Ask any person what their favorite food is, and one of the top answers is likely to be “pizza.”
Not only because pizza is delicious, but also because it’s ubiquitous in the American diet, has many subsects from which to choose (New York-style, Neapolitan, pizza rolls, etc.) and can please just about every diner from babies to foodies and college bros to paleo people (cauliflower-crust pizzas exist in both your grocer’s freezer and at major pizza chains).
Pizza is a great equalizer. It’s round. It’s shareable. It’s a communal convenience food and one of the first innovative meals to be delivered directly to your home; before DoorDash and Grubhub, there were pizza delivery guys saving dinnertime for busy families and babysitters everywhere.
This Pizza Issue is an ode to the dish as extolled by both CityBeat staffers and readers. In addition to our favorite pizza places — and our favorite dishes to eat there — we have listed the Best Pizza winners from the 2021 Best Of Cincinnati issue as chosen by readers in both “chain” and “non-chain” categories.
So, like pizza itself, this publication is a communal experience. Just don’t try to eat it.
As University of Cincinnati alumni, my wife and I refer to a dinner date at Adriatico’s as “College Night.” Inside the pizzeria — a local stalwart for almost 40 years — my school spirit is reinvigorated by the familiar sounds of sports on the TV and the kind of buzzed frivolity only heard near a college campus. If you’ve ever been to a house party in Clifton or Corryville, then you’ve likely stood around one of this local institution’s massive 18-inch-by-24-inch “Bearcat” pizzas. Best ordered with Adriatico’s thick Sicilian crust, and topped with their patented slightly spicy sauce, one Bearcat pizza can save an entire fraternity from getting too drunk on empty stomachs (it serves 10-12 people). Adriatico’s also offers tater tots on the menu, which means my wife and I are getting tots, even if I’m the only one eating them. There are also plenty of non-pizza items, if you haven’t had a salad in a while (or a calzone, or chicken wings, or lasagna).
Best Bite: Just put some tots on the Bearcat pizza; it goes really well with Miller Lite. 113 W. McMillan Ave., Clifton, adriaticosuc.com.— SEAN M. PETERS
Many of A Tavola’s recipes are torn from the pages of a family cookbook — or at least are inspired by family — and it shows in the restaurant’s rustic and comfortable Italian flavors. When I go to A Tavola, I skip over the other menu items, like pasta, and instead order pizza. It’s wood-fired, classically Italian and just simple enough. Expect chewy but buoyant dough that bubbles up and crisps in the oven, leaving you those delightful puffs of charred dough to snack on while you wait for your pie to cool. Don’t expect to build your own pizza. A Tavola has nine beautifully crafted pies with flavor combos ranging from simple — Margherita, Sausage + Sage, Broccoli Rabe — to complex — Pizza Francisco (spinach, mushrooms, red onion, mozzarella, sausage, parmigiano reggiano), Pollo Toscana (chicken, roma tomato, pesto, balsamic, Maldon sea salt) and Gorgonzola (gorgonzola, fior di latte, housemade sausage, pepperoni). The pies are priced similarly to the pasta dishes, with large pies running $16-$19, and they’re perfectly splittable.
Best Bite: Each time I dine at A Tavola, I briefly consider branching out from my usual order. Then I promptly log away that foolish idea and order the Broccoli Rabe pie. It’s a perfectly balanced yet incredibly indulgent pizza. The broccoli rabe itself lends brightness and a slightly bitter taste to an otherwise rich and creamy pie. Fontina is responsible for saltiness, stracciatella accounts for the creaminess and the generous glug of EVOO is simply in good taste. A bite of red pepper flakes will have you craving gelato for dessert from the A-Tavola-owned La Grassa gelateria next door. 7022 Miami Ave., Madeira, atavolapizza.com. — SAMI STEWART
Northern Kentucky’s Camporosso was founded by married couple Eric and Amy Redfield, who opened the wood-fired pizzeria in what was previously a 1920s-era gas station in Fort Mitchell. Meaning “red field” in Italian, Camporosso is laid-back yet modern. With both indoor and outdoor seating available, Camporosso is best known for its traditional Neapolitan, wood-fired pizzas. Available selections include the Margherita (crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and a healthy drizzle of olive oil), the Sopressata Hot Honey (which blends the perfect sweet-savory crunch of salami and honey) and the Prosciutto and Fig (a meeting of jam, gorgonzola, arugula and crispy pork). It also slings classic American pizzas — with a chewier crust compared to the crispy Neapolitan — topped with options like All The Meat! (cup and char pepperoni, sausage, sopressata salami, applewood-smoked bacon and shredded mozzarella). If you happen to visit Camporosso when the weather’s nice, grab a seat on the porch — perfect for sipping wine or one of the specialty cocktails, like the Blackberry Whiskey Sour infused with vanilla, lemon juice and rosemary, or a seasonal mojito. Nestled in the heart of Fort Mitchell, it’s an ideal stop to get your pizza fill if you find yourself in the NKY ’burbs. If pasta’s more your thing, Camporosso has that, too.
