25 Superb Pittsburgh Pizzas
We scoured the metro area to find 25 of the best pies.
Photos by Heather Mull, Rob Larson, Laura Petrilla and Duane Rieder
Fact: Pittsburghers love pizza. And if you ask anyone to name their favorite local spot, you’re bound to get a passionate, lengthy response. So in order to choose 25 pizza spots worth mentioning, our restaurant critic, Valentina, traveled far and wide, eating innumerable piping-hot slices on-site. The findings? Categories like American, gourmet and authentic Italian no longer apply, since most places offer gourmet toppings, and authenticity is usually based on a specific time and region in Italy.
However, we discovered that there is a significant difference between pizzas cooked in regular and wood-fired ovens. (Some joints heat gas or electric ovens to 450-500 degrees and bake pies for up to 15 minutes, while others cook 'em for five minutes or less in 900-degree wood-fired ovens.) Our list includes a mix of tried-and-true fan favorites (such as Mineo’s, Aiello’s and Pasquarelli’s), and newcomers (like Spak Bros., Slice on Broadway and Cucina Bella), all worthy of recognition. Enjoy!
Slice on Broadway
Slice on Broadway's reputation brings people from all around. The shop’s slogan — “In perpetual pursuit of pizza perfection” — is backed by a commitment to making everything from scratch. Select your own toppings or choose one of 15 specialty pizzas, such as the “Green Monster” with pesto, spinach, artichoke hearts, goat cheese and roasted red peppers.
2128 Broadway Ave., Beechview
Providing a traditional American-style pizza, Napoli goes light on the tomato sauce, and has a slightly salty cheese and dough. This shop truly adds to the Murray Avenue pizza scene.
2006 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill
Using grandma’s crust recipe, chef Sam Badolato’s pizzas stay close to Italy with options ranging from the Bianco to the interesting mushroom truffle flatbread. Receiving many accolades for its wood-fired fare (including one of our 2011 Best Restaurants awards), Bado’s Cucina is a prime spot for pizza buffs to dine with their uninitiated comrades.
3825 Washington Road, McMurray
A relative newcomer, Cucina Bella is a pretty little place with a checkerboard floor and pizza at center stage (along with antipasto, salads, paninis and calzones). The pizza crust is crisp at the edges, and the toppings are classics, like Mozzarella, ricotta, sausage, Parmigiano Reggiano and extra-virgin olive oil.
Best-seller: Pizza Anna
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., Bridgeville
The Enrico Biscotti Cafe
It makes sense that, as an Italian bakery, Enrico Biscotti Café would care about its dough. Pie varieties range from the simple pepperoni to the white pizza with cranberries and blue cheese; some pizzas even feature ingredients from Enrico’s rooftop garden. For a balanced meal, consider grabbing a big salad or some beans and greens, too.
Note: This spot is only open for lunch Monday through Saturday (11 a.m.-3 p.m.).
2022 Penn Ave., Strip District
Dinette is a gourmand’s pizza palace. The crust is tender and puffy on the edges. Although famed chef/owner Sonja Finn serves classics like pepperoni, her eatery is known for its more upscale (and frequently changing) list of chef-designed topping combos — tuna, grilled zucchini, capers, fresh Mozzarella and tomato. With its rooftop garden providing a bounty of produce, Dinette is tops for freshness.
5996 Penn Circle South, East Liberty
Boasting four locations, Pizza Sola's pie is modeled after New York City street-style pizza that’s purchased by the slice and folded before consuming. Watch the pizza-makers toss dough and cook it on a hot stone; the end product is the ever-popular thin (and evenly cooked) crust.
Best-seller: Greco White Pizza
1417 E. Carson St., South Side; also: Cranberry (724/776-9466), Oakland (412/681-7652),
East Side (412/363-7652)
Pasquarelli's Pizza House
Owned by the same family for 30 years, Pasquarelli’s continually serves up quality pizza. The tomato sauce is applied before the edges are rolled, creating a crust edge “stuffed” with tomato sauce. The fellas make a memorable Sicilian; you're missing out if you haven't tried it.
824 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks
Giovanni's Pizza & Pasta
Giovanni’s may specialize in pizza and pasta — but the pizza is the star (it's hard to stop eating this pizza!). The crust is light and gently salted with a bit of crunch. The excellent toppings (such as quality sausage and pre-sautéed mushrooms!) are properly prepared, and the overall flavor mix is perfect, which aligns with the restaurant’s statement that the pizza provides “flavor joy.” Still hungry after all that? Giovanni’s now serves Italian gelato, homemade chocolates and espresso drinks in the connected space next door.
