Photo: ESstock/Shutterstock

Every American Pizza Style, Ranked

United States Insider Guides Food + Drink
by Matthew Meltzer Nov 1, 2018

Pizza symbolizes everything great about America. It came to us from another country, but over generations, we’ve changed it, adapted it, put our own twists on it, and made something that, to most of us, is even better than the original. Sure, you can still get fantastic, authentic Italian pizza, but will it have pepperoni curled into grease pools? Or avocado on top? Or square slices rimmed with deliciously-burnt cheese? Likely not.

Americans across the country have made regional tweaks to pizza, creating styles you can often only get by traveling the nation. From the Provel crackers in St. Louis to the coal-fired pies of New Haven, here are America’s 10 most distinctive pizza styles, ranked in order of deliciousness.

10. Miami

Pepperoni pizza from Reys Pizza in Miami

Photo: Reys Pizza/Facebook


No, nobody figured out how to top a pizza with voter fraud and cocaine. This only-in-Miami style is also known as Cuban pizza. It’s served on thick, doughy crust and topped with an excessive amount of mozzarella and gouda cheese with the toppings baked into the pie.

Why it’s ranked here:

The only — and I mean only — time this stuff is even remotely palatable is at 5:00 AM when you’re absolutely not driving home from a club that had an all-night open bar. Otherwise, it’s a heavy, greasy mess that’s topped in the gut-bombing category only by Chicago deep dish. Though, eating one late night is definitely a cultural experience.

Where to get it:

Rey’s Pizza, which has various locations in Miami and some open 24 hours.

9. New England

Greek pizza from Dimitrios Cuisine in Cambridge, MA

Photo: Dimitrios Cuisine/Facebook


Often referred to as Greek-style pizza, this New England favorite was said to have originated from Greek immigrants who settled in the area. It has a thick, oily crust and is baked in an oil-covered pan rather than on top of the pizza oven. It’s a hybrid of New York style and deep dish. Toppings often include Greek staples like feta, capers, and kalamata olives. But you can find thick, traditional cheese slices pretty much anywhere.

Why it’s ranked here:

Even though it’s not quite as overwhelming in the grease department as Miami style, it still leaves a noticeable layer of oil on your hands any time you try and pick up a slice. It’s filling, but even cheese slices leave you with a serious bundle of regret in your stomach — all for a pizza that tastes more like oil than sauce.

Where to get it:

Literally anywhere called “____ House of Pizza” in New England. The best are Village Pizza in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and Dimitrio’s in Cambridge.

8. California

Thin-crust pizza from California Pizza Kitchen

Photo: California Pizza Kitchen/Facebook


This style originated in the Bay Area and gained popularity at famed LA eatery Spago, then it caught on as your favorite airport pizza chain. It has a characteristically thin, soft, almost sweet crust that’s like a slightly thicker version of the classic Neapolitan pizza. Pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven and then topped with a bunch of healthy stuff like avocados, arugula, and chanterelle mushrooms that really have no business being on a pizza. This is what happens when you have to market pizza to a state full of people who’d actually do a maple syrup cleanse.

Why it’s ranked here:

We can get behind the creativity of putting organic pesto sauce and kale on a pizza, but when it comes down to it, no part of the pizza eating experience needs to be healthy. This seems like the pizza equivalent of that time Vegas tried to pass itself off as a family destination.

Where to get it:

Spago and Wolfgang Puck in Los Angeles. Pizzetta 211 and Pauline’s in San Francisco. Any airport terminal with a CPK.

7. St. Louis

Pizza pie from Imo's Pizza in St. Louis

Photo: Imo’s Pizza/Facebook


Cracker-thin crust topped with a blatantly sweet marinara sauce and Provel cheese, cut into squares. What is Provel cheese, you ask? Technically it’s a combination of provolone, cheddar, and swiss. But it’s really more of a primordial dairy ooze that somehow climbed ashore from the Mississippi River.

Why it’s ranked here:

St. Louis-style pizza might be the most divisive style in the country. Proud St. Louisans can eat it five times a week, but I’ve seen visitors spit it out in a garbled tirade of “Who the f*** eats this?” mumbled into their paper napkin. But if you grew up with parents whose idea of “quality time” was plopping you in front of the television with a Totino’s and Mama Celeste’s, St. Louis style tastes like home.

Where to get it:

Imo’s is the quintessential spot on any trip to The Lou. Shockingly, it hasn’t really caught on anywhere else.

6. Buffalo

Imperial pizza from Forgotten Buffalo in western NY

Photo: Forgotten Buffalo/Facebook


The difference between the Buffalo and Detroit styles is far less than the distance across Lake Erie. Though Buffalo style is lighter in the burnt-cheese department, the big difference is the pepperoni, which is almost exclusively the small, edge-curling variety that traps little grease pools inside. This makes each bite a potential explosion of orange that will forever stain your treasured Jim Kelley away jersey.

Why it’s ranked here:

On a bone-chilling Buffalo night — of which there are many — nothing warms your soul faster than seeing a long rectangular box handed over the counter. It’s the kind of pie that leaves Buffalonians with an extra layer of winter fat but still isn’t as oily as Detroit style. If you don’t love grease-pool pepperoni, it’s probably not for you.