Best Bite: The Margherita is a classic — and Camporosso knows how it’s done right. The satisfying union of warm, crushed tomatoes, creamy-yet-crispy mozzarella and fragrant basil will have eaters floating in carb heaven. Pair it with the house salad, a wonderful crunch of mixed greens, grape tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. 2475 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell, camporosso.com. — MACKENZIE MANLEY
The neon signs outside the Chameleon beckon you to enter, where affordable drinks and pizza await. The bar is a humble Northside hub where you can catch a stand-up comedy act or simply enjoy drinks with friends around a piping hot pizza straight from the kitchen. Try an 11-inch slice of classic New-York-style pizza if you don’t need an entire pie. The generously portioned individual slices are topped with either pepperoni, cheese or a veggie medley (the vegetable selection rotates based on what’s in season and recently featured mushrooms, zucchini and green peas). Cheese slices are available starting at $3, and a 19-inch pie starts at $19. Opt to add seasonings like “cooler ranch,” Cajun or garlic to your crust. The kitchen also offers wings, stromboli, fries, and chicken or tofu sandwiches topped with a bit of sweet kimchi. Need something to wash down that extra slice you indulged in? Thank goodness for Chameleon’s fully stocked bar. Takeout and delivery are available, and with pick-up hours until 1:30 a.m. most days, Chameleon makes for an easy late-night meal.
Best Bite: The “veggie of the day” pizza pie or slice uses local produce and changes based on seasonal availability, so it’s a fun game of veggie roulette every time you stop by. 4114 Hamilton Ave., Northside, chameleonpizza.com. — SMP
Quick! When you hear the word “pizza,” what do you think of? For a certain segment of the population, it’s the slice that’s frequently depicted in cartoons: triangle-shaped, heaped with toppings, strings of melted, gooey cheese dripping from it. Fireside Pizza in Walnut Hills has that quintessential version in abundance, but with much more sophistication. Inside the restored 19th-century firehouse, diners enjoy chewy, wood-fired pizzas that delight the tastebuds with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant’s dozen or so traditional varieties like the Redlegger (pepperoni, onions and roasted red peppers) and the Greek Pie (olive oil, spinach, kalamata olives and feta) are full of robust flavor, but the revolving assortment of specialty pizzas are what makes Fireside shine. Kitchen staff have full freedom to concoct the pizzas of their dreams. This year, Fireside has featured the Cubano (Swiss cheese, smoked pork shoulder, ham, bacon, pickles and mustard), the Fireside Farmer (garlic, pickled watermelon radishes, roasted zucchini, grape tomatoes and yellow squash) and the popular Elote (chipotle crema base, roasted Ohio sweet corn, cotija cheese, cilantro, chili powder) among its limited-edition pies. Diners can round out their Fireside experiences with an assortment of salads and a variety of local brews and international wines. Enjoy the meal inside the brick building or at the sidewalk picnic tables, or get it all to go. And even though fall weather is upon us now, plan ahead for next year, when Firehouse throws open the big door at the front to usher in the sunshine and fresh air.
