The good folks at The Daily Meal compiled a group of experts and spent the last year traveling the country to find and rank the best pizzas in America.
Here are the 7 Boston & Providence places to make the list!
#74 Ernesto’s, Boston, Mass (Ernesto: White pizza, fresh chicken, broccoli, mushrooms)
Boston really is an underrated pizza city. Whenever people talk pizza (the ones you trust, that is), things break down between New York, Brooklyn, New Haven,Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Never Boston. As though Boston hasn’t had any significant Italian-American population to speak of over the past century. One of Boston’s gems that hasn’t gotten nearly the acclaim it deserves is North End staple Ernesto’s Old World Pizza on Salem Street.
While perhaps not D.C.-jumbo-slice big, the thin slices at Ernesto’s are huge — each a quarter of an 18-inch-pizza-huge. And this spot, which has been around for more than 30 years, isn’t some one-slice pizza pony.
Press them, and you might find locals have a hard time deciding between the namesake Ernesto and the chicken ranch pie that, let’s face it (ranch dressing, chicken, mozzarella, bacon, onion, and tomatoes), you know you want to order. How to decide?
Calmati! Try the classic. Try the ranch. And if you’re there on Friday or Saturday, try the Caribbean shrimp and shrimp scampi pies. Because there’s always room in your freezer for leftovers of the nation’s best pies.
#55 Coppa, Boston, Mass. (Salsiccia: Tomato, spicy pork sausage, ricotta, roasted red onion, and fennel pollen)
Even if you’re just a casual food TV watcher, you may be familiar with Coppa’s James Beard Award-nominated chef Jamie Bissonnette. The stocky, affable, tattooed chef was a Chopped champion in 2011, the same year he became the winner of the Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef award.
Coppa, his South End enoteca in Boston with Beantown’s über-chef Ken Oringer, is one of the city’s pizza darlings, having been named Boston’s best upscale pizza in 2010 by Boston Magazine, which noted that it has some of the most magnificent pizza crust around: “crunchy, chewy, smoky, and soft all at once.”
There are six pies, all tough choices. Coppa cites the Salsiccia, with tomato, spicy pork sausage, ricotta, roasted red onion, and fennel pollen, as its most popular, but just as exciting are the ‘nduja (with tomato, spicy Calabrian pork sausage, burrata, and oregano) and the bone marrow (white pie with smoked bone marrow, beef tongue, and horseradish).
#52 Regina Pizzeria, Boston, Mass. (Melanzane: Homemade ricotta, marinara, oregano, eggplant, red onions, basil, Pecorino Romano, and mozzarella)
Opening in Boston’s North End in 1926, just a year after the famed Frank Pepe in New Haven, Connecticut, Regina Pizzeria has some serious cred. But where Frank Pepe’s expansion over recent years denotes a business on rise, you have to wonder at Regina’s business plan. Consider: it once sported some 20 locations, but filed for bankruptcy earlier this year with the intention of getting out of bad leases (there are currently 16).
The pizza? Made using dough from an 80-year-old family recipe, sauce, whole-milk mozz, and natural toppings with no preservatives or additives, and all cooked in a brick oven. There are nearly 20 different pies, some made traditionally, while others — like the St. Anthony’s, a white pie with Regina sausage, sausage links, roasted peppers, and garlic sauce — are unique.
But the pie singled out by Regina as their most popular is the Melanzane, which features homemade ricotta, a light yet spicy marinara (seasoned with a hint of aged Romano), red onions, basil, pecorino Romano, eggplant, oregano, and their aged whole-milk mozzarella, which Regina’s claims gives their cheese factor distinctive flair.
#48 Galleria Umberto, Boston, Mass. (Sicilian)
Galleria Umberto in Boston’s North End is generally lost among Boston’s better-known pie shops, like Santarpio’s (No. 36) and Regina (No. 52). That’s curious, because, as put forth a few years ago by oneGadling.com travel blogger, it may very well be one of America’s best cheap slice places. But the fact that it’s somewhat under the radar is probably preferable to the locals, because as it is, there’s already a line outside for these thick, over-the-edge-of-the-pan cheesy, saucy, completely over-the-top Sicilian slices anyway. That’s right, that’s the only pizza option, the Sicilian (and it’s cash only!). And while they open at 11 a.m., they close at 2:30 p.m. (or whenever the dough is gone), so don’t delay.
#47 Providence Coal Fired Pizza, Providence, R.I. (Rocket: Margherita pizza topped with arugula and pecorino)
Opened in 2012, Providence Coal Fired Pizza is a relative newcomer to the national scene, but its 900-degree cooked, Pennsylvania-coal-fired pies pretty immediately captured the attention of pizza lovers living in the Creative Capital. The original location (a second opened in North Kingstown), within walking distance of the Providence Performing Arts Center and the city’s convention center, is in the historic, 130-year-old Conrad building, whose eclectic architectural mix of Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance styles may be as close to Gaudí as you can get in Providence. And its co-owner and co-founder, Richard Allaire, who worked at Radius in Boston (now closed) and counts on his résumé cooking experiences with Gary Danko, Mario Batali, and Susur Lee, is a Rhode Island native.
The pizzaiolos make a dough with more water than flour so it can stand up to the intense coal heat, and shoot for about a 20- to 30-percent char on the outside of their pies (you can watch them being made if you want — just go up to the “pizza bar”). Among their 11 standards, the rocket is the restaurant-described signature pizza — a Margherita topped (right from the oven) with fresh arugula and pecorino.
If a salad-topped pizza doesn’t get the tomato sauce in your veins pumping, try the much-lauded pepperoni, or the pizza named for the building, The Conrad (roasted onion, sausage, roasted peppers, mozzarella, pecorino,onion, sausage, roasted peppers, mozzarella, pecorino, and rosemary). There’s also an interesting clam pie that pairs fingerlings with local clams and adds roasted red onions, rosemary, pancetta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For something else you don’t see very often on a pie, get The Steak (shaved steak, roasted onions, creminis, hot peppers, provolone, and Great Hill blue cheese). Don’t forget that they cook other things in the oven besides pizza, most notably the crunchy coal-fired wings.
#36 Santarpio’s, Boston, Mass (Mozzarella, Sausage, Garlic)
The local favorite (Usher’s too, apparently) has already seen its fair share of fame after winning various best-of-Boston pizza lists over the years. Santarpio’s, which opened in 1903, sticks to their traditional roots when it comes to the infamous slightly chewy and satisfyingly wet slices. Their menu consists of a variety of options, but includes a list of customers’ favorite combos, like a pie that pairs sausage with garlic, ground beef, and onions, and even “The Works”: mushrooms, onions, peppers, garlic, sausage, pepperoni, extra cheese, and anchovies. First-timer? Order Santarpio’s most popular pie — mozzarella, sausage, and garlic — to establish a baseline.
#32 Al Forno, Providence, R.I. (Margarita)
On South Main Street in the heart of Providence, Rhode Island, Al Forno offers quintessential Italian dining for those who can’t afford the flight. Husband-and-wife owner–chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen received the Insegna del Ristorante Italiano from the Italian government, a rare honor for Americans, attributable to their informed passion for pasta along with their invention of the grilled pizza.
It’s a style that celebrity chefs have been noting on TV for a while now, and that’s spawning its own offshoots. The restaurant bakes pies in wood-burning ovens and on grills over hardwood charcoal fire. Their most notable grilled pizza? The Margarita (sic). It’s served with fresh herbs, pomodoro, two cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil.