27 Great Midwest Pizzerias
- Classic pepperoni pizza at Venturi.
Goshen, Indiana: Venturi
Just 72 pizzerias in the country are certified as serving authentic Neapolitan pizza, and only one in Indiana: the stylish, three-year-old restaurant of pizzaiolo Justin Venturi. Justin and his crew use imported flour and their own fior di latte (cow’s milk mozzarella, made daily) and bake the pizzas in an 800-degree brick oven for less than two minutes. The quick scorch yields a pliable crust with crisp, blistered freckles known as leopard spotting. Top-quality ingredients mean even simple pizzas like a Margherita or pepperoni taste like a slice of old Napoli. See Midwest Living's review. (574) 485-2985; eatventuri.com
- Manager Alec Henrickson stretches mozzarella at Pompeii Pizzeria.
Elk River, Minnesota: Pompeii Pizzeria
Frank Galli has just hand-stretched 40 pounds of fresh mozzarella in anticipation of the dinner rush at his small-town pizza parlor. Frank’s path to get to this moment is paved with good ingredients. He founded both a bread bakery and a mushroom supplier before attending the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese in 2009. A year later, he opened Pompeii, where pizzas come dressed in Sicilian olive oil, delicate tomato sauce and unique toppings. (Spring brings a creamy white pizza with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach.) But the star is the crust, baked to chewy perfection in a 750-degree stone oven. See Midwest Living's review. (763) 633-1222; pompeiipizzeria.net
- It's hip to be square at Buddy's Pizzeria.
Detroit: Buddy’s Pizzeria
When you pass through the well-kept rear door of the original Buddy’s Pizzeria, you leave the surrounding neighborhood blight behind and enter a maze of award-covered hallways and dining rooms with checkered tablecloths. Buddy’s began serving deep-dish in the 1940s as a novelty to increase business. It worked. Fans still pile in for hefty square pizzas blanketed with tangy sauce and gooey mozzarella. No doubt, Buddy’s is a throwback, but they’ve also moved with the times. Chicken fajita pizza, featuring moist chicken, sweet onions and roasted peppers, is irresistible. See Midwest Living's review. (313) 892-9001; buddyspizza.com
- Flippin' Sweet's top-seller is the all-American (and oh-so-yummy) chicken bacon ranch pizza.
Kearney, Nebraska: Trattoria Flippin’ Sweet
To anyone who has taken a road trip fueled by chips and gas-station coffee, Flippin’ Sweet should come as good news. In 2012, this spunky pizzeria brought its pillowy pies from nearby Holdrege to fancier digs in downtown Kearney. Located right off Interstate-80 two hours west of Lincoln, Flippin’ Sweet trips all the trendy triggers: chalkboard decor, drinks in Mason jars, payments on an iPhone—and humorously named pizzas, like the Fig Leaf, with arugula, bacon, pistachios, garlic and fig butter. (308) 991-2316; theflippinsweet.com
- Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company.
Ames, Iowa: Great Plains Sauce and Dough Company
A longtime favorite of the Iowa State University community, Great Plains is the breadbasket of the pizza world, a homey, unpretentious place where Parmesan comes powdered in shakers and getting your weekly carb dosage in an evening is just good manners. The whole wheat Denver-style crust most people order has a hearty, yeasty flavor and provides a solid (naysayers might say bricklike) base for zesty red sauce, traditional toppings and a flood of cheese. This is the stuff Freshman Fifteens are made of. See Midwest Living's review. (515) 232-4263; greatplainspizza.com
Grand Forks, North Dakota: Rhombus Guys
Here’s a tale. A coupla 18-year-olds wanted to build a smoothie stand on a snowmobile trailer. Halfway through, one said, “This thing isn’t square at all. It’s more like a rhombus.” And thus they christened their first business Smoothie Rhombus. They later ventured into pizza, and that’s how the best ’za in North Dakota was born. Really. Clearly these guys have a sense of humor, but even better, they make fantastic pizza. The menu lists 33 pies, including the meaty local-favorite T-Rex and the creamy wild mushroom with Alfredo sauce and caramelized onions. The beer list is outstanding to boot. See Midwest Living's review. (701) 787-7317; rhombuspizza.com
- Photo by Kendra L. Williams.
St. Louis: Cicero’s
Ask a local where to find the best pizza in St. Louis, and you’ll get 10 answers. That happens in a city proud of its immigrant roots and vibrant Italian neighborhood. But inevitably, Cicero’s pops up on those lists. It’s been a staple in The Loop since 1977 and, yes, it serves true St. Louis-style pizza (as well as fantastic hand-tossed pies). Try the shrimp scampi, with a rich garlic butter white wine sauce, shrimp, fresh parsley, Provel and mozzarella on a waferlike crust. See Midwest Living's review. (314) 862-0009; ciceros-stl.com
- Photo of Gino's by Kate Silver.
Chicago: Gino’s East and Pat's Pizzeria
Gino's East (pictured) Started by three guys (two of whom were cab drivers) in 1966, Gino’s has 11 locations in two states, plus a mail-order business, all built on the reputation of its Chicago-style pizza. The atmosphere isn’t special (aside from being allowed to write on the walls at the E. Superior Street flagship), but the pizza delivers: crispy-chewy, copious amounts of stretchy mozzarella, spicy pepperoni and bright red sauce. If you aren’t a deep-dish lover, Gino’s East’s just might be the pie that converts you. See Midwest Living's review. ginoseast.com
Pat's Pizzeria Tourists and locals alike devour the city’s iconic deep-dish pizza, but thin-crust havens dot Chicago like perfectly spaced pepperoni. The best is Pat’s, a 63-year-old Lincoln Park hole-in-the-wall lined with Italian art posters, deep booths and year-round Christmas lights. Topping choices include scallops, giardiniera (pickled veggies), zucchini and legendary house-made Italian sausage. Surrounded by crisp edges and underlined with a barely there crust, each square will leave you craving another piece—which is more than can be said for its hefty cousin. See Midwest Living's review. (773) 248-0168; patspizza.info
Milwaukee: Palermo’s villa-style factory
For a glimpse into your favorite frozen food, head just east of the Milwaukee Brewers ballpark. “First villa on the left,” says Palermo’s Pizza marketing director Chris Dresselhuys by way of directions.