Best Bite: With Fireside’s signature char adding an earthy quality, the White Pie is perfect for fall. It’s a simple pizza — just some olive oil, garlic and a variety of creamy cheeses, with all of it topped with fragrant rosemary — that lets the crust’s flavor come through. 773 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, firesidepizzawalnuthills.com. — ALLISON BABKA
Raise your hand if you, too, found yourself binging The Sopranos over quarantine. Goodfellas (yes, named after *that* Goodfellas) serves up giant slices and ’zas fit for a mob boss. This New York-style slicery is perfect for soaking up a boozy night or when you’re in need of quick-and-easy grub after a long day’s work. Goodfellas’ slice options go beyond standard cheese and pepperoni fare. Walk in on any given day and be greeted by a spread of choices, from the basics to more ambitious pies topped with various meats and veggies. With locations in Over-the-Rhine, Covington’s MainStrasse and Pleasant Ridge, this pizzeria is known for its bigger-than-your-face slices, but you can also buy whole specialty pies. Offerings include the veggie-laden Wiseguy; Paulie’s Favorite, inspired by one of Tony Sopranos’ top-ranking henchmen; and The Don, which boasts pepperoni, sliced Italian sausage, ground beef, bacon, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and black olives. Or, throw caution to the wind and order the Fuggetaboutit, which has a smorgasbord of every topping available. If you do come in for the slice, though, you’d do well to make it a combo: a drink and side of your choice, including Goodfellas’ equally gigantic breadsticks covered in garlic butter, parmesan and oregano. Bring the New York vibes home by ordering a black-and-white cookie à la Seinfeld. If you want to stay awhile, you and your crew can also hang out in the Wiseguy Lounge (located above/attached to each pizzeria) for cocktails or beers.
Best Bite: Whatever’s available. Part of Goodfellas’ magic is not knowing exactly what slices it’s offering on any given day. Take a chance on whatever hand-tossed pizza calls your name. 1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine; 603 Main St., Covington; 6099 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, goodfellaspizzeria.com. — MM
Joe's Pizza Napoli
Walk into Joe’s Pizza Napoli in Milford and your eyes are immediately drawn to the massive tiled pizza oven, which the titular Joe Nunner chose to have built in the semblance of Mount Vesuvius. The oven is a symbol of home and family, the centerpiece of the kitchen. Food is life, so the oven holds hefty symbolic significance in our metaphor-starved brains (and pizza-starved guts). Nunner was certified by Vera Pizza Napoletana, a group of Italian pizza makers who ensure anyone who claims they’re making Neapolitan-style pizza is doing so authentically. Naples has strict guidelines for how pizza is made in its traditional style — 100% wood-fired, certain ingredients, certain procedures. Once the pie hits the table, however, the only thing that matters about Joe’s pizza is that it’s absolutely delicious.
Best Bite: If you like a spicy pizza, go for Joe’s signature Vesuvio. Calabrian chilies and prosciutto calabrese give it the fire, but the fior di latte and Parmigiano-Reggiano keeps things cool and balanced. 507 Chamber Drive, Milford, joespizzanapoli.com. — SMP
The Kitchen Factory
When Northside nightlife gets hungry, the Kitchen Factory’s pizza window is there to save the day. Every hand-tossed pie at the Kitchen Factory is made of vegan dough and pizza sauce prepared fresh in their kitchen. Wednesdays through Sundays, the dining room opens in the afternoon for dine-in and carry-out, serving up pizzas, sandwiches and salads. After 10 p.m. on weekends, the late-night window charms passersby with the smell of fresh pies, attracting bartenders leaving work and packs of hungry musicians fresh from the stage. You can order by the slice or take a whole pizza home. There are classic options like the Margherita, or adventurous pies like the Dig the Fig, made with a toasted sesame oil and maple syrup fig spread, goat cheese and fresh arugula. Vegan and gluten-free diners can rejoice in myriad choices, including a piece of vegan and gluten-free cheesecake after a Daiya mozzarella-topped pizza slice. The window also offers a handful of non-pizza menu favorites (we’re looking at you, vegan mac and cheese).
Best Bite: A post-show slice of spinach and feta with an IBC Root Beer and a cannoli for dessert. 1609 Chase Ave., Northside, kitchenfactorynorthside.com. — KATRINA ERESMAN
If you live in Silverton or North College Hill, Krimmer’s Italianette is no doubt a staple in your dining-out routine. Its thick, doughy pizzas are as close to “Detroit style” as you can get. Each pizza comes slathered in a scrumptious sauce that seems closer in consistency to tomato paste than typical thinner pizza sauces. It’s hearty, filling food that the good, hungry people in Krimmer’s neighborhoods all swear by. Need proof? There’s an apartment building near the Silverton location in which the residents almost all live on fixed incomes that would be better suited to certain “good enough” $5.99 pizzas. And yet! If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll see an Italianette delivery guy swing through multiple times a night, every night. Italianette delivers deliciousness to the fine, loyal folks who call them every. Damn. Night.
