It takes real chutzpah to single out one New York pizzeria as the best in the entire state—the kind of chutzpah that, in certain tougher neighborhoods, might land you in a fistfight. But the team at the LoveFood.com website has taken the risk, possibly because they’re headquartered all the way over in London, England.
LoveFood is all about food and food-related listicles. Its latest, “The Best Pizza Place Open Now in Your State,” surveys the American pizza scene state by state. The site notes that its selections “are based on genuine user reviews, awards and accolades, and the first-hand experience of our team.”
Since Big Apple residents will be the first to tell you their hometown is the nation’s pizza capital, we were naturally curious as to which New York State pizzeria claimed top honors in LoveFood’s list. Maybe one in Albany or Rochester? Nope, the winner was Rubirosa, the Manhattan shop which, we might add, has also scored praise from Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.
Famous for its Tye Die pizza (vodka sauce, tomatoes, mozzarella and a swirl of pesto), Rubirosa has landed on numerous best-of pizza lists in recent years. Its founder, Anthony (AJ) Pappalardo, has pizza roots dating back to 1960, when his father and uncle, Giuseppe (Joe) and Pat Pappalardo, opened the now-legendary Joe & Pat’s on Staten Island. AJ started Rubirosa with his dad in 2010 in Manhattan, and his restaurant earned the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand recognition in 2012.
Before opening Rubirosa, AJ washed dishes and sauced pizzas at Joe & Pat’s, then went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America and worked in the kitchens at Esca and Osteria del Circo. He died in 2015 at just 40, but his sister, Maria Pappalardo, has continued the family’s rich legacy since then.
Of course, New York’s next-door neighbor also claims to be the United States’ pizza capital, and, according to LoveFood’s team, Pizza Den in Princeton is the best pizzeria in the Garden State. LoveFood cited Pizza Den’s signature pies, including the Classic (topping choices include baby kale, bacon, basil, chicken, garlic, fresh mozz, tomatoes, long hot peppers, goat cheese, onions and more); the Brooklyn Pie (fresh mozz, red sauce, onions, fresh basil and olive oil); and the Tomato Pie (tomato sauce, garlic, basil and olive oil). But Pizza Den is also known for specialties like The Diva (a gluten-free crust with crème fraiche, cheese, artichokes, spinach, garlic and crushed red peppers) and the Eye of the Tiger (sweet and spicy mayonnaise, mozz, grilled chicken and mozzarella sticks).
Legislators in Connecticut, meanwhile, have been pushing a bill to make pizza the official state food. It is home, after all, to the one-of-a-kind New Haven-style apizza. LoveFood chose Zuppardi’s Apizza in West Haven as that state’s No. 1 pizzeria. Dominic Zuppardi founded the restaurant—which now has three locations and a pizza truck—in 1932. Originally called Salerno’s Bakery, it moved to West Haven two years later and became Zuppardi’s Pizza in 1947, after Dominic’s son, Anthony, took over. At Zuppardi’s, you will find the famous Fresh Clam apizza, featuring shucked-to-order Littleneck clams, as well as the unique Escarole and Beans, a white-sauce pie topped with sautéed escarole, cannellini beans and mozz.
Illinois also has bragging rights as one of the best states in the U.S. for pizza. After all, Chicago is famously home to not one, not two but three unique pizza styles: tavern, deep-dish and stuffed crust. LoveFood’s team gave the nod to Pequod’s Pizza, which is, in fact, a bit different from all of the above. Pequod’s points to its pan-style pizza’s caramelized crust as a key differentiation point. The late Burt Katz founded the landmark shop in 1971, the same year that deep-dish giant Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria opened.
But some say the Quod pizza is a style all its own, a mash-up of Chicago deep-dish, Detroit and Sicilian styles. To create the fabled pizza, the dough is pressed into a seasoned deep-dish pan, and the unique crisp and caramelized crust results from placing the cheese directly on the dough and cooking it along the edges of the pan.
OK, so your pizzeria isn’t located in any of these renowned pizza states? Don’t worry, the LoveFood list ventured from coast to coast and north to south in its quest for the best pizzerias in the U.S. Check out our story on the full state-by-state list here and find out if you made the cut!