Italian runs deep at Palermo’s, owned by a family that immigrated in the 1950s and later modeled their factory after a 16th-century Tuscan villa, complete with fountain.
“The Midwest is the epicenter of frozen pizza,” Chris says, looking at a production line that uses 1.63 million pounds of mozzarella a month and a conveyor-belt oven outfitted with slabs of Italian marble. On the tour, visitors watch towers of pepperoni fall in slices and smell the yeasty aroma of crusts rising on spiraling conveyors where they cool as they travel.
By the time guests reach the cafe at the end of the tour, they’re hungry for, of course, a free slice of hot Palermo’s pizza topped with flash-frozen veggies that pop on the palate like the pizza was, well, made right in front of you. Tour info: palermospizza.com
Fish Creek, Wisconsin: Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza and Grille
- Ian's mac and cheese pizza. Photo by Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz.
Madison, Wisconsin: Ian’s Pizza
Best known for a ridiculously decadent mac and cheese pizza, this local chain with strong community spirit serves reasonably priced New York-style pies. You know the kind: Huge, thin, foldable triangles weepy with cheesy toppings that slide right down your chin upon first bite. Though there are plenty of “regular” toppings like pepperoni and sausage, adventurous ’za fans will never grow bored with Ian’s legendarily wacky monthly and weekly specials. Fish Fry pizza for carry-out, anyone? See Midwest Living's review. (608) 257-9248; ianspizza.com
- Photo by Damaine Vonada.
Fairborn, Ohio: Giovanni’s Pizzeria e Ristorante Italiano
A fixture in downtown since 1953, Giovanni’s is a mom-and-pop restaurant that feels like a midcentury relic—in a good way. Though the Dayton-area restaurant has been under new ownership since the 1990s, the owners come from a long line of New York-Italian bakers. Strangers sit side by side at tables strung together in the middle of the dining room. The vaguely dated decor and unpretentious atmosphere perfectly complement the pizza, which is uncomplicated and utterly delicious: cornmeal-dusted crusts, plain red sauce and fadproof toppings like pepperoni, onions and, yes, canned mushrooms. If you venture off the pizza menu, try the sausage-stuffed banana peppers called Half/Hots. See Midwest Living's review. (937) 878-1611; giovannisfairborn.com
- Photo by Tricia Cornell.
7 more pizzerias: Pizza toppings to try
The Mimi (pictured) Hot, garlicky crust topped with a Caprese salad of grape tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and basil. Try it at Punch Pizza’s seven Twin Cities locations. See Midwest Living’s review. punchpizza.com
No. 24 Jalapeño creamed corn, mozzarella, blue cheese, smoked beef brisket, sweet corn and red onion. Try it at Gusto Pizza Co. in Des Moines. See Midwest Living’s review. (515) 244-8786; gustopizzaco.com
Spinoccoli Broccoli, spinach, mozzarella, cheddar and Parmesan-garlic white sauce. Try it at Mother Bear’s Pizza in Bloomington, Indiana. See Midwest Living’s review. (812) 332-4495; motherbearspizza.com
Six Ways from Sunday Chicken, garlic, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella and feta. Try it at Six Hundred Downtown in Bellefontaine, Ohio. See Midwest Living’s review. (937) 599-6600; 600downtown.com
Scarborough Fair Pepperoni, sausage, veggies—and parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Try it at Dough Trader Pizza Co. in Spearfish, South Dakota. (605) 642-2175; doughtrader.com
- Photo by Ashley Petry.
Our final 7: The rest of the menu
Split the pizza to save room for these extras.Butterscotch Budino A caramel-topped dessert that falls somewhere between crème brûlée and pudding. Try it at Harvest in Columbus, Ohio. See reviews and ratings. (614) 824-1769; harvestpizzeria.comArancini Balls of risotto stuffed with mozzarella and coated in tomato-basil sauce. Try them at Luigi’s “The Original” in Harrison Township, Michigan. See reviews and ratings. (586) 468-7711; luigisoriginal.comFarmers Market Salad Whatever is in season, whether it be shaved fennel, watermelon or beets. Try it at Black Sheep in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. See reviews and ratings. blacksheeppizza.comIce Cream Classic frozen novelties are free to dine-in customers. How cute is that? Try them at Pizza Corner in Valley City, North Dakota. (701) 845-0104; pizzacorner.netGooey Butter Cake The indulgent St. Louis classic is moist as ever and made on-site. Try it at Waldo Pizza’s two locations in metro Kansas City, Missouri. See reviews and ratings. waldopizza.netChinese Cheesesticks Crispy egg-roll wrappers stuffed with melted mozzarella and served with marinara for dipping. Try them at Fong’s Pizza in Des Moines. See reviews and ratings. (515) 323-3333; fongspizza.com
Make your own pizza
In the mood to make your own pizza? Click in the Related Links box for some of our best pizza recipes, including Pizza Margherita, BBQ Chicken Grilled Pizza, Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza and Fresh Veggie Pizza.
Reheating 101: Whether you bought or made your pizza, say good-bye to soggy microwaved leftovers. For a crispy crust, let pizza come to room temperature. Warm slices in a covered, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-low heat. (Lower the temperature if the crust crisps before toppings are hot.) To reheat more than a couple of slices, use the oven.