Best Bite: The Taco Pizza Deluxe is where it’s at! All the fixings of a taco but on, duh, a pizza crust. The best part? This taco pizza is available year-round. 6018 Plainfield Road, Silverton; 1704 W. Galbraith Road, North College Hill, Italianettepizza.com. — DEIRDRE KAYE
Mikey's Late Night Slice
This pizzeria is run by very business-savvy pizzamakers who understand that a place where people tend to drink during the evening is also a place where their chances of buying a few slices of pizza are radically increased. So, looking at Mikey’s location next door to Rhinegeist’s taproom in Over-the-Rhine — and literally attached to their own Oddfellows Liquor Bar — yeah, that checks out. Mikey’s appetizers include a literal mound of charred pepperoni. And if you like pepperoni that much, then two of Mikey’s signature pizzas should interest you. Plain-Ass Pepperoni comes with a dusting of parmesan cheese, and the Spicy-Ass Pepperoni with Sriracha is topped with banana peppers and red pepper flakes. Alcohol is a depressant, but spicy food is kind of like a stimulant, so that helps to balance out the vibe, right? If you need a laugh, read through the entire menu — its language is casual, to say it sweetly. You’ll also see that Mikey’s has some worthwhile sweets, wings, vegan options and everything you could ask for in a pizza place.
Best Bite: There’s a special place in heaven for the creator of Cheezus Crust, which is a slice of American cheese melted between two face-to-face slices of whatever pizza you want. It’s absurd, it’s inspired and, best yet, it’s blasphemous (and listed under the “Sacraments” tab on the menu). 2014 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, latenightslice.com. — SMP
Red Rose Jems Pizza
Have you ever walked into a restaurant and immediately felt at home? That’s the vibe at College Hill’s Red Rose Jems Pizza. I ought to know: My family eats Red Rose pizza once a week, often in-house. They know my kid’s name, how we like our pizza and my guy’s favorite beer. You’d never guess that a family from Florida could make such bomb pizza, but they do. Red Rose makes its sauce in-house, and it tastes incredibly fresh. The thin, perfectly baked crust is very occasionally stretched to uneven thickness, but that only serves as a reminder of just how human and homemade it is. Hop into the College Hill Neighbors’ Facebook group and you’ll see I’m not alone in my obsession with Red Rose. Our quiet, friendly and perfectly scrumptious local pizza place is the true star of Cincinnati pizza.
Best Bite: Listen. We’re traditionalists in this house. Start with cheesy garlic bread and go heavy-handed dipping in the homemade marinara. Then get double-pepperoni for a nice kick of spice. 5915 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, redrosecollegehill.com. — DK
St. Francis Apizza
In true hidden gem fashion, St. Francis Apizza’s brick-and-mortar location in East Hyde Park doesn’t look like anything special. It’s a clean, well-lit little kitchen and counter designed only for customers to pick up their order; no dine-in at present. Once that pizza box is open, though, things start to get great. “Apizza” distinguishes itself from a pizza with its thin-yet-airy crisp and slightly charred crust, achieved by a coal-fired oven. Review the menu and you’ll find a point of origin for nearly all the ingredients on your pie, with a special emphasis on local, ethically grown produce and meats that are sourced only a short drive from the pizzeria. If you don’t eat the crust, you don’t deserve this apizza. Note: St. Francis changed its name from Parlor Pizza Project earlier this year.
