Photo by Adam Finkle
Confession: Back in 1993, Salt Lake magazine ran an article about pizza.
Editors ordered pizza delivered from five places, including—hard to admit it—Pizza Hut. We counted the minutes between order and delivery. Then we counted the number of pepperoni slices on our pizza.
That’s how we judged pizza then. Domino’s won.
Now, ads and windshield flyers should tell you all you need to know about pizza chains. So we’re not even going there. This article rates pizza as it is now. We are dividing the pizzas by style—lifestyle and cooking style. (Sometimes when you want pizza is as relevant as what pizza you want.)
Basically, there was, is, now and ever shall be only three parts to a pizza: The toppings. The crust. And the fire. And all three have improved drastically since Salt Lake magazine rated pizza for that issue 21 years ago. You wouldn’t even know this is the same pizzaville.
Here’s a list of the best pies on the Wasatch Front.
And before you start the email onslaught: This is not an inclusive list of pizza. It’s my list. But of course, we want to know what you think. Go to saltlakemagazine.com and flame away.
Quality and variety of toppings are what most people notice about a pizza (unless it’s a college style pie, then quantity is what counts.) Hand-pulled mozzarella, house made ricotta, artisanal meats, including pepperoni and other cured meats from Creminelli or another artisanal salumi maker, and true San Marzano tomatoes set the standards for the new pizza.
No one argues that to make good pizza dough, you have to start with high-gluten flour (12 percent is supposed to be ideal.) But after that, it’s a free for all. Pizza Napoletana is made with a soft dough and takes about one minute to cook in a wood-burning oven. New Yorkers claim that the city’s water is why their pizza is inimitable. Baker Ryan Patrick Moore from at From Scratch says that the dough needs to be extensible, not elastic, and that means a long fermentation–or rising–time.
The Fiery Inferno
A gas oven and some slate can only go so far—it’s a fact that the best pizza is made in a brick oven burning fruitwood at temperatures unachievable in a home oven. The increased use of wood ovens is one of the factors that has made Utah pizza so much better in the last few years. One sign of a proper woodfired pizza: big, charred bubbles.
So, without further ado, here are the pizzas:
Strict Neapolitan Style
The rules for true Pizza Napoletana are set down, virtually in stone, by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana. Google it. Basically, this style is foldable–soft by American standards, so it’s usually eaten with knife and fork. It must be cooked in an incredibly hot wood-burning oven.
In Salt Lake, only Settebello adheres to these rules, cooking their pies made with imported 00 flour at 900 to 1,000 degrees in an imported Italian oven. 260 S. 200 West, SLC, 801-322-3556
We can credit–‑of course–‑Californians with breaking all known pizza conventions. Ed LaDou started serving pizzas topped with goat cheese and truffles at Prego. Wolfgang Puck put smoked salmon and caviar on pizza at Spago in the ‘80s era of conspicuous consumption. Alice Waters opened a pizza place next to Chez Panisse; soon, every city had a joint specializing in upscale pizza topped with spinach and duck sausage. (Ladou went on to help open CPK, whence came BBQ chicken pizza. Never a good idea, even in California.)
Pizzeria Limone, a local mini-chain, bases everything on its secret crust recipe, baked in a gas-fired brick oven and finished with some tricky toppings involving lemons and blackberries. But mozzarella is aged, not fresh. Besides the original Cottonwood location, Pizzeria Limone has successfully replicated in Salt Lake City, Sandy and, soon, South Jordan. 1380 Fort Union Blvd., Cottonwood Heights.
From Scratch takes artisanal a step further by milling its own flour onsite. Because of their buy-local philosophy, the wheat from Central Milling is a mix, not 100 percent, so the pizza is baked at a lower temperature–450 to 500 degrees–in their wood oven. 62 E. Gallivan Ave., SLC, 801-538-5090
Vinto’s two locations also serve an American artisanal pie baked in a wood burning oven. Like 712, the dough is bit sturdier than Neapolitan pizza and baked at a slightly lower temperature, around 600 degrees. 418 E. 200 South, SLC, 801-539-9999; 900 Main St., Park City, 435-615-9990
Pizzeria 712, the first restaurant in the Heirloom Restaurant Group, still serves the best pizza in Utah, because of the true chef’s attention brought to bear on the humble pie: locally-grown and made ingredients baked in an Italian-made wood burning oven at 712 degrees. Get it? The simple margherita is the apex of Utah pizza. 320 S. State St. #185, Orem, 801-623-6712
Lots of restaurants serve pizza; here, I’m only talking about places where the pizza is a definitive part of the menu. Best by a long shot is Sea Salt.
Slackwater Pizza & Pub is more pub than a pizzeria, but the pizza is extraordinarily wild for a pub. Try the California Sunrise—it actually involves Green Goddess dressing. 1895 Washington Blvd, Ogden, 801-399-0637
Lugano has a limited pizza menu, but deserves inclusion here because of its version of pizza bianca, with roasted cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms. 3364 S. 2300 East, SLC, 801-412-9994
Sea Salt’s pizza are full-on Neapolitan style in spirit–made in a wood burning oven, using San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (including di bufala), grana padano…meticulously made and topped judiciously with local produce. 1709 E. 1300 South, SLC, 801-349-1480
East Coast Style
They say the first pizza establishment in the United States was opened in 1905 in New York’s Little Italy. It was cooked in coal-burning brick ovens, and the cheese was put on the dough before the sauce.
Several places in Utah claim to sell New York-style pizza, but Maxwell’s comes the closest with their 20-inch, thin pies. 357 S. Main St., SLC, 801-328-0304; 1456 Newpark Blvd., Park City, 435-647-0304
Este is a New York hipster pizza; you can tell because their best-selling pie is a veggie with spinach and they also make some pies with vegan cheese. 156 E. 200 South, SLC, 801-363-2366; 2148 S. 900 East, SLC, 801-485-3699
In one study, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 13 percent of the U.S. population consumes pizza on any given day–with young people representing biggest piece of the pie. Don’t even think about wood, or fresh mozzarella or local ingredients: The key to college-style pizza is sheer bulk—mountains of toppings, including lots of meat and cheese—we presume to counteract the beer.
The Pie is Utah’s quintessential college pizza joint. Obviously. And the Pie’s Combo, topped with ham, pepperoni, salami, ground beef and two kinds of sausage, is a best-seller. The original location is a U of U institution, but now there are locations all around Northern Utah. 1320 E. 200 South, SLC, 801-582-0195
Roasted Sun, a perennial favorite located conveniently not far from the club strip on State, uses an old-school gas deck oven with big pieces of slate. 2010 S. State St., SLC, 801-483-2120
SLABpizza in Provo–BYU’s college pizza of choice–offers the required collegiate mass in a new way. A slab is one quarter of a 20-inch pizza–you order toppings for each slab. 671 E. 800 North, Provo, 801-377-3883
Sometimes you don’t just want pizza, you have to have pizza. Elsewhere, late-night pizza is a whole genre. The pickings are slimmer in Utah, but there is the Pie Hole, where you can get a midnight slice, and when all else fails, Big Daddy’s even has an ordering app for your smartphone. You don’t even have to think to order this pizza.
344 S. State St, SLC, 801-359-4653
470 S. 700 East, SLC, 801-746-7499