Best-seller: Spinach & Feta (which rankedthird at the 2011 North American Pizza & Ice Cream Show)
3047 W. Liberty Ave., Dormont
Mamma Lucia's Pizza
Although you can buy a slice to reheat at Mamma Lucia's, you just might want to order a freshly made pizza instead. After all, who could resist the thin, crispy crust and the topping options? Some people will tell you the deep-dish pie is the one to try. But why not try them both?
8000 McKnight Road, Suite 555 (inside Northway Mall), North Hills; also Wexford (724/799-8918)
An everyman’s pizza shop, Graziano’s is located next to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. The dough is soft and salty, and the tomato sauce and cheese are just right. Be sure to order a Sicilian pie; that's what everyone else is doing.
4109 Penn Ave., Lawrenceville
Mineo's Pizza House
Mineo’s pizza is fully loaded, featuring briny, chewy crust with a hint of cornmeal, spicy tomato sauce, abundant super-salty cheese (secret ingredient: aged provolone) and “buried” toppings. The phone never stops ringing at this Pittsburgh favorite, which opened back in 1958 and has since spawned several imitators. The pies are so popular that they can be overnighted to any U.S. city (how’s that for service?).
2128 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill; also Mt. Lebanon (412/344-9468)
Having been in business for 30-plus years, Aiello’s is an East End favorite for traditional American-Italian pizza. In neck-and-neck competition with Mineo’s (FYI: based on volume of business, they’re both winning!), Aiello’s has a loyal following for its friendly service, spicy sauce and generous toppings. Just remember to carry cash when visiting.
Best-seller: Housemade Sausage
2112 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill
Foli's Bar & Grill
Foli’s is an unassuming bar and grill that serves pizza, wings, pasta and more with a loyal following of folks who live nearby. Foli’s white pizza is a favorite because of its garlicky olive-oil sauce. Personal pizzas (with just four cuts) are available for those with smaller appetites.
Best-seller: Feta & Tomato
1050 Brinton Road, Braddock Hills
With a cult-like following, Fiori’s produces a satisfying, temperate pizza. The crust at this cash-only establishment is bready and chewy, the tomato sauce is sweet, and the cheese is abundant and mild. This place dishes out perfect pies for the hungry.
103 Capital Ave., Brookline
Casa Del Sole
Casa del Sole, an old faithful serving Fox Chapel, Aspinwall, Sharpsburg and Blawnox residents, serves pies with a bready crust, thin layer of sauce and a nice salty cheese mix. This pizza is great for everyday eating.
222 1st St., Aspinwall
Spak Bros. Pizza & More
A go-to for younger locals, Spak Bros. makes pies that taste as if they were made in your kitchen, with a thin and tender crust, and a perfect amount of toppings. The crew at Spak Bros. cares about health, too: They use unbleached and unbromated flour — and they refrain from putting refined sugar in the crust and sauce. Bonus: In addition to traditional add-ons (think peppers, various meats and more), Spak also offers interesting alternatives like soy cheese and veggie sausage.
Best-seller: Pittsburgh Steak
5107 Penn Ave., Garfield
Mario's Woodfire Pizza
If you find yourself in downtown Beaver, you better head over to Mario’s. Frequented by families with kids, it’s a bright, full-service Italian eatery with pizza as its centerpiece. Insider tip: You can get a four-cut personal Margherita pizza for just $4.25.
594 3rd St., Beaver
Il Pizzaiolo’s focus is on making authentic Neapolitan pizza using Old-World techniques and ingredients. The restaurant boasts a wood-fired oven imported from Italy and built by Italian workers. Sixteen pie varieties are available, such as the salty and wonderful Funghi ($18), featuring San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh Mozzarella, wild mushrooms, pecorino Romano, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Best-seller: Salsicce & Rapini
703 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon
Owner, Il Pizzaiolo
How did you get started in the pizza business?
As a Pittsburgh kid, I had always craved and loved pizza — but when I lived in New York City from 1989 to 1992, I tasted every kind of pizza, and really started to learn about pizza styles, ovens and techniques. At that point, I decided that my goal in life was to open a pizza place. The first serious book I read about pizza was The Pizza Book by Evelyne Slomon; it taught me a lot, and I know that it influenced people all around the country.
What has changed since you opened in 1996?
So much. We were definitely one of the early wood-fired pizza places, along with Church Brew Works. My focus has always been on making authentic Neapolitan pizza — which means using specific ingredients, the right techniques for making the dough and the right oven. In 2006, I took a step up and brought in guys from Naples, Italy, to build an even better oven. The dimensions are perfect, with a dome ceiling and a fire-brick floor. It burns oak and cooks the pizza at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit in 60 to 90 seconds; that’s how true Neapolitan pizza is made. People who hadn’t traveled to Italy really didn’t understand my pizza when I opened. My customers and I have really learned together over the years — and it’s also become much easier to get the right ingredients.
