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Pizza is our go-to food on the road, our favorite is New York-style. And when we return from a trip it’s usually the first meal we eat. On our year-long journey we tried pizza on six continents, including at its birthplace in Naples, to seek the best pizza in the world. But what surprised us most was where we found the best and the worst pizza.

 Pizza in Asia

best pizza in Hong Kong Paisanos

Paisanos in Hong Kong served up pizza that was very close to New York style.

pizza in North Korea

We hadn’t expected to see pizza in North Korea. But our guides kept referring to their own version of Pizza Hut. While it was a bit undercooked, it wasn’t bad for pizza in, well, North Korea. (Photo courtesy Russell Ng)

Pizza Chiang Mai Thailand

The owner of Pulcinella da Stefano in Chiang Mai, Thailand hails from Italy so his pizza was almost Neopolitan in style. 

best pizza dessert pineapple bali

A pineapple and banana dessert pizza in Bali. What a great idea!

Pizza in Vietnam

We were surprised to find an upscale Italian restaurant in Hanoi, complete with marble columns and tuxedo-clad waiters. This being Vietnam though, it was still really cheap.

Pizza Siem Reap Cambodia

Pizza in Cambodia? Why not, we even ate an authentic Philly cheesesteak there.

Pizza in the Middle East

In the Middle East we ate authentic pizza along with an Arabic version that while not pizza, sure had a lot in common with it.

Pizza in Dubai

No one affiliated with this restaurant in Dubai was Italian, but they put out a pretty good product. 

Israel food Arab zatar flatbread

In the Arab market in Jerusalem we tried zatar flatbread. It was ‘pizza-ish” enough to be included here. Also, we really liked it.

Pizza Tel Aviv

We almost walked right past this pizzeria in Tel Aviv because we thought it was a Dominos. But look closely at the logo, it’s Pizza Domino and no relation to the American chain. It may be the closest we came to authentic New York style pizza.

Pizza in Africa

best pizza in the world Namibia

We don’t surprise easily but were gobsmacked to come across a pizzeria in Swakopmund, Namibia. It was pretty good too. 

Pizza in Italy

Many people have a love/hate relationship with authentic Neopolitan pizza. The type served in Naples is different than what many expect. (Particularly if they were weaned on New York-style since childhood.) It turns out that authentic Neopolitan pizza is kind of soupier than expected. Some say it’s due to using fresh buffalo mozzarella. Either way, it takes some getting used to.

Pizza Naples Italy tomato

A plain  pizza in Naples, a bit soupy for our taste. 

Pizza Naples Italy rocket

Larissa’s favorite topping, fresh arugula or rocket.

Pizza Italy french fries

This is what happens when a self-proclaimed world traveler can’t admit that he doesn’t speak his grandparents language and orders a pizza that he thinks comes with potato slices on it.

Pizza in Australia and New Zealand

best pizza in the world Auckland New Zealand Sals

Sal’s in Auckland, New Zealand boasted of authentic New York style pizza. It came pretty close, even with Wisconsin mozzarella.

Best pizza in the world Australia Clare Valley Stone Bridge winery

Craig from  Stone Bridge Wines in Clare Valley, Australia manages to serve up delicious  wood fired pizza and award-winning wines. This was the runner-up for best pizza.

best pizza in the world Perth Australia

The pizza from Embers Wood Fired in Gooseberry Hill outside Perth, Australia. Although no one working at the place seemed to be over the age of 12, the pizza was the best of our entire trip. This is the Pizza Siciliana  with fresh ricotta, cacciatore sausage & marinated eggplant. That’s right, our top two pizzas were both from Australia. What an upside down world we live in.

The worst pizza we had

worst pizza in the world Pizza Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is known for being half-Italian (just like Michael) so we were disappointed in this gooey mess. Three fist-sized hunks of mozzarella were placed in the center of the pie before going into the oven. Since they’re too big to melt properly, the chef just smears them around the pie after it’s baked where it turns into a gelatinous clump.

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Tasting pizza on six continents--which is the best?

On the flip-side, Argentina did provide us the greatest taste sensation of our trip: Read “Is dulce de leche the best flavor in the world?”

Is a coal mining town in Pennsylvania the “Pizza Capital of the World?”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at finding the best pizza in the world in Australia. We may have found the best gelato in the world in New Zealand, where it’s made by a mad scientist from Italy.

What type of pizza do you like? Do you eat pizza with your hands or a knife and fork? To us, a knife and fork for pizza is just plain wrong.