Where to get it:

Imperial Pizza, which has several locations around western New York.

5. Detroit

square, thin-crust pizza from Buddy's Pizza in Detroit

Photo: Buddy’s Pizza/Facebook


Detroiters really do love burning stuff. That’s why the defining characteristic of this square, thick, Sicilian-crusted pizza isn’t the shape. Nor is it the generous coat of oil on the pan that leaves a savory layer of grease on the outside. It’s the fact that they cook the pies just long enough to leave burnt oil and charred cheese on top, adding a delicious crispy texture to the otherwise chewy, doughy pizza.

Why it’s ranked here:

Detroit style pizza might not be known nationally, but its distinct characteristics make it far more flavorful and complex than other pan-cooked varieties. You’ve still got to love pan pizza to enjoy it, but for fans of the thick crust, it doesn’t get any better.

Where to get it:

Buddy’s is the go-to in Detroit. Outside the city, seek out Jet’s Pizza. Or, if you happen to be in Telluride, Colorado, head into Brown Dog for the best Detroit-style pie west of Lake Michigan.

4. Chicago deep dish

Deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati's in Chicago

Photo: Lou Malnati’s/Facebook


Hoards of Chicagoans arguing over who makes the best one. Also, a flaky, pie-like crust often made from cornmeal, then stuffed with enough cheese to clog arteries in your ankle. Topped with a hearty layer of chunky tomato sauce that’s roughly the consistency of your blood after eating this thing. Some argue it’s more of a pie than a pizza. Of course, some argue we faked the moon landing, so we’ll leave semantic discussions for another time.

Why it’s ranked here:

If you’re in the mood for an entire dairy farm’s worth of cheese on a pie crust, then nothing tops a Chicago deep-dish pizza. If you want anything that loosely resembles a pizza, it can be pretty disgusting. It’s all about expectations. Note: Chicago also has a thin-crust variety, but it’s really the White Sox of pizza, so we left it off the list.

Where to get it:

Lou Malnati’s or Gino’s are the go-to Chicago pizza places. We’re not taking sides, no way. Giordano’s, which, like every chain restaurant in the world, also has three locations in Orlando.

3. New York

Slice of New York-style pizza on a paper plate

Photo: eyangphoto/Shutterstock


Thin crust, spicy tomato sauce, and a reasonable layer of mozzarella cheese. Plus literally millions of people who will tell you it’s the best pizza in the world even though they’ve never been north of 125th street.

Why it’s ranked here:

The best New York-style pizza is a tough slice to beat. The problem? The style is so ubiquitous that horrible pizzerias nationwide drive down the average by leaving pies in the window for three days then reheating the rancid, congealed mess as two-for-$5 lunch specials.

Where to get it:

Literally anywhere in America that touts itself as a New York pizzeria, including hundreds of places in New York City. We won’t even dare try recommending the best, but Mariella Pizza is an Oprah favorite. The best NY-style slice I ever had was at the Downtown House of Pizza in Ft. Myers, Florida. And NYPD Pizza at the Phoenix airport might be the best airport food for its value in America.

2. New Haven

Clam pizza from the original Frank Pepe's Pizza New Haven

Photo: Pepe’s Pizza/Facebook


New Haven style pizza is often referred to as “apizza.” Not because people in Connecticut like adding extra letters to things — three “C”s? Really? — but because Neapolitan immigrants to the area pronounced their pizzas “ah-beets!” It’s a thin-crust pizza, like in New York, that’s cooked in a wood-fired oven to a crispy char. In Connecticut, they’ll sometimes top it with clams, which is bizarre. Then again, this is a state that’s home to Yale, the Maury Show, and the WWE.

Why it’s ranked here:

More naive diners have actually sent New Haven-style pizzas back because they claim they’re “overcooked.” Which is kind of like sending back gazpacho because it’s cold. If you like a crispy pizza, though, nothing beats New Haven style, a thinner, less-greasy take on Detroit. It’s not for everyone, but for fans of char, nothing is better.

Where to get it:

Frank Pepe’s was the New Haven original back in 1925, but you can’t go wrong at Sally’s, Modern Apizza, or BAR. If you’re not in New Haven, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza has locations in eight states, and though not technically New Haven style, it’s as close as you’re getting.

1. Brooklyn

Thin-crust pizza from the Speedy Romeo pizzeria in Brooklyn

Photo: Speedy Romeo/Facebook


“Wait,” you say. “Isn’t Brooklyn technically part of New York City? How does it get its own style?”

Well, how does New York get three hockey teams? We don’t know. But what we do know is this super thin, crispy-crust pizza with toppings spread to the edge of the pie and cooked in a wood-burning oven is the best American iteration on the Italian classic.

Why it’s ranked here:

In addition to being downright delicious, it takes the best aspects of every American pizza and combines them into one borough-specific masterpiece. The bubbly crust of California. The wood-firing of New Haven. The char of Detroit. The rich sauce and thin cheese of New York. You get it.

Where to get it:

Domino’s! Just kidding, but remember when they did that? That was weird. Lucali is probably the best spot, though you’ll have to get over the thought of dropping more than $30 for a pizza. Speedy Romeo and Totonno’s are also quality, less-expensive options. Apizza Brookyln in the Miami suburb of Kendall is also an outstanding option.

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