The South's Best Pizza
From the traditional to the experimental, pizza has become a canvas for new and old flavors across the South.
312 Pizza Company
With a slate of Chicago-style, deep-dish pizzas, 312 Pizza Company has become the South’s standard-bearer for Windy City pies. This place adheres to a litany of cooking commandments, including using only unbleached flour, Tennessee-produced dairy products, and cage-free eggs. While most of their pies host classic Chicago-style toppings like Italian beef, sausage, provolone, and spinach, 312 pays tribute to its adopted hometown, too, with a locally themed pie, the Nash-Ago. This culinary tribute is covered in hot chicken and served with pickles. Like most Chicago pizzerias, 312 also offers a few thin-crust pies.
What started as just a single outpost—Giovanni Di Palma’s Antico, located in Atlanta’s Westside—has grown into a mini empire of Neapolitan foodways across the city. Now, Antico’s radius covers multiple neighborhoods, but if you can visit only one, head to Di Palma’s original haunt. Long tables stretch down a dining room that looks and feels much more like a food-hall pop-up than a typical big-city restaurant. Both the open kitchen and the bustling community of patrons generate a sense of perpetual excitement. With pies that arrive on trays lined with paper in lieu of proper place settings, Antico takes an approach to dining that’s equal parts function and form. The pizza itself is true Neapolitan, its bulbous crust giving way to a marinara that is almost sweet, covered in hunks of fresh mozzarella and large leaves of basil.
Bread & Circus Provisions
In a city that’s known more for boudin than braciola, Bread & Circus brings an approach as authentically Italian as its pizza. The staff is known as La Famiglia, “the family.” Executive chef and owner Manny Augello (a 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist) moved from Sicily to Louisiana as a child, and he draws connections between his family’s deep-rooted Italian traditions and those of Cajun Louisiana. The cultures share a great love of big flavors and pork, which is represented on nearly every pizza, especially those featuring the house-made charcuterie. And just like so many other young restaurants, Bread & Circus has a sense of community, donating the proceeds from their Bee Sting pie (which features a healthy serving of local honey) to the Acadiana Beekeepers Association.
Jacksonville Beach, FL
In an unassuming strip of sun-bleached storefronts just two blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean, D&LP Subs occupies a bare-bones, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot that eschews pomp and circumstance and focuses instead on the perfect pizza. With only a handful of tables and a few high-top counter seats, it is more grab and go than sit down—ideal, given their proximity to the beach. Although D&LP’s menu includes plenty of pies that can be considered more experimental (the Buffalo Bleu and Spicy Caribbean, for example) the simple options shine brightest. A plain slice adorned with mushrooms, pepperoni, or sausage provides a tasty contrast to an ice-cold PBR on a sunny afternoon spent beachside.
Hot Springs, AR
While Central Arkansas might not be the first place you’d expect to stumble upon world-class pizza, the trend of coastal elitism is happily bucked at DeLuca’s Pizzeria in Hot Springs. With branding forged in the image of New York’s famed subway system, DeLuca’s has a style akin to that of the legendary Brooklyn parlors. Still, the dining room could easily be mistaken for your nonna’s kitchen. Be sure to call ahead and reserve your pie.
North Charleston, SC
When it opened in 2005, EVO Pizza, located in North Charleston, was a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, and it endures as one of America’s foremost pizzerias in sourcing local ingredients. The commitment to fresh and vibrant produce has made EVO a standout Southern pizzeria. With one foot in tradition and the other stepping into experimental territory, the menu changes every few weeks to keep up with seasonal produce. As of today, the most daring pizza they have is topped with poached chicken, Fresno chiles, and corn on a foundation of house-made Alfredo sauce, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Cut in the image of its parent company, the über-chic 21c Museum Hotel chain, Louisville’s Garage Bar is a reflection of the city’s hospitality, art, and community. It lives in what used to be an auto service station and features pies adorned with toppings ranging from the esoteric (shaved country ham, fried kale, fingerling potatoes, and even Brussels sprouts) to classic picks (Calabrian chiles, arugula, mushrooms, and banana peppers). Garage Bar is hip and homey, with plenty of comfort food that not only pushes boundaries but also bends genres, which is why locals like to bring their out-of-town guests here, to give them a fresh perspective on the city.
