Top chefs and fabled bakers are among the new breed of pizzaiolo who are just as fanatic over the temperature of their ovens as how local their ingredients are. They're elevating pizza around the country from greasy pies in cardboard boxes to inspired creations with crackly, charred crusts topped with house-made cheese and charcuterie.
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Here, we've chosen 10 of the best places for pizza around the country, from new-guard spots to the nearly century-old East Coast institutions started by the original pizzaiolo obsessives that loyalists still (rightfully) love.
(Related: 5 crazy pizza toppings for 2012.)
New York City: Co.
Signature Item: Popeye (with pecorino, Gruyère, mozzarella, spinach, black pepper and garlic).
Sullivan Street Bakery founder Jim Lahey is one of the country's elite bakers, so it makes sense that people can't stop talking about his chewy, crisp, ever-so-slightly tangy pie crusts. Lahey's newest project: He developed the menu for Crust, a soon-to-open Neapolitan-style pie spot at LaGuardia Airport.
Boston: Santarpio's Pizza
Signature Item: Homemade Sausage Pie.
This super-traditional pizzeria, with wood-paneled walls covered with pictures of famous athletes, has been around for more than a century.
Los Angeles: Pizzeria Mozza
Signature Item: Squash blossoms, tomato and burrata.
Powerhouse team Mario Batali, Joseph Bastianich and Nancy Silverton combine the best California ingredients (squash blossoms and trumpet mushrooms) with Italian tradition (big wood-burning ovens and house-made mozzarella) to form some of L.A.'s best pies.
San Francisco: Flour + Water
Signature Item: Margherita (with tomato sauce, Fior di Latte and extra-virgin olive oil).
The puffy, charred cornicione (end crust) is the result of just two minutes in the 800-degree wood-burning oven imported from Italy.
Providence, R.I.: Al Forno
Signature Item: Margarita (with house-made pomodoro, fresh herbs, two cheeses and extra-virgin olive oil).
In 1980, Johanne Killeen and George Germon launched a new era of ambitious cooking in Providence with their thin-crusted grilled pizzas topped with super-fresh ingredients.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Di Fara
Signature Item: Plain pie.
72-year-old owner Domenico DeMarco makes all the pies at this Brooklyn pizza mecca, so they come out with the perfect balance of tomato sauce (made fresh daily), mozzarella and Grana Padano cheeses. A Di Fara spin-off called Tagliare opened in LaGuardia Airport in the fall of 2010.
New Haven, Conn.: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
Signature Item: White Clam pizza.
This longstanding classic, considered ground zero for New Haven-style "apizza," was started by Frank Pepe in 1925 and is now run by his grandchildren. The Original Tomato Pie (without mozzarella) is still on the menu.
Portland, Ore.: Apizza Scholls
Signature Item: Apizza Amore (with tomato sauce, both fresh and aged mozzarella, pecorino, grana, olive oil, cured pork shoulder and fresh basil).
Pizzaiolos Brian Spangler, Dan Roberts and Jon Ullrich are so exacting about their craft that they mix their dough by hand daily and won't let customers put any more than three toppings on the nicely charred pies
Philadelphia: Tacconelli's Pizzeria
Signature Item: Tomato Pie (no cheese).
This Philly pizza institution hasn't changed the recipe for its tomato pies since Italian immigrant Giovanni Tacconelli opened it in 1918.
Chicago: Great Lake
Signature Item: Tomato, homemade fresh mozzarella, Dante aged cheese, fresh herbs.
Detroit native Nick Lessins assembles pies to order and then masterfully chars them in his beloved gas oven. Some toppings are baked onto the ethereally crisp crust; others—like the Mona cheese on the spinach pie—are added when the pizza is just out of the oven.
Click here to see more of the best pizza spots in the U.S.