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America's best new pizza places

Oct. 2, 2012 at 9:32 AM ET

pizza
Courtesy of Mani Osteria
Ann Arbor, Michigan-native Adam Baru worked under restaurateur Danny Meyer before returning to his hometown to open his first restaurant, Mani Osteria. Wood-fired ovens turn out pies like the Farmers’ Market, loaded with local vegetables.

From $180,000 pizza trucks to deep-fried crusts, America’s best new pizza places are innovators in the world of sauce, cheese and dough.

Slideshow: America’s best new pizza places

Jon Darsky, a former pizzaiolo at San Francisco’s excellent Flour & Water, has repurposed a 20-foot shipping container to create his impressive mobile pizza restaurant, Del Popolo. The setup includes a hand-forged, wood-burning oven from Naples that’s protected with massive air bags during transit. The rig cost $180,000 to build and weighs 14 tons, including the 5,000-pound pizza oven that heats up to 800 degrees.

Another new spot with a serious oven obsession is The Backspace, behind the fantastic Parkside restaurant in Austin. There, a wood-burning oven heats to 1,000 degrees, producing a beautifully quick-blistered crust. The chefs spent months developing a special dough to stand up to the heat.

The most important piece of kitchen equipment at New York City’s Forcella pizzerias isn’t the oven; it’s the deep fryer. Though it sounds like an over-the-top, if inspired, gimmick, montanara, or fried pizza, is a Neapolitan tradition. The dough is deep-fried, then topped and baked, adding a depth of flavor.

New York pizzerias love to tout their Italian bonafides, but chef Michael White’s new restaurant Nicoletta references a far less famous pizza destination: Wisconsin. White worked at Domenico’s in Beloit as a Midwestern teenager and says the pies at his soon-to-open Nicoletta will resemble the crisp-crusted versions he ate there. “There won’t be any need to fold over the slice, like you do with floppy New York–style pizza,” says White. Even the mozzarella will be from Wisconsin. “We’re all trying to capture those childhood tastes, right? I’m chasing the pizza of my youth.”

Louisville, Kentucky’s Garage Bar is another fabulous new restaurant that’s creating regional pizza hybrids. Chef Michael Paley, who is also the owner of local favorite Proof on Main, serves Italian-meets-Southern pizzas—like Margherita topped with country ham—inside a renovated auto-repair garage.

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