The Best Pizza in America Right Now

Pizza in America has never been better. The wood-fire Neapolitan pizzerias that took off in the early 2000s, and have been spreading ever since, taught Americans to ask more of a dish they already loved.

The ensuing craft pizza renaissance is a rare culinary convergence: born of metropolitan chef culture but not confined to big cities. There are great pizzerias virtually everywhere in the United States, from small New England towns to the Mississippi Delta to rural Iowa to Los Angeles to Alaska. And they’re being opened by chefs from an unusually wide array of backgrounds.

The result is a dish that has become a cooking style of its own, channeling a seemingly limitless number of cultures and ideas.

The following list is a road map to a uniquely American phenomenon — and evidence, perhaps, that the country is home to the world’s best pizza. BRETT ANDERSON

Hamtramck, Mich. (Pop. 27,834)

The idea of using Bangladeshi ingredients at Amar Pizza was born of necessity. “We’re in a neighborhood where there are pizzerias that had been around 20 to 30 years,” said Khurshed Ahmed, Amar’s owner. “We had to come up with something unique, to separate us.” The most delicious of the resulting inventions: a pizza made with a dried fish paste based on a condiment that was a dinner-table staple in Mr. Ahmed’s household when he was growing up. This mostly takeout restaurant has been in Hamtramck since 2010, long enough for its Bangladeshi pizzas — you’ll also want one sparked with Naga chiles — to become locally famous, and for good reason. There is a second location in Troy, owned by Mr. Ahmed’s brother Albor Alam. BRETT ANDERSON

Charlotte, N.C. (Pop. 874,579)

The American craft-pizza boom was fueled by small Neapolitan pies fired in wood-burning ovens. Kerrel Thompson is among the pizzaiolos who responded to the resulting demand for better quality by trying to perfect a different kind of pizza. In Mr. Thompson’s case, it’s a New York style reminiscent of what he grew up eating in Cleveland. At Bird, operated by Mr. Thompson and his wife, Nkem, the pizzas are of a shareable size, featuring browned, caramelized crusts, and available with seasonal toppings like dandelion pesto and local mushrooms. The Thompsons found an enthusiastic local audience for Bird’s pizza: Since opening in December 2021, the restaurant has grown from a pop-up to a takeout business to (as of next month) a sit-down restaurant. BRETT ANDERSON

The overlapping skills required to make beer and dough have spurred a growing number of brewers to try their hands at pizza. This restaurant-within-a-brewery is an inspiring example. The crusts are fragrant and flavorful, with sturdy undercarriages, and the Neapolitan pizzas are always memorable, whether they’re topped with the barest amount of ingredients (order at least one with tomato sauce and yuzu oil) or the makings of a German potato salad, to name just one in the never-ending parade of specialty pies. On Tuesdays, the kitchen features its take on Chicago’s square-cut tavern-style pies (shown above). The food is a good match for the beer and, yes, wine, which Middle Brow started making, from Michigan grapes, in 2019. BRETT ANDERSON

Nashville (Pop. 689,447)

Can pizza be Southern? Can Italian food? The answer is yes, at least when you’re eating at City House. The restaurant, opened by the chef Tandy Wilson in 2007, helped trailblaze the pizzeria-as-Italian-American-trattoria. At the same time, it showed how well Southern ingredients and recipes take to Italian cuisine. If it’s tomato season in Tennessee — as it is right now — keep an eye out for pizza inspired by Mr. Tandy’s mother’s favorite tomato sandwich (above), or one dotted with morsels of the juicy peaches that ripen around the same time. The kitchen is equally adept at handmade pastas and other Italian-inspired dishes. BRETT ANDERSON

Portland, Ore. (Pop. 652,503)

It’s been said that Portland, Ore., is the best pizza city in the country. Some may argue, but there’s no question that there are some great pies available here (including those made by Sarah Minnick at Lovely’s Fifty Fifty). But a few miles to the west, in Beaverton, Aaron Truong and his wife and co-owner, Natalie, are adding to the scene. Started as a farmers’ market pop-up with just a single Gozney Roccbox countertop oven, Hapa found a permanent home last year. True to its name — a term for multiracial people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent — the restaurant works in multiple culinary traditions. The pies stay faithful to the Neapolitan canon of pleasingly charred and chewy dough, but also to vivid Asian flavors, as in the pho or Thai green curry pies. Mr. Truong manages to get a lot on his pizzas without them seeming gimmicky or overloaded. BRIAN GALLAGHER

