year, the experts finalized a list that spanned 23 states. The top eight states for pizza included New York (35); Illinois (12); California (10); Connecticut (8); New Jersey (6); Pennsylvania (4); Texas (4); and Massachusetts (3). From last year, New York picked up six spots (thanks to the addition of several outside of New York City), California held strong with 10 spots, Illinois gained three spots, Jersey picked up a favorite, and Texas picked up two.
So who made the list? You can click here for the full ranking.