Best Bite: If you want to deeply offend a hyperbolous, opinionated pizza-purist prone to overreactions, order the signature Pineapple & Bee’s BBQ Pork Belly Burnt Ends and prove that pineapple absolutely belongs on pizza. 3392 Erie Ave., East Hyde Park,saintfrancisapizza.com. — SMP
Let’s first take a moment to appreciate this brewpub’s name. Taft’s brews the beer, then they pour it; thus the place where that all happens is called a brewpourium. Lots of folks uninterested in beer still find themselves inside a brewery thanks to Taft’s New Haven, Connecticut-style “apizza.” Baked at 1,000 degrees in a coal-fired oven, these pies are crisped to perfection. One popular signature pie that pays homage to the brewpourium’s location is the Spring Grove Apizza, with crushed tomato, mozzarella, artichoke, mushroom, red onion, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, arugula, green peppers and balsamic. Want something with a bit more animal? The Roebling Apizza is a traditional cheese-and-red-sauce pie topped with garlic, creamy scoops of ricotta, cupped pepperoni and savory sausage crumbles.
Best Bite: This is definitely a good spot if you love a simple Margherita pizza. 4831 Spring Grove Ave., Spring Grove Village, taftsbeer.com. — SMP
It’s a debate that can become as heated as a brick oven: Is a New York-style slice or Chicago deep dish pie superior? But there’s a dark horse in the race when it comes to pizza preferences: Detroit style. Taglio happily slings the latter. Founded by brothers Jared and Nick Wayne (also of A Tavola) and partner Jake Goodwin, the joint is proof that it’s hip to be square. Motor City’s signature ’za is known for its rectangular shape, crispy edges and chewy interior. Taglio’s take is thick with whole milk mozzarella layered across the pan crust to yield the ultimate cheesy crunch. The flavors are divine, from the pepperoni and hot honey combo to the Greek Veggie. There are traditional round offerings, too, including a classic Bianco and a meaty, spicy Italian. Other menu items include salads, appetizers like cheesy bread and fried eggplant and a range of cocktails, beer and wine. Feel like staying in? Taglio now offers make-your-own pizza kits, which if you ask us, is perfect for a laid-back date night.
Best Bite: The Bianco with EVOO, mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, basil and Parmigano-Reggiano packs a cheesy punch that’s not to be missed. Every bite yields a cheesy terrain not yet explored. The Pepperoni + Hot Honey is a must for meat-lovers. 3531 Columbia Parkway, Columbia Tusculum; 56 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, eattaglio.com. — MM
Two Cities Pizza Co.
If you need options when dining out, look no further than Two Cities Pizza Co. in Mason, which offers both New York-style and Chicago deep dish pizzas so you don’t have to compromise. Pick from a number of aptly named pizzas like New York’s Gotham Gangster (white sauce, chicken, bacon, cheddar, scallions, barbecue sauce drizzle) and The Cabbie (mashed potato, bacon, red onion, chipotle aioli, garlic crema drizzle), or Chicago’s Wrigley Pie (mushrooms, spinach, feta, red onions, red sauce) or The Capone (pepperoni, sausage, ham, mozzarella, red sauce). If none of the flavor combos speak to you, you can create your own pie. Wait times are a testament to Two Cities’ quality, so join the waitlist online or call early when ordering takeout. It’s worth mentioning that the medium size New York-style is large, and the large is huge.
Best Bite: I have a standing order for the Classic Margherita from Two Cities. I plan ahead and call in a to-go order then plop down on the nearest curb and split the whole pie with my husband: four greasy, floppy pieces each. The chunky tomato sauce is perhaps what makes their New York-style stand out from the rest. It’s tangy and just salty enough, which complements the sweetness of the whole-milk mozz beautifully. And the almost licorice-y torn basil really seals the deal for me. Pro-tip: This pizza is just as good cold and reheats like a champ. 202 W. Main St., Mason, twocitiespizza.com. — SS
Best Overall Pizza
From CityBeat's 2021 Best Of Cincinnati Reader Picks
1. Trotta’s Pizza & Drive Thru
4. Catch-a-Fire Pizza
5. Joe’s Pizza Napoli
6. Krimmer’s Italianette Pizza
7. Two Cities Pizza Co.
8. Fireside Pizza
9. Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria
10. Ramundo’s Pizzeria
Best Overall Pizza (Chain)
From CityBeat's 2021 Best Of Cincinnati Reader Picks
1. LaRosa’s Family Pizzeria
2. Dewey’s Pizza
3. Goodfellas Pizzeria
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*The print version of this story says Sami Stewart wrote the Chameleon pick. The writer is Sean M. Peters.