We’ve compiled a list of the best pizza in Austin, categorized it by popular pizza styles and we think it’s “molto bene.”
You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of pizza they eat. And we’re not talking about meat lovers versus vegetarian pies.
There are no fewer than half a dozen styles of pizza, from New York to deep dish, Neapolitan and Sicilian. And each of these styles have their own spin-offs (like the way the Detroit-style pie evolved from Sicilian pizza). Case in point: if you spot someone folding a slice in half, they likely picked up the habit in New York. Deep dish pizza eaters are probably from Chicago or Detroit. And midwesterners seem keen to eat thin-crusted, cracker-like pies.
Texans, as a whole, have never really picked a side in the pizza wars. In fact, by most accounts, it was pretty difficult to even find a decent slice of pizza before the 1980s. It was only after outsiders settled in bigger Texas cities that people in Austin, Houston and Dallas had access to all the different styles of pizza.
These days in Austin, like other large metro areas in the state, pizza is about as ubiquitous as tacos. Really. And while we have our fair share of chain restaurants that target as large of an audience as possible with the blandest, most style-averse pizza you can imagine, there are also scores of owner-operated pizzerias that care deeply about their pizza recipes.
New York Style
New York City is the buckle of the “pizza belt.” It’s a geographic region stretching through Philadelphia, New Jersey, five New York City boroughs, western Connecticut and Boston. In 2018, food writer and restaurant critic, Arthur Bovino, wrote that you’ll find “…the oldest, best, and most influential pizzerias in America” along this corridor of I-95.
New York style pizza is large, its hand-tossed crust is thin and crispy. They’re topped with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. New Yorkers tend to favor extra toppings like sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms.
Home Slice Pizza
Home Slice earned its stripes as an iconic Austin pizzeria after 15 years of serving authentic New York style pizza by the slice (and whole pies, too). Their recipes were heavily influenced by two co-founders who grew up eating New York style pizza in the Northeast before moving to Texas. Home Slice has two locations in Austin, on South Lamar and North Loop.
Little Deli Pizzeria
Little Deli’s authentic New Jersey style pizza is made with homemade dough and baked in an open-flame stone-hearth. Jersey is a legit stop on the pizza belt, which means Little Deli’s slices and pies are quintessentially NY-style pizza. Little Deli has a location on Woodrow Ave. in Crestview and one on Briarcliff Blvd. in Windsor Park.
Jersey Giant Pizza
Jersey’s serves traditional New Jersey pies hand-tossed using dough made fresh from scratch each day. They have two locations, one in Bee Cave and another on McNeil Drive in north Austin.
East Side Pies
East Side Pies doesn’t identify what style pizza they serve. That led the Austinot blog in 2014 to declare that ESP is the first of its kind “Austin style pizza.” But anyone with eyes can spot a New York style pie a mile away. Their thin crust pies are light on the red sauce and best consumed folded in half. Where ESP has branched off, though, is by offering a variety of sauces. In that regard, East Side has definitely carved out a unique niche among Austin pizzerias. There are three ESP locations: on 183 in North Austin and in East Austin on Rosewood Ave. and Airport Blvd.
Brooklyn Pie Co.
Brooklyn Pie Co. is a mini-chain restaurant with six South Texas locations, from San Marcos to Round Rock and South Padre Island. According to their origin story, a young Jewish-American soldier stationed in Italy during WWII dreamed of opening a pizzeria upon returning home to Brooklyn. He planned to use a recipe given to him by his Italian girlfriend. The soldier’s critics—mainly his mother—said that no one outside of Italian neighborhoods would eat pizza. But she was proven wrong. Decades later, Brooklyn Pie migrated to Texas with their original pizza recipe. And Austinites have been enjoying their oversized, NY-style slices ever since.
Deep Dish Pizza
No one really knows who invented Chicago deep-dish pizza. But food historians are pretty confident that restaurants in the Windy City have been serving the casserole-like pie since the 1920s. To extract deep dish pizza from a searing hot baking pan, the sides of the pan and crust have to be smothered in cooking oil, which adds flavor and crunch to the thick, doughy pie. So except for the way deep dish pizza tastes, Chicago-style pies are different from New York pizza in nearly every other conceivable way.
Conans Pizza is one of the first family-run restaurants to bring deep dish pizza to Austin. As soon as the restaurant’s owners moved to the city, they knew their Chicago-style pizza recipe would be a novelty in South Texas. Foodies and critics agree that the only pizza available in Austin back when Conans arrived was bad pizza. The fact that Austin was a “pizza wasteland” attracted the founders. Now the restaurant is known for its gourmet Original Deep Pan pizza, made with homemade dough that rises three times higher than ordinary pizza dough.
The owner of Mangia Pizza perfected his deep dish pizza recipe while toiling away as a restaurant worker in Chicago. After moving to Austin in 1988, he decided to open Mangia Pizza and specialize in serving Chicago-style pie. Today, Mangia is still one of the few Austin pizzerias that makes deep dish pizza.
