The Visitors' Guide To Italy's Best Pizzerias

While you can find some of the world's best pizza in New York (and even Phoenix!), no country does it better than the birthplace of pizza: Italy. This is where it all started. With just a bit of flour, water, yeast, some basil-y tomato sauce, and yummy mozzarella, you've got a piece of heaven in the shape of a circle. While you can go almost anywhere in Italy and find a decent slice, not all pizzerias, or pizzas, are made equal. Palates are subjective — to each their own — but some pizzerias are just unquestionably great. So what's the trick to finding them?

Well, for one, reading this article! The next best way is to keep an eye out for a pizza oven. A wood-fired pizza just scratches an itch, unlike anything else. You'll also want to avoid places that have menus with pictures or that list 30 different pizzas. A great pizza place will have a few options, say 10 at max, with the ingredients listed and indications if they're Denominazione d' Origine Protetta (DOP) certified. This certification means they're of high quality and locally produced.

As with everything in life, there are always exceptions to this. If an Italian tells you to go somewhere, just go and don't ask too many questions. It's probably pretty dang good. But if you want to dive into your trip to Italy with a pizza itinerary, look no further. We've got you.

The eternal city delivers on pizza promises

Every major city in Italy will claim they have the best pizza. Italians outside of Rome will say the pizza there is terrible, but the truth is ... Romans can make a mean slice of pizza, too. Punto e basta! 

First, we're violating one of our tips for finding great pizza, but this one is worth it. Pinsa e Buoi has four locations in Rome, each serving an incredible selection of antipasti, pasta, mains, and, of course, pizza. Or rather, pinsa, a Roman version that differs from pizza Napolitano in its oval shape, ingredients, and cooking methods but is equal in taste to its southern brother.

Next, we have Ce Stamo a Pensà, which translates to "We're thinking about it." Something you might say when trying to decide what the heck you're going to eat here since there are so many amazing options to choose from. This little eatery can be found in Monti, a central neighborhood of Rome located just next to the Colosseum. Much like the surrounding narrow streets and alleys, this place resembles more of a hallway than a restaurant. But if you need something a little lighter, this is just the place since its pizzas are a bit smaller, too. They also make montanarine — small, savory, doughy bites of deliciousness that can be topped with a variety of ingredients.

There's a reason Naples is the king of Neapolitan pizza

The pizza Napoletana is the metric by which all other gourmet pizzas are judged worldwide. And where do you find the best of the best? It's in the name — Naples or Napoli as Italians call it. Follow the locals and do as they do — use a fork and knife! Though you'll have to resist devouring these pizzas by hand.

50 Kaló has received a ton of accolades over the years. While you might expect the rise in popularity to lead to a decline in quality, it remains a top choice for locals and tourists. 50 Kaló is one of six Napoli pizzerias listed in the Michelin guide. Its menu features a blend of traditional and nouveau pizza options developed by third-generation pizza mastermind Ciro Salvo. Be sure also to order some fritti to rev up your palate before the pizza main event.

Next, we have Starita and Sorbillo, two pizza places we could not leave off this list. If you have any questions pertaining to their popularity, Pizzeria Starita a Materdei has over 10k reviews on Tripadvisor and another 10k on Google. Gino Sorbillo somehow doubles both of those numbers. These are happening places, to say the least. Why? It's so simple — they're unpretentious, delicious, and take pride in their food traditions. With such incredible popularity and quality, expect to stand in a long line.

Milan proves good pizza can be found in the north

To pizza in the north, Romans and Napoletanos may say, "boh," accompanied by an ambivalent shrug. Northern Italy does a lot of things right — fashion, art, wine, the Dolomite mountains, risotto. The list is long but — unsurprisingly to Italians — devoid of pizza. That's all about to change in Milan.

Like so many things in Milan, Assaje takes its pizza to the next level with serious attention to quality and details. Assaje promises its patrons the ultimate gourmet pizza experience using only the most high-quality and fresh ingredients (including the DOP-certified ones we mentioned previously). There are three locations around the city, all equal in popularity. While this is another pizzeria you may have to wait in line for, they make up for it by offering you prosecco and snacks while you wait.

Pizza AM is one of three pizzerias in Milan created by Pasquale Pometto. The other two are Piz and Nàpiz'. Piz and Pizza AM offer similar, small menus, highlighting Italy's best pizza types. You can find the classic Margherita and Marinara pizzas and new favorites like the Pometto and Speciale Taka. Below each pizza's description on the menu, there are delightfully helpful notes like "semplicemente buona" (simply great), "sappore eterno" (everlasting flavor), or "puoi mangiarlo con le mani" (you can eat it with your hands).

Florence can add pizza to its list of artistic triumphs

You can almost be guaranteed that no one thinks of Florence when they imagine the best pizzas in Italy. However, we must include this gastronomic juggernaut on our pizza list. While Florentine restaurants are much better known for their stews, steaks, and dishes made with boar meat, a few pizza restaurants can satisfy carb-craving travelers.

If you're arriving in Italy via Florence for the first time and need a pizza like your life depends on it, it's best to start with Giotto Pizzeria. This pizzeria is significant as it's made an entry in Gambero Rosso, which claims to be the global authority on all things Italian, including food, wine, travel, and more. Here, you can find traditional pizza Napoletana and fried treats like arancini and crocchè.

Another pizzeria you should try when in Florence is Gustarium Firenze. With over 2.4k reviews, this casual eatery has maintained a perfect 5-star rating on Tripadvisor and landed the No. 2 spot out of nearly 2,000 restaurants in Florence — no small feat. Though the pizza is made from a puffy dough similar to what you might find in Naples, Gustarium more closely resembles the Roman pizza al taglio (by the slice) serving style.

An honorable mention that didn't make the pizza cut

We had to include an honorable mention section for a restaurant that is only tangentially close to pizza but too good to miss. This is Trapizzino, an exquisite gastronomic experience you have to have at least once in your life. Don't get the wrong idea. There's nothing hoity-toity about Trapizzino, and no one will look at you side-eyed for eating it with your hands — in fact, it's encouraged.

These triangular delights are corners of bread stuffed with a selection of savory stewed meats and cheese. Their inspiration comes from the traditional Italian cucina povera — literally "poor kitchen" — which means "waste nothing, use everything." As such, their daily menu consistently includes options like polpetta al sugo, lingua (beef tongue) in salsa verde, and bollito picchiapò (the meat leftover from making broth).

There are 12 locations throughout Italy (and one in New York City), but the originals in Rome will always be the best. These are located in the heart of Trastevere — behind Piazza Trilussa — and the other in Testaccio, a family-friendly neighborhood south of Trastevere, across the Tiber.