To follow our journey around the world in search of the tasty and quirky and receive valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Ask someone about their favorite pizza and you’re likely to end up in a heated discussion. Some prefer New York, others Chicago’s deep-dish while New Haven white clam pizza often gets a nod.

For years I’ve been reading that Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Arizona makes the best pizza in America. That’s a pretty bold statement. Since I’m a bit obsessed with pizza I scurried to Phoenix, with my somewhat jaded eyes wide open, to test the claims made about Pizzeria Bianco.

First a little background. Pizza chef Chris Bianco is a native New Yorker who moved to Phoenix in the 1980s. He had a gift for making pizza which he honed during a two-year stint in Italy. When he returned to America in 1994 he became a pioneer making artisanal pizza in the U.S.

pizzeria bianco phoenix

He starts out with high-protein flour, San Marzano tomatoes and house-made mozzarella. The pizzas are baked for three minutes at 800 degrees in a wood-fired brick oven and arrive at the table with the crust still crackling. Bianco’s devotion to fresh ingredients and locally sourced products is legendary; earning a James Beard Award in 2003 and accolades from the likes of the New York Times and Racheal Ray.

But is it really the best pizza in America?

The menu at Pizzeria Bianco is refreshingly simple: a few appetizers, salads and six pizzas. We went with the classic, a Margherita with just tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil. Oh, and a side order of house-made crispy Italian bread and olive oil; you can never have too many carbs.

pizzeria bianco wood burning oven

When the pizza arrived it looked like something out of a magazine on “What pizza should look like.” The crust had reacted properly to the extreme heat of the oven and was buckled with charred air bubbles, just how I like it. The basil was torn into big enough chunks so you still knew it was basil and the melted cheese made itself one with the bright red sauce. Underneath the crust was just how I like it; charred in bits from the brick floor of the oven.

The feel of the pizza was just right. I grew up in New York so I’m a pizza folder and each slice folded nicely. There was enough spring in the crispy crust that it didn’t crack. The crust had just the right blend of crispy and chewy.

pizzeria bianco crust

The sauce gave a full tomato feel but Larissa thought it could have used some spices, if there were onions in it we didn’t pick it up. Fresh mozzarella is usually more bland than regular so she also ended up sprinkling a little salt on her slice. I’m not as into salt so I went without.

At $15, the 12″ pizza was not cheap but with the bread dish we were able to fill up on a single pie at lunch. One pie probably wouldn’t be enough for dinner for two people but I couldn’t see spending $30 on two pizzas.

pizzeria bianco pizza peels (640x491)

What does “best” really mean?

But back to the original question, is Pizzeria Bianco the best pizza in America? Well no, but is there really a “best” pizza, or anything for that matter? It certainly ranks as one of our top pies and we’re glad we made it to Phoenix to check out what all the fuss was about. Rather than rest on its laurels, Pizzeria Bianco still puts out a top-notch pizza. But it’s really not fair to make it live up to “best pizza in America” status.

The reality is that because of Chris Bianco there are now many places out there emulating him and creating outstanding pizzas every day. And from what I’ve read about the unassuming chef, I think he’d be just fine with that.

Are you hungry for some more pizza? Here’s our story about tasting pizza on six continents to seek the best pizza in the world.

What is your favorite pizza place?

To follow our journey around the world in search of the tasty and quirky and receive valuable travel tips subscribe here.

When we think of places for the best pizza in the world our thoughts normally drift to New York or Italy. But the town of Old Forge, Pennsylvania claims that it is the “Pizza Capital of the World.” Those are pretty big words for such a small town. We just had to check this out so here is our review of Old Forge pizza.

Old Forge is in northeast Pennsylvania (known to locals as NEPA), only five miles from Scranton of the TV show The Office fame. With a population of only around 8,000 supporting 14 pizzerias, it may well be the “Pizza per Capita” capital of the world, but “Pizza Capital?” So off to Old Forge we went to see, and taste, for ourselves.

Old Forge Pennsylvania NEPA pizza capital of the world sign

Review of Old Forge pizza

Old Forge-style pizza is baked in rectangular metal trays. It’s distinguished by the blend of cheeses, they vary at each establishment, that can be a combination of mozzarella, parmesan, romano, American and … what? Did they just say American? This we had to check out. So follow along as we push ourselves to taste Old Forge pizza at four places in one day.