Detroit-style pizza evolved from the Sicilian pie. Both types of pizza have been traced back to sfincione pizza, from the Palermo, Italy region. Unlike round-shaped pizza with thin crust from Naples, sfincione pies had four corners and a thick, fluffy crust. It was topped with onions, tomatoes, anchovies, oregano, sheep’s-milk cheese and breadcrumbs. When the sfincione pie came to the US, pizza makers tweaked the recipe. Most notably, they swapped out sheep’s milk cheese that was harder to get and less popular in the US for cow’s-milk mozzarella. Depending on where you live today, Detroit-style and Sicilian pizza are quite possibly one and the same, but Detroit pizza is a distinct style on its own.
Via 313 Pizzeria
Via 313 is a small fleet of food trailers and brick-and-mortar pizzerias that specialize in serving the type of Detroit-style pizza that the co-owners grew up on back in Michigan. To produce a pizza with crisp, golden crust and caramelized cheese, Zane and Brandon Hunt bake their pies in heavy metal trays.There are five Via 313 locations around Austin. Austinites can pick up a slice or whole pie at trailers at Star Bar on West 6th St. and Craft Pride on Rainey St. Or visit their restaurants in Oak Hill, on Guadalupe in North Campus or on East 6th St.
The first Jet’s Pizza opened in 1978 in Michigan and now it’s one of the most popular chains serving Detroit-style pizza across 19 states. Jet’s pizzerias use fresh ingredients, handmade dough and bake their pies in a deep-dish baking pan that produces a crisp, golden cheese-to-the edge Detroit-style pie. You can get Jet’s Pizza in South Austin on Brodie Ln.
If you’ve ever eaten a personal pizza, there’s a good chance it was a Neapolitan. Neapolitan pizza originated in Italy’s Mount Vesuvius region near Naples. It has a thin, crisp crust and is made with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. If you want to get technical about it, according to the Spruce Eats, authentic Neapolitan pies have no toppings. “One of its defining characteristics is that there is often more sauce than cheese.” Since the sauce-to-cheese ratio makes the center of the pizza heavier and soggier, pizza makers made the pies smaller so they’re easier to handle. Now we call them “personal pizzas.”
40 North on West 10th Street describes itself as “a neighborhood pizza joint.” They specialize in serving wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza with a crispy bottom. Chef Clint Edward, picked up his pizza-making skills while working in Naples and later at a Brooklyn pizzeria. 40 North is known for its unique pizza menu and variety of toppings. For example, you won’t find dandelion greens and onion jam on a traditional Neapolitan pie. But that’s OK. In Austin, we’re used to doing things our own way.
The Backspace pizzeria got its name because it’s located at the back of the Parkside restaurant near 6th Street. The owners say that the Backspace was Austin’s first authentic Neapolitan pizzeria. Their brick-oven pies are made with Italian-imported flour and tomatoes, which are specifications outlined by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletanna (known as VPN, or the True Neapolitan Pizza Association). The VPN is a non-profit organization that “promotes and protects” the centuries old craft of making Neapolitan pizza.
To make their authentic Neapolitan pizza, DeSano pizzeria follows VPN’s strict guidelines. Their pies are created by master pizza makers using ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella flown in regularly from Napoli and Campania. And their pies are baked in an open-flame wood-fired oven. There are two DeSano pizzeria locations, on Burnet in Central Austin and downtown on Lavaca St.
Austin Style Pizza
Austin-style pizza is a catchall term for any kind of pizza that doesn’t fit into an established category. It includes large hand-tossed pies topped BBQ chicken or personal pizzas topped with pesto and goat cheese. If there’s one thing foodies in Austin love to do, it’s to add their own unique spin to traditional recipes.
Austin Pizza Garden
Pies at Austin Pizza Garden look like a hybrid pizza— part New York style, part Neapolitan, and a touch of cheese-to-the-edge Detroit style pizza thrown in for good measure. The menu includes a few pies with traditional toppings. But they’re outnumbered by several recipes that could only come from a Central Texas pizzeria. The Quattro Formaggio, for example, has bacon and four types of cheese. And the Texas fajita is like eating an ordinary fajita but on pizza crust instead of a soft tortilla. The Austin Pizza Garden is located near William Cannon and 290.
Austin’s Pizza is a restaurant chain that serves traditional pizzas, like “the super pep” with extra pepperoni. But for the most part, they specialize in non-traditional pizza recipes. Their white pizza comes with Alfredo sauce whereas a New York style white pizza is just crust, two types of cheese and herbs. And then there are pies that appeal to Southwestern tastes, like the “Far West” pie, with bacon, jalapeño, grilled chicken and Alfredo sauce.
Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse
A specialty pizzeria is the place to go if you don’t want a traditional pizza. Aviator Pizza & Drafthouse is one of those restaurants. You won’t see a plain cheese pie on the menu—though diners are welcome to order a custom pie. But you will find a long list of unique concoctions like The Greek, with pesto, olives, portabella mushrooms, artichokes and feta. And the BBQ Grilled Chicken pie has barbecue sauce, bacon, onions and feta cheese. Aviator has four locations in the Austin-metro area.