Garage Bar’s much-lauded seasonal Sweet Corn pie has become a locally legendary dish. It comes decked out with Broadbent’s bacon, grape tomatoes, garlic puree, fior di latte cheese, and (of course) plenty of sweet corn. The pie is starting to become synonymous with Garage Bar and perhaps an edible flagship of nouveau Louisville.
Hog & Hominy
Many cultural touchstones come to mind when we think of Memphis: Beale Street, barbecue, the blues, and B.B. King all help to define the Bluff City. But pizza? Nobody associates this area with that kind of pie, unless they’ve been to Hog & Hominy. It is easy to miss this spot, because it’s dwarfed by a skyscraper. Two James Beard Award-nominated chefs, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, blend their Italian and Southern roots in dishes like Biscuit Gnocchi. While most Hog & Hominy pizzas feature perfected versions of typical toppings (like the house-made sauce), you will also see a healthy nod to traditional Southern ingredients, especially in The Prewitt, topped with boudin, fontina, and eggs.
Italian Pizzeria III
Chapel Hill, NC
Chapel Hill’s Italian Pizzeria III feels more like a relative’s dining room than a restaurant. Featuring comfy red booths, fountain sodas in tall plastic cups, and pies delivered on tin trays, this place checks all the boxes for a classic pizza joint—so does the flavor. Tangy and robust, all the ingredients are fresh, from the sausage and pepperoni to the spinach and mushrooms. The only toppings that might further enhance a plain pie are a few shakes of Parmesan and maybe some red pepper flakes.
It can be difficult to define Grandma Pie to a person who has never had it. Not quite Sicilian, not quite Neapolitan, it occupies the space between two of America’s most common and beloved styles of pizza. Square like Sicilian yet thin and crispy like Neapolitan, a Grandma Pie is the kind most associated with the New Jersey shore but can also be found in the suburbs of Atlanta, thanks to O4W Pizza. After more than 20 years of pizza-making in his native Garden State, Anthony Spina moved to the South, spurred by a friend’s suggestion that Atlanta (and visiting Southern diners) needed a taste of Jersey pies. The O4W slogan reflects Spina’s attitude: “No fancy toppings, no gimmicks, no hip decor.”
New Orleans, LA
Much like the New Orleans Bywater neighborhood it calls home, Pizza Delicious has a young and energetic vibe. It was opened by two New York expats who turned their yearning for a decent slice into one of the South’s most celebrated pizza havens. Owners Mike Friedman and Greg Augarten taught themselves the craft of pizza-making and, soon after that, started Pizza Delicious as a Sunday-only pop-up at the window of their industrial kitchen in an alleyway. Now theyare in a counter-service spot. While the soul of this joint harkens back to an old-school pizza parlor, the long wine and beer lists (and New Orleans’ refusal to rush anything) dispel any notion that the crew at Pizza Delicious is in a hurry to get you out the door. Customers can order by the slice or the pie. You can choose from six standard pizzas or select à la carte toppings ranging from simple pepperoni or Parmigiano-Reggiano to Sriracha-covered pineapple slices.
From the famed Marfa Lights to the Prada Marfa installation along U.S. 90, this West Texas arts enclave has developed a reputation—reaching far beyond its small-town borders—for being both mysterious and funky. You might not immediately think of Italian food when you picture this area, yet Pizza Foundation has been slinging pies for a decade and a half. From no-fuss ingredients (pepperoni, sausage, fresh mozzarella, basil, and anchovies) to sparse marketing (some sporadic updates on social media) and mighty slim hours (they’re open only on weekends), Pizza Foundation can seem more like a long-term performance art piece than a restaurant. But trust us: When paired with an ice-cold Lone Star longneck, this pizza makes up for any inconvenience. And you can’t beat the local color.