Juneau, Alaska (Pop. 32,255)

“Lupo,” as locals call it, consists of a small deli, a kitchen and a casual 50-person dining room, located in a downtown building that has housed bakeries since 1914. More than half the time, in Alaska’s forested, seaside capital city, it’s either raining hard or raining not so hard. Tucking into the bar, where you can watch your pizza’s crust bubble and caramelize in the wood-fired oven, is a primo way to dry out. The chef Beau Schooler, who has half a dozen James Beard nods, makes pizzas with flours from the Pacific Northwest, Caputo Brothers Creamery cheese from Pennsylvania and classic toppings like fennel sausage, bacon, pepperoni and mushrooms. Keep an eye out for special pizzas, too, like halibut and asparagus, depending on what’s coming in from fishermen and farms. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Harold, the resident parking-lot raven, roosted up by the front door. JULIA O’MALLEY

Cleveland, Miss. (Pop. 11,199)

The pizza at Leña collapses the distance between Naples, Italy, where Marisol Doyle, the restaurant’s chef and co-owner, studied pizza making; the Mississippi Delta, her adopted home; and Sonora, Mexico, where she was born and raised. The menu includes pies you’d expect to find at a modern Neapolitan pizzeria, like margherita and pepperoni (named pepperrory, after Ms. Doyle’s husband and business partner, Rory). But there are also pies highlighting seasonal produce and Ms. Doyle’s Mexican heritage, including an al pastor pizza (pineapple comes on the side) and the Sonoran, which replaces tomato sauce with refried beans and is topped with housemade roasted jalapeño salsa. Leña is reminiscent of many urban trattorias, except that it sits in a storefront on a small-town main street called Cotton Row. BRETT ANDERSON

Mount Vernon, Iowa (Pop. 4,527)

The scene is so familiar inside the Lincoln — the chalkboard menu, the natural wine, the 30-somethings comparing notes about their favorite podcasts — a visitor could easily forget they’re in a small town on the outskirts of Cedar Rapids. But you won’t forget for long. There is too much Iowa on the wood-fired pies: local morels and asparagus in the spring and summer, Iowa pepperoni and hot honey all year long. The “barn chives” come from the old pumpkin farm where the owner Jesse Sauerbrie’s father lives. Mr. Sauerbrie, who first learned the restaurant business working at Red Lobster, relishes Lincoln’s ability to expand customers’ horizons. “Pizza is a really great way to get people to try new things,” he said. BRETT ANDERSON

Baltimore (Pop. 854,535)

It isn’t surprising that Robbie Tutlewski decided to put soft-shell crab on pizza. Little Donna’s — which made The New York Times’s 2023 list of the nation’s most exciting restaurants — is in Baltimore, after all. Here, crab is an all-but-mandatory menu item. And the soft-shells really take to the treatment. They’re pan-fried, quartered and then scattered atop a cooked white pizza, where their buttery juices settle into the cheese. The seasonal special is just one example of how Mr. Tutlewski channels a lifetime’s worth of experiences through his pizzeria. He learned to make Neapolitan-style pizza working at the influential Pizzeria Bianco (see below), but the crusts on Little Donna’s pies are cracker-thin, in homage to the tavern-style pies of Mr. Tutlewski’s native Indiana. Located in the former space of a beloved local tavern, the restaurant comes by its homespun warmth honestly: Mr. Tutlewski lives with his family upstairs, and the non-pizza portion of the menu includes dishes inspired by the cooking of his Yugoslavian grandmother. BRETT ANDERSON

Phoenix (Pop. 1,608,139)

Chris Bianco helped establish the persona of the pizzaiolo-as-pitmaster — the meticulous craftsman spinning magic from wood fire. He did it at Pizzeria Bianco, where starting in the late 1980s, he helped pave the way for the craft-pizza revolution one steamy-crisp, handmade pizza at a time. His profile has only grown, along with his empire, but the two Phoenix pizzerias are still worth a pilgrimage. Be sure to order the Rosa, a sublimely austere pizza holding Arizona pistachios, rosemary and singed slices of red onion. BRETT ANDERSON

