There’s so much great pizza in New England that narrowing a list down to the best pizza in every state means overlooking a lot of excellent pies. But the following spots are so truly exceptional that any real pizza lover must pay them a visit posthaste.
First, a quick history: New Englanders have been enjoying great pizza ever since the first large waves of Italian immigrants began selling hot pies on the streets of cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston at the turn of the last century. Gennaro Lombardi is credited with running the first American pizzeria, beginning at his New York grocery store in 1897 and later at the pizzeria Lombardi’s in 1905. However, an October 4, 1903, article in the Boston Journal offers the following gem:
Scattered through North and Prince streets and other portions of the Italian colony where Neapolitans congregate are occasional little shops with the words “Pizze Cavuie” on the windows. The words mean simply “hot cakes” in the Neapolitan dialect, but only a traveler would know that the pizze are one of the famous products of Naples, eaten by rich and poor, high and low, and dutifully partaken of by every tourist as one of the features that must be “done” in order to say that one has seen Naples…
So maybe pizza hit New England’s shores before New York’s. Maybe it was simultaneous. When it comes to food history, important moments tended to happen without official scribes present.
Now … on to our picks!
You can’t write about pizza in Connecticut without starting in New Haven, and of all the excellent spots serving apizza — the traditional local moniker for Neapolitan-style pies, pronounced “a-BEETS” — we’re partial to Sally’s for its thin, charred-at-the edges crust; its generous toppings (if you’re feeling ambitious, try the bacon and onion); and its zippy red sauce. It’s worth noting that Sally’s has recently been sold, after having been owned by the Consiglio family for more than 80 years, but all indications are that the new crew will stay the course.
Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizza may be enjoying an extended moment in the spotlight, but Slab’s thick Sicilian pies are a reminder that the world of pizza contains delicious multitudes. The oil-enriched crust is bubbly and tender, topped with rivulets of tangy-sweet sauce and melted mozzarella and provolone. Sure, you can add other toppings, but try the original first. It’s perfection.
It takes 30 hours of fermentation and a 13-year-old sourdough starter for the pizza crust at Area Four to develop its signature tang and a shatteringly crisp exterior that belies the tender, chewy interior. This crust is so good we’d eat it plain. But then we’d be missing out on one of the best clam and bacon pies in New England, not to mention the earthy mushroom-fontina-gremolata blend. You can find Area Four in Kendall Square and Technology Square in Cambridge.
It’s not just the Alley Cat’s extra-crisp crust — which holds up even under a blanket of toppings like cheese and pepperoni or barbecue chicken and red onion — that earns our praise. Nor is it the charming hole-in-the-wall vibe of this downtown Manchester joint. The prices are refreshingly restrained prices, too.
Think back to pizza as we knew it before Al Forno. When George Germon and Johanne Killeen opened their restaurant in Providence in 1980, they introduced grilled pizza to New Englanders, launched the careers of future luminaries like Ken Oringer and Suzanne Goin, and drew our attention away from the pillow-crusted pies that had long defined the genre. It was a watershed moment, a game-changer, and it’s well worth remembering that these rustic delights are still on the menu, still made with the best seasonal ingredients, and still fantastic.
Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s not a chain-chain. And the crowds lining up on St. Paul Street in Burlington (and at sister locations in Middlebury, Stowe, Waitsfield, and West Dover) are a testament to the quality of these handmade pies baked in hand-built wood-fired oven and topped with local cheeses, house-made sausage, and organic red sauce. There’s beauty in watching them get made, and even more beauty in the eating.
Where are your favorite spots for the best pizza in every New England state? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.