California-bred Tony Gemignani, 40, knows more about pizza than you know about anything else: the chef became the first American to win Italy’s Campionato Mondiale della Pizza in 2007; has emerged as a dough-spinning mainstay on morning shows and the Food Network; and started an international pizzaioli school while running eight acclaimed pie joints.
His new cookbook, The Pizza Bible (Ten Speed Press), explores the myriad styles and techniques used around the world, but Gemignani has a special affinity for the less-heralded takes on sauce, crust, and cheese found right here at home. He takes T+L on a cross-country tour to unexpected places, proving that the U.S. pizza map runs farther afield than New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
“Seattle’s food values are apparent in their ingredient-driven style, from sustainably harvested wheat flour to hybrids with organic ingredients.”
Where to try it: “Delancey’s white pie and fennel sausage pizza are two of my favorites—go early because this place gets packed. The Independent uses locally sourced wheat flower in the Twin Peaks (fontina, crimini mushrooms, sage) and State Fair (mozzarella, pecorino, Italian sausage, green pepper), and offers great cured meats from Berkley, California-based Fra’Mani Handcrafted Foods.”
“Minnesota has very experimental pizza makers with an adventurous style—they’re unafraid of using any ingredient.”
Where to try it: “There are some really amazing pizzas coming out of the kitchen at Burch Pizza Bar—the Polpo (marinated octopus, arbequina olives, Fresno peppers) reminds me of something I had in Southern Italy. At Pizzeria Lola, Ann Kim makes creative pizzas in a wood-fired Le Panyol oven from Maine, especially the Lady ZaZa with house-made kimchi, Korean sausage, Serrano peppers, and sesame-soy chili glaze.”
“Oklahoma is newer to the pizza scene, but the style here is similar to Seattle—chef-oriented, local ingredients—but it’s executed in a more traditional way.”
Where to try it: “The guys at Andolini’s pull their mozzarella and make sausage in-house, and the owner Mike Bausch competes in the Campionato Mondiale della Pizza. I certified Empire Slice House chef Avery Cannon, who’s getting his name on some top lists thanks to pizzas like the Fat Tony, topped with Italian sausage, red onion, and ricotta.”
“Austin’s scene is made up of transplants and places that adopt other styles through research trips.”
Where to try it: “Home Slice is one of the best neighborhood pizzerias I’ve seen; I trained their chefs in Sicilian and their employees fly to Manhattan to learn New York style. Via 313 was born from brothers Zane and Brandon Hunt’s youthful memories of Detroit-style pies. My favorite, served at their customized trailer in East Austin: The Detroiter, cheese and double smoked pepperoni (natural casing).
“I get more inquiries for my pizza school from San Diego than any other area in the U.S.; the big trend in that city right now is neo-Neapolitan.”
Where to try it: “Bruno’s Pizza Napoletana in University Heights has a stunner of an oven—hand-crafted in Naples with a volcanic cooking surface—that they use to bake Neapolitan pies (My favorite is the margherita). My wife loves the prosciutto arugula at Isola Pizza, another place that does a delicious Neapolitan.”
New Haven, Connecticut
“New Haven’s signature is coal-fired pizza with dry mozzarella cheese, especially clam pizzas popularized by Pepe’s in the 1960’s.”
Where to try it: “Pepe's really is a true classic and legendary pizzeria, one of my favorites in the nation; I get the clam and garlic or, in summer, the tomato-and-basil Summer Pie. The Clams Casino (Cherrystone clams, peppers, bacon) at Abate’s is amazing, but the spinach and ricotta blows me away every time.”
“Detroit is known for butter-toasted square slices topped with Wisconsin brick cheese and, sometimes, white cheddar, cooked in blue steel pans, and finished with two racing stripes of sauce (a style experiencing a renaissance in the pizza world right now).”
Where to try it: “Buddy’s is the original and still one of my favorites; At Detroit Style Pizza Co., Shawn Randazo makes an amazing hometown style that won the 2012 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.”
“St. Louis cuts their pizzas into cracker thin squares with a fairly sweet tomato-and-oregano sauce, then tops it with Provel cheese (a creamy combination of provolone, Swiss, and cheddar, virtually unknown outside of St. Louis).”
Where to try it: “It’s just cheese for me at Imo’s, an old-school spot that makes their pizzas the traditional way; order the original thin—extra Provel! Pi Pizza showcases a great St. Louis style and also some good deep dish, like the cornmeal-crusted South Side Classico with Berkshire pork sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions.”
Nate Storey is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.