Best pizza in unexpected places

Top chefs and legendary bakers are among the new breed of pizzaiolo who are just as fanatical about the temperature of their ovens as they are about the provenance of their ingredients.

Some of the country's best pies can be found in cities other than New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Here, F&W names the best places for pizza in cities you might not expect, including a old auto-repair garage and a restaurant in Phoenix that uses organic flour and has a line out the door.

Louisville, Ky.: Garage Bar (Photo: Garage Bar)

Chef Michael Paley, owner of local favorite Proof on Main, serves Italian-meets-Southern pizzas—like Margherita topped with country ham—inside a renovated auto-repair garage.

Ann Arbor, Mich.: Mani Osteria (Photo: Courtesy of Mani Osteria)

Adam Baru worked under restaurateur Danny Meyer before returning to his hometown to open his first restaurant. Wood-fired ovens turn out pies like the Farmers’ Market, loaded with local vegetables.

Yountville, Calif.: Redd Wood (Photo: Nick Vasilopoulos)

Richard Reddington, who runs the elegant Redd down the street, goes casual at this industrial-chic Napa trattoria. The focus is on salumi, antipasti, well-priced wines and rustic pizzas with crispy, ultra-thin crusts. “It’s a place for an impromptu meal or a reprieve from wine tasting,” says Reddington.

Providence, R.I.: Al Forno (Photo: courtesy of Al Forno Restaurant)

In 1980, Johanne Killeen and George Germon launched a new era of ambitious cooking in Providence with their thin-crusted grilled pizzas topped with superfresh ingredients. Their signature margarita pizza is topped with house-made pomodoro, fresh herbs, two cheeses and extra virgin olive oil.

Larkspur, Calif.: Pizzeria Picco (Photo: Adam Kuban)

Pizzeria Picco’s wood-fired Neopolitan pies, like the margherita with house-pulled mozzarella, are rumored to be super star chef Mario Batali’s favorite. Another draw: the quirky olive-oil-and-sea-salt-topped soft serve ice cream.

St. Louis: Pastaria (Photo: Kate B.)

St. Louis-style pizza is usually characterized by the use of Velveeta-like Provel cheese on crispy, thin-crusted square slices. At this brand-new spot, Gerard Craft, an F&W Best New Chef 2008, serves Neapolitan-style pies and makes toppings such as pepperoni in-house. Craft spent time in Italy before opening the restaurant and incorporates seasonal ingredients, as in one fall pizza topped with caramelized brussels sprouts, mozzarella, creamy béchamel and lardo (a.k.a. pork fat).

Phoenix, Ariz.: Pizzeria Bianco (Photo: Robyn Lee)

The pizzas here are arguably America’s best, with beautiful, wood-fired crusts made with organic flour, fresh mozzarella and house-smoked mozzarella. Star pizzaiolo Chris Bianco’s favorite pie is his marinara pizza and there’s almost always a line out the door.

St. Paul: Punch Pizza (Photo: courtesy of Punch Pizza)

Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods and an F&W contributing editor, names this “insanely good Neapolitan pizzeria” one of his top five best pizza spots in the country. His favorite salame e funghi pie is topped with salami from a secret source, earthy mushrooms, fresh garlic, Fontina cheese and dried oregano. “Eating it uncut is the way to go,” Zimmern says.

Detroit: Supino Pizzeria (Photo: Detroit Eastern Market)

Located in the beautifully restored public Eastern Market, this cozy checkerboard-floored pizza shop serves terrific pies at long wooden tables with metal stools. The signature Supino pie is topped with roasted garlic, black olives, creamy ricotta, mozzarella and finished with a drizzle of chile oil.

Port Chester, N.Y.: Tarry Lodge (Photo: courtesy of Tarry Lodge)

Superstar chef Mario Batali usually opens his famous restaurants in major cities, but this terrific enoteca-pizzeria is located in a quiet suburb about 50 minutes outside New York City. Unexpected toppings include meatballs with jalapeños and Fontina cheese, and burrata with pancetta and chile oil, as well as luxe combinations like the guanciale pie with black truffles and an oozing egg.

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