Are you sitting down? Good. Because we have some shocking news to share.
Pittsburgh boasts the second highest pizzeria-per-capita rate in the country with 9.9 pizzerias per 10,000 residents, according to a national study.
New York City – known as the country’s pizza capital – didn’t even make the top ten.
The oversized crust of New York-style pizza has touched every corner of the world, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Pittsburgh-style pizzeria in your neck of the woods. Or, for that matter, anyone who’s heard of such a thing.
Even some of yinz in Pittsburgh aren’t sure if Steel City truly has a pizza style to call its own.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never heard of a Pittsburgh-style pizza,” said Slice GM Jeff Sigal. “It’s news to me, but it’s true that we love our dough and cheese almost as much as we love the Steelers.”
Yet, it’s clear that much of Pittsburgh’s pizza is distinctly different from New York’s pies, Philly’s tomato-laden squares, and Chicago’s quasi-casseroles. Around these parts, the dough tends to tower higher than the Steelers’ offensive line with enough cheese to satisfy a Packers fan.
There’s plenty of variety to be found in Pittsburgh, of course, and some would point to the cold-cheese pizza popularized by Beto’s as the city’s true calling card. Beto’s has been a Pittsburgh mainstay since the 1950s, but those oven-fresh rectangles topped with mountains of fridge-fresh provolone remain exclusive to them.
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Meanwhile, many of Pittsburgh’s other hotspots are churning out pizzas with thick crusts designed to support ludicrous amounts of cheese. The bread isn’t just there to stick to your ribs during a brutal winter – a lesser crust would collapse under the weight of all that melty goodness and erode under the rivers of its glorious grease.
Still sitting down? Good. Because you’ll need to save that energy if you’re taking on a Pittsburgh-style pizza at one of these shops.
Fiori’s has been a Pittsburgh institution for decades, dating back to its opening in the late 70s. Here, the pies boast a puffed-up outer crust and an ultra-thick sheet of mozzarella that you won’t mind picking off of your plate. Master pizza chef Giuseppe “Joe” Pepe just recently hung up his paddle after 40 years of service, but the family-owned operation is still dishing out fantastic pizzas at its original Pittsburgh location and its larger outpost in McMurray.
Born in Sicily, John Mineo moved to America in 1955 with a dream of opening up his own pizzeria. When he rented out an empty storefront on Murray Avenue, he probably didn’t realize that his shop would turn into a wild successful for his kids and grandchildren, or that his pizzas would become the stuff of legend in Pittsburgh. To this day, they pay tribute to John’s Italian heritage with homemade dough, hand-grated cheese, and sauce made from Italian tomatoes, but these pies are unmistakably Pittsburgh.
Ephesus offers a completely unique take on Pittsburgh-style pizza with Turkish-inspired toppings. Never had a pie topped with lamb shish kabob, skewers and all? Now’s your chance. This is also a prime opportunity to try Turkish pide, a boat-shaped cousin of pizza with tons of cheese on deck.
Spak Bros opened in 2008 to bring a new-school take on Pittsburgh’s classic pies. The pies on their menu are positively packed with cheese and toppings, but if that’s not enough, they also offer a strong roster of hoagies, killer wings, and vegan offerings like their seitan “cheese steak.”
Vincent’s Pizza Park in North Braddock
If you only want a couple of slices from Vincent’s, you better bring some friends…and cash. This iconic old-school shop only sells by the pie and they don’t take credit cards. That doesn’t matter much, because Vincent’s is well-worth the ATM trip and you’ll want the whole damn thing, even though the “medium” version of the oblong pie dwarfs the “large” pies you’ll find elsewhere.
If you order delivery from Gennaro’s, you’ll get a pizza so large that it just barely fits into the confines of the box. The raised cornicione is (intentionally) charred, but rest assured that the cheese layer on top remains stringy and moist, as it should.