Brazil’s Pizzeria Braz (Photo: André Ferraz/Flickr)
It’s the mere nature of the pizzaphile to argue for his or her favorite pie, and the leading contenders in the “Which city really does have the best pizza?” sweepstakes have always been the same: New York! Chicago! Naples! But what if we were to tell you they’re all wrong? What if the pizza-eating world dethroned Brooklyn and Naples and handed the Pizza King crown to a new, deserving but overlooked pie-maker? You see, the best pizza we’ve had comes from the most unexpected of places — from massive, sprawling cities to small, anonymous townships — and these are the real cities (and pizza purveyors) for whom we should be arguing:
Related: Is This New York City’s Best Pizza?
São Paulo: Pizzeria Braz
Inside Fasano, a posh, low-lit Italian bistro inside its eponymous hotel, a Naples-born sommelier comes over to pour us some Chianti. I ask him about the pizza in Naples, and he shrugs, tells me it’s OK, but says that nothing compares to São Paulo. He tells me São Paulo makes the best pizza in the world, and he’s right. As a city, it’s an abrasive maze of ugly sky-high buildings and traffic jams. But damned if they don’t make one of the best margheritas we’ve ever had. Our favorite slice came from Pizzeria Braz in Campinas, where we went on a recent weekday and walked through a cavernous, cherry wood dining room and grabbed a seat in the verdant garden space. We ordered a few Chopps beers and a gorgeous pie with a slightly burnt crust, burrata cheese (both salty and milky), and topped with cherry tomatoes and a hint of basil. Yes, it may just be one of the most heavenly things we’ve ever tasted.
Phoenix, Ariz.: Pizzeria Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco (Photo: Nick Bastian/Flickr)
The concept of Americanized pie was popularized by Chris Bianco in 1994, when he opened Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. His red brick flagship remains the city’s most popular restaurant, with consistent wait times maxing out at two hours (while you wait, grab a drink next door at Bar Bianco, a cute historic house-turned-bar). It also has the most consistently inspired and inspiring pies in the country. Pizzeria Bianco offers the traditions of old Italy, the simplicity and ingredient focus of modern California cooking, and the unmistakable stamp of Chris Bianco’s delicate, soft, and slightly charred masterpiece. This kind of pizza is the “no toppings necessary” kind. Just a simple pie made by a modern master.
Pizzeria Bianco brings Italy to Phoenix (Photo: Robyn Lee/Flickr)
Harrison Township, Mich.: Luigi’s Original
Luigi’s Original (Photo: Courtesy of Luigi’s Original)
We’ll go out on a limb and assume you’re not familiar with Harrison Township (unless you’re one of the 26,000 or so who live there), so let us paint you a picture: a small city, more of a town really, along the banks of Lake St. Clair, just shy of 24 square miles and about an hour and a half northeast of Detroit. It’s a calm, scenic boat town with a healthy dose of charm but without a claim to fame to put it on the map — that is, until now. Luigi’s Original on Jefferson Avenue is the kind of red-checkered tablecloth goodness you’d expect to get in Manhattan. This place is a gem, a treasure, a hidden goldmine of homemade Italian food, where the kitchen never has a bad night, and the pizza is king. The Luigi’s Special is popular with locals, but the veggie pie has garnered national headlines — and rightfully so.
Curitiba, Brazil: Pizzeria Baggio
Pizzeria Baggio (Photo: Tatsuo Yamashita/Flickr)
Even frequent visitors of Rio and São Paulo have never heard of Curitiba, a mid-sized city that’s about an hour plane ride from São Paulo. Curitiba is loaded with parks and named by Traveler’s Digest one of the World’s Most Livable Cities. And one of the things that makes it so livable? Its pizza. The pizza at Pizzeria Baggio is topped with burrata and prosciutto and Italian sausage but filled with warm cream cheese to add a delightful surprise I didn’t even know I wanted. It’s unlike any pizza you’ll find in the States.
Pizzeria Baggio’s secret? Cream cheese (Photo: Tatsuo Yamashita/Flickr)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Pizza 4P’s
The specialty at Pizza 4P’s (Photo: jennifer yin/Flickr)
In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, there’s a small but beloved pizza shop known as Pizza 4P’s where you can snag their specialty: prosciutto, arugula and fresh burrata. And though it’s located in Southeast Asia, owner Yosuke Masuko’s ideas about farm-to-table ingredients are very Western. The vegetables he uses for his pizzas are grown organically on five farms in the hilly region of southern Vietnam. The owner traveled throughout Italy, working to perfect the pizza-making craft, something of a new revelation to the Vietnamese. And what makes it truly special is the low cost of ingredients as compared to its American and European counterparts; Masuko and Co. are able to use more of the (really) good stuff — fresh burrata and San Marzano tomatoes — for a fraction of the cost.
Mumbai, India: Di Napoli
Yes, great pizza can be found in India (Photo: Di Napoli/Facebook)
India isn’t exactly known for its Italian food choices, especially pizza. But there’s an anomaly in Mumbai: a special hole-in-the-wall called Di Napoli that makes it better than most dough-throwers in Naples. Blaspheme! But it’s true. The pizza is a simple margherita: hand-thrown dough cooked to perfection in a brick oven and topped with basil, extra virgin olive oil, homemade mozzarella, and San Marzano sauce. Truly a delicious slice even a cheese-maker from Avellino would love!
Related: America’s Top 10 Pizza Restaurants
Seaford, N.Y.: Tarallo’s Pizza
What would a pizza list be without one New York joint, even if it’s not in New York City? But did you really need another list recycling Lombardi’s and Grimaldi’s? The best pizza can really be found on Long Island in a little eight-seat shop called Tarallo’s at the end of a strip mall in Seaford, N.Y. A classic New York street food slice here consists of hot, stringy mozzarella, fresh meatballs, and a sesame seed crust, a secret weapon that’s been bringing locals back for two decades.