Los Angeles (Pop. 10,014,009)

William Joo, who immigrated from South Korea as a teenager, draws inspiration from the Tokyo neo-Neapolitan school of pizza for his very Los Angeles pies, proofed over the course of two days and embellished with produce from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The menu makes a beautiful Neapolitan pizza and a white pie covered only with a swirl of thick cream and fior di latte mozzarella, freckled with preserved lemon and obscenely large glugs of olive oil. But part of the fun of Sei is in its specials and one-off pizzas that come and go, and might include beef tongue, squash blossoms or yuzu. TEJAL RAO

Mountain Brook, Ala. (Pop. 22,461)

Post Office Pies came to greater Birmingham when John Hall determined that his best path out of Manhattan’s rat race, where he worked in some of the city’s most prestigious restaurants, was to bring craft pizza to his hometown. The Neapolitan pies are expertly made, often highlighting local produce; one draws on the partner Brandon Cain’s experience with Southern barbecue. Mr. Hall spends less time in Alabama since opening Restaurant Lola in Bremerton, Wash., an opportunity, he said, that would not have been possible had he not first gone into business for himself. “If we had investors, they never would have let me leave,” he said. “But we didn’t need help to make great pizza.” BRETT ANDERSON

Jersey City, N.J. (Pop. 291,657)

What if New Jersey is really a lost province of Italy? This is the question asked by Razza, Dan Richer’s locavore pizzeria in Jersey City. The flour is milled nearby. Milk for butter and cheese is contributed by local cows. What may be Razza’s most famous creation is a white pie topped with honey from New Jersey bees and toasted, blight-resistant hazelnuts grown in East Brunswick by plant biologists at Rutgers University. Pizza is many things in the United States, but few pizzerias have gotten as far as Razza does by treating pizza as an agricultural product. PETE WELLS

Brooklyn (Pop. 2,736,074)

Roberta’s took California cuisine’s open-minded attitude about pizza and gave it a New York edge. When it opened, in 2008, it had no obvious rules about what it would put on the wheels of dough baked in its candy-apple-red oven. There was a pizza with tuna, another with bacon and eggs and a pineapple-topped version of Hawaiian pizza called the Da Kine. It sounded at times like a dorm-room joke, but the smoky, blistered crust was excellent and the ingredients first-rate. (The “bacon” was house-cured guanciale.) The menu is more traditional these days, but the city is full of pizzerias that took the Roberta’s approach and ran wild with it. PETE WELLS

Berkeley, Calif. (Pop. 118,962)

In a place where you can’t swing a pie without hitting a fermentation-happy sourdough pizza joint, Rose stands apart. The pies put out by the married couple Gerad Gobel and Alexis Rorabaugh, who worked together in Chicago for seven years, draw from both the New York and Midwestern tavern traditions. The crust is sturdy enough — no point flop here — that you can single-hand your slice. The toppings aren’t flashy, but options like the She Wolf, with burrata, garlic confit, olives, capers and oregano, are deeply delicious. For a true California pizza-parlor experience, snag a table on the charming patio out back. BRIAN GALLAGHER

New Orleans (Pop. 383,997)

Where are American pizza restaurants heading? St. Pizza suggests an appealing path. It’s a slice place, with a sidewalk takeout window, featuring the kind of crisp, sparely appointed pizza that the co-owner Tony Biancosino ate growing up in southern New Jersey, outside Philadelphia. But there’s more. Walk past the cash register and into a partly hidden, seductively lit tavern, where those same excellent pizzas — topped with housemade fennel sausage, with in-season greens and sweet ricotta, with crushed tomatoes, oregano and fennel pollen — are served as whole pies, offered in two sizes. They’re the backbone of what amounts to a red-sauce Italian place stripped to its essentials and polished to suit modern tastes. The restaurant — which Mr. Biancosino opened early this year with Leslie Pariseau, his business partner and wife, and another partner, Abhi Bhansali — is two doors down from Patron Saint, the couple’s shop and bar specializing in low-intervention wines. So yes, you can enjoy your pizza, and whatever else, with a bottle of Slovenian pet-nat rosé. BRETT ANDERSON

Philadelphia (Pop. 1,550,542)