Arcaro & Genell Restaurant

Arcaro and Genell Old Forge style pizza

We started our pilgrimage at Arcaro & Genell. Settled into puffy vinyl booths, with Frank Sinatra playing on the radio, we felt like we had appeared in the 1950s-era restaurant from the movie Big Night. Since we were newbies, the cheerful Amanda was our guide to the ways of Old Forge-style pizza.

A whole pizza is not called a pie but a tray, and individual slices are called cuts. It comes in traditional red and a white. The white pizza at most places is actually a double crust pizza made by folding the dough over the topping. Are you with me so far?

Arcaro and Genell pizza Old Forge NEPA

We selected the classic red pizza with original crust (not the thinner variation) and a single crust white topped with fresh tomato, garlic and onion. Arcaro’s proudly proclaims that they were selected as a Top 10 pizza in America. The rating was done by USA TODAY back in 1983 but it’s still pretty impressive.

The sauce on the red tray had the classic Old Forge taste, a bit oniony and a bit sweet. The pans are brushed with olive oil, making the crust crispy on the bottom rising to a chewiness directly beneath the sauce. The cheese was a blend that we guessed was Mozzarella, American and Cheddar; but Amanda would not reveal state secrets.

Arcaro and Genell pizza crust NEPA pizza Old Forge

The single-crust white was garnished with fresh tomatoes, raw onions, and a pesto type blend of minced garlic and dried basil. Both pizzas met with our immediate approval. The cheese blend is not traditional, but seemed to work.

Revello’s Pizza

Revellos Old Forge Pizza NEPA

Thinking of the day ahead, we tried not to fill up and walked across the street to Revello’s. You know you’re in Northeast Pennsylvania when the pizzerias also offer pierogies, a staple in these Polish and Italian former mining towns.

Revellos old forge pizza red and white NEPA

Revello’s was once a mainstay of Old Forge pizza, but we were disappointed. The crust tasted like a toasted version of Wonder Bread and the cheese seemed to be 100% American. It reminded us of snacks we made in the toaster oven as teenagers.

Mary Lou’s Pizza

Mary Lous Old Forge Pizza

We moved on to Mary Lou’s, tucked into a residential in a nondescript tan stucco building a few blocks off Main Street. As soon as we got out of the car and breathed in the garlic-scented aromas, we knew we were onto something. Mary Lou, a sweet grandmother of eight, ably assisted by grandson Joe, was certainly the cutest of the bakers we met.

Mary Lous Old Forge NEPA pizza

Her pizza education started early in life when her mother taught her the family recipes. A steady stream of customers picking up pre-ordered trays was a testament to her pizza’s popularity. The crispy crust is lighter than the others; the sauce, the best of the day, a perfect blend of onions and sweet tomato.

Elio G’s Old Forge Pizza

We were pretty full at this point, but as we were driving out of town we made one last stop at Elio G’s to watch Elio and Tom work through the dinner rush. For Old Forge pizza historians, Elio’s is a must-see destination. Elio mentioned that his grandmother, Nonni Ghigiarelli, invented Old Forge-style pizza in 1926. She made it for card players at the bar that she and her husband owned. It was an instant hit.

Elios Old Forge pizza NEPA copy

Elio is as crusty as his pizza which makes for an entertaining wait. He uses only the best ingredients including the sweetest of onions. Cheese blends are heavily guarded but it seems that Elio uses only mozzarella and sharp provolone. The chunky tomato sauce was heavily laden with black pepper

Elios Old Forge pizza

Elios white pizza is a blend of cheese and freshly cooked spinach topped with an intense blend of herbs; we tasted black pepper, rosemary, salt and maybe oregano. The herbs sprinkled on top made it taste like stuffed focaccia. Speaking of stuffed, we were pretty stuffed ourselves at this point and had to call it a day.

In Old Forge, pizza is a comfort food to celebrate both life and to mark its passing. At Elio G’s, a woman who looked remarkably like Paula Deen, stopped in to pick up five trays for a surprise 40th birthday party for her daughter.

At Mary Lou’s, a doctor who grew up in the area, was back in town to visit his father in hospice care nearby. The entire family was gathered in support of his father whose death was imminent. He said, “I was raised on that pizza It feels like home to me.”

At times like these, those who grew up in Old Forge gather around a tray of their wonderfully idiosyncratic pizza to provide support for each other. I recommend visiting Old Forge to witness a true slice, no, make that cut, of Americana.

You might be interested in our pizza tasting on six continents to find the best pizza in the world.

Here are even more reviews of Old Forge pizza on Yelp.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.