Why did you decide to open an additional location in Market Square?
I’m basically an urban person, so I’ve always wanted to have a place in town or in the Strip District. There is a space in Market Square that I’ve always liked, and when I learned that it was available, I got excited; it’s an old building with brick walls and wood floors — just the right aesthetic for us. We’ll be open later this month.
With close ties to Italy, owner Domenic Branduzzi (son of beloved Strip District bakery owners Antonio and Carla) strives for authenticity at Piccolo Forno. His pizza crust is thin with a little crunch, and toppings are simple (cheeses, tomato, artichokes, prosciutto) and generous, yielding a sophisticated, decadent pie.
Best-seller: Speck e Mascarpone
3801 Butler St., Lawrenceville
President, Pennsylvania Macaroni Co.
What makes Pittsburgh pizza special?
Well, first of all, people here are loyal to the pizza place they were raised on. Second, this is a non-chain town; people like independent pizza shops. In addition, pizza cheese is regional; this area is known for provolone instead of (or mixed with) Mozzarella. You really only see this in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Who was the first pizza-maker to use provolone?
Oh, that was before my time — it dates back to the 1950s.
What’s new with pizza ingredients?
At Penn Mac, we work really hard to source interesting ingredients. We offer 500 kinds of cheese alone; in the old days, there was one kind of asiago — and now there are 10. We currently offer prosciutto from Spain, Italy and Germany. And even though provolone is distinctive to Pittsburgh pizza, there are now many types of provolone that a pizza shop might use.
Are you seeing changes in what Pittsburghers prefer?
We have a lot of people coming here from other places for jobs, so as a result, the Pittsburgh palate is becoming more appreciative of a wider variety of better-quality ingredients. Our restaurant scene has really come alive.
These five spots toss pies that are slightly different — but just as delicious.
Beto's Pizza & Restaurant
Beto’s pizza is rather original: The homemade crust is topped with simple tomato sauce before it’s baked. When placing your order, the cheese and toppings of choice are added to your square slices … but they’re not baked again. This makes the cheese melty from the heat of the crust, producing an interesting contrast between the warm crust and the cooler toppings. People either love it or hate it — but Beto’s has been in business forever, with many loyal patrons, so you know they must be doing something right!
1473 Banksville Road, Dormont
Jioio’s serves a square pizza that became legendary, thanks to its unusual sweet, flaky crust. The tomato sauce is also on the sweet side — and it’s so popular that it’s sold by the jar. Try the deluxe meat pizza ($18.95), which features sausage, bacon, ham, pepperoni and homemade meatballs; the saltiness of the cheese and meats creates an interesting contrast to the sweetness of the other components.
Best-seller: Original Thin Crust
939 Carbon Road, Greensburg
Located near Pittsburgh Perry High School, Mandy’s has been a local favorite since 1979. And no wonder: The pizza’s not the least bit bland; it has a tasty homemade crust with flavorful tomato sauce and a salty cheese mix. For the truly hungry, there's the 32-inch “Monster Pizza,” a gargantuan 50-cut pie, for $39.99. Another interesting Mandy’s tidbit: Since one of the owner's children has food allergies, true gluten-free pies (which were given Dr. Oz's stamp of approval) are served at the other Mandy’s site, in West View; the gluten-free crusts are even sold at area businesses like Whole Foods Market and Soergel Orchards.
Best-seller: Buffalo Chicken
3906 Perrysville Ave., North Side; also West View (412/931-1120)
Sure, you could get a traditional pizza at Little E’s — but you could also get one that’s gluten- free, organic, vegan or whole wheat. On top of that, you can wash your healthy slices down with organic or gluten-free beer. Little E’s is committed to acquiring as many ingredients as possible from local farm sources — and it shows. What’s nice about this place is that even the standard pie’s delicious, so a group of friends with different taste preferences could head there, order something appealing and be equally content.
807 Highland Ave., Greensburg
Pizza House (aka Police Station Pizza)
You’re likely to find yourself waiting in line for a square slice of Police Station's unique yet pleasing pizza, which you'll eventually pay for with cash. This pizza is typically sold by the slice, with toppings added onto the half-inch-thick pre-baked crust (reminiscent of focaccia) and then, like Beto’s, not cooked again. Order the sausage — it’s crumbly and spicy.
1007 Merchant St., Ambridge