When Valentin Palillero and his wife, Eva Mendez, opened their South Philadelphia pizzeria in 2005, the couple sold traditional pies, with toppings like pepperoni and green peppers that were familiar to their historically Italian neighborhood. But Mr. Palillero, who emigrated from Puebla, Mexico, also wanted to appeal to his own community that had been settling in the surrounding blocks for the last decade or so. Using the same simple crust as a base, new recipes used ingredients found in Mexican cuisine: slightly smoky guajillo sauce, spiced pork, black beans, flecks of onion and chopped cilantro. Nowadays, these varieties, served with a side of lime wedges, are as popular as the originals. But they’re also a vivid link in a neighborhood that’s been an epicenter of Italian and Mexican immigration, roughly three-quarters of a century apart. REGAN STEPHENS

It would be an understatement to call Scratch a product of its environment. Perched on the sloping edge of a forest in deep Southern Illinois, the brewery was built partly from salvaged local materials. The outdoor brick oven was handmade, and it’s used to bake wood-fired pizza, served Thursday to Sunday. The crusts are made with the same sourdough culture used to ferment the excellent bread and most of the beers. The ingredients for the pizza are largely local (same goes for the beer), much of it grown or foraged by the co-owners Marika Josephson and Aaron Kleidon on land surrounding the property. To say this place is worth its own road trip is another understatement. BRETT ANDERSON

Gloucester, Mass. (Pop. 29,729)

Short & Main is a Neapolitan pizzeria crossed with a New England oyster bar. Visit it once, and you’ll struggle to imagine how it could be anything else. The restaurant is so close to the waterfront, you’re likely to find sea gulls resting on cars parked out front. That proximity is reflected in the seafood offerings, especially the raw oysters. After you slurp down some briny, impeccably fresh Island Creeks, before tearing into one of the restaurant’s flame-kissed pies, you’ll wish this particular version of surf and turf were more widely available. BRETT ANDERSON

Bristol, Vt. (Pop. 3,782)

In another era, you could be almost guaranteed a place like the Tillerman — a rural inn and restaurant in an 18th-century farmhouse — would offer fresh popovers, stew and a night’s sleep under a homemade quilt. Rustic comforts — raging fires in the winter, live music night by the barn in summer — remain central to the appeal here, but they’ve been married to a fresher culinary aesthetic since Jason Kirmse and Kate Baron took over the property. The couple, who previously worked in food and hospitality in the Bay Area, installed a wood-fire oven. That’s where you’ll find Kelsey Martin, who doubles as the restaurant’s pastry chef, and the sous-chef Taylor Adams (above) tending to crisp-edged pizzas that change with the seasons. BRETT ANDERSON

Washington, D.C. (Pop. 689,545)

When Michael Radifi decided to create a pizza pop-up at his Georgetown bakery during Covid lockdowns, it wasn’t an especially difficult pivot. The kitchen was already equipped with a wood-fire oven for pita bread. Mr. Radifi found himself deploying harissa and other ingredients he encountered making pizza-adjacent dishes, like sfeehas and manoushe, with his Palestinian grandparents while growing up. The response was so positive that Mr. Radifi turned Yellow, a Levantine bakery, into a Levantine pizzeria by night called (not) pizza. The name accounts for how far ingredients like soujek, jibneh and toum stray from Italy. Whatever you call them, the savory pies rival any craft pizza you’ll find. Don’t forget to save room for some labneh soft-serve. BRETT ANDERSON

Minneapolis (Pop. 429,954)

Nowhere is the freewheeling creative spirit permeating American pizza culture more pronounced than in the Twin Cities. Argentine pizza? Japanese-Italian pizza? Indian pizza? Spiffed-up Midwestern tavern pizza? So it’s no great surprise that one of the region’s most excellent restaurants is also a pizzeria. Or perhaps it’s better to say that Young Joni, the place in question, is not just a pizzeria. The menu is filled with not only wood-fired pizzas but also many other non-pizza dishes, many of which draw on the Korean American childhood of Ann Kim, Young Joni’s chef and co-owner. A typical spread here includes galbi-style short rib pizza, chili-glazed prawns and a trio of housemade kimchis. The restaurant, in a former Polish community center, is notably atmospheric. Consider booking seats for pre- or post-dinner drinks in the attached Back Bar, a speakeasy whose design transports you to a rustic cabin in the upper Midwest. BRETT ANDERSON

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