At the heart of Durham’s revitalized downtown, you’ll find Pizzeria Toro, a humble restaurant with an impressive coal- and wood-burning pizza oven at its core. Large communal butcher-block tables fill the space, while massive cans of at-the ready tomato sauce line the shelved walls. The scents of fresh olive oil, tomatoes, and pizza crusts commingling in the oven lend a heavenly aroma to the sparse interior. (Those crusts, by the way, come out perfectly charred and have just enough salt.) Organized into reds and whites, the menu varies seasonally, but Toro’s most popular pies include one with sweet fennel sausage, bell peppers, provolone, and red sauce and a white pizza featuring oyster mushrooms and arugula, dotted with a soft egg.
Post Office Pies
Post Office Pies is at the center of Birmingham’s now revitalized Avondale neighborhood; it’s within walking distance of several breweries and one of the city’s favorite music venues, Saturn. But this area hasn’t always been a go-to place for nightlife. Post Office Pies co-owner John Hall grew up down the street from the spot where his restaurant now sits and has been one of the pillars of the popular neighborhood’s reformation. After making a mark in New York City by cooking in prestigious restaurants, like Gramercy Tavern and Per Se, Hall returned home to open his own place in the vacant post office that his grandparents used to visit. While Hall loves vegetables (evident in his beautifully crafted salads), one of the most ordered pizzas is The Swine, featuring mozzarella, house-made sausage, and bacon—all topped with basil.
Born from a food cart, this pizzeria began when owner and operator Enzo Algarme (who originally migrated from Naples, Italy, to Washington, D.C., to study medicine) decided to pursue his dream of making his native style of pizza here in America. His amazing pies elicited so much devotion that a brick-and-mortar restaurant followed just three years later. From day one, the lines have stretched out the door, but don’t let that dissuade you. If Pupatella has a signature besides pizza, it’s speed. That tempo can be attributed to Algarme’s oak-burning oven, which gets so hot that pies are cooked in barely a minute. The result: mozzarella melting astride a homemade sauce on top of a crust that is soft and dotted with charred spots from the oven’s 1,000-degree burn, true to the Neapolitan style.
Cloaked in magnolia and oak trees and bustling with Ole Miss students, Oxford has a knack for blending uptown sophistication with small-town warmth. That amalgamation is what Saint Leo owner Emily Blount was seeking when she moved from New York City to her husband’s homeland. In its first year, the pizzeria was recognized as a James Beard Award semifinalist. To pay homage to her California upbringing, Blount created a veggie-centric menu that features local produce and house-cured meats.
Slim & Husky’s
After the CBS Evening News ran a story about Slim & Husky’s commitment to their often struggling community, co-owners and longtime friends Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore, and Emanuel Reed received—within just a few months—the level of attention most restaurant owners take years to build. Gray, Moore, and Reed specifically chose the North Nashville area because of what it wasn’t, rather than what it was. They began by employing locals who live within walking distance of their Buchanan Street outpost to help them make pizzas that allude to their favorite music genres. With nods to early-90s R&B (Rony, Roni, Rone!), West Coast rap (Nothin’ But A “V” Thang, featuring vegan cheese), and New York City hip-hop (P.R.E.A.M.), Slim & Husky’s imbues pizza with lots of passion and personality. This creativity attracts customers from far beyond the block, making it a big hit in Music City.
TriBecca Allie Café
How is it that a town with just under 2,000 residents—almost an hour’s drive from the nearest metropolis—is home to one of the South’s most loved pizza outposts? The co-owners of TriBecca Allie Café, Becca and Dutch Van Oostendorp, relocated from New York’s Hudson Valley to Sardis, Mississippi. Since TriBecca Allie opened in 2010, its reputation has spread to Memphis, Oxford, and other nearby towns, but it remains a hidden gem for this area.
Vinnie Van Go-Go’s
Though it’s not what you would call an immediate relative of noted New York pizzerias, Savannah’s own Vinnie Van Go-Go’s is like that bar-crawling Southern cousin you’re excited to visit during spring break. Operating out of a low-slung building adjacent to one of the city’s famed leafy squares, Vinnie Van Go-Go’s has the kind of vibrant environment that caters to a late-night crowd, with floppy-crust pizzas reminiscent of the Big Apple’s. And in true New York City style, Vinnie Van Go-Go’s sells plenty of its handcrafted pies by the slice, which is rare in the current landscape of artisanal pizzerias. Remember to stop by the ATM on your way there—it’s cash only.