Owner: Andrew Dana, Chris Brady, Daniela Moreira
Chef: Daniela Moreira
How they do it: The heart of Timber Pizza is the local farmers market where it started as a traveling pizza oven. Working side-by-side with farmers helped build the relationships that have led to fresh, unusual toppings. Take nectarines for example—they were there and they were fresh and inspired one of the restaurant’s best pizzas.
Steal it: The pros at Timber say never to blot pizza grease—it’s there for a reason!
Owners: Michael Friedman and Greg Augarten
Chefs: Michael Friedman, Greg Augarten, Brad Holderness
How they do it: Two Tulane students from New York were frustrated by the lack of New York-style pizza in New Orleans. They teamed up in 2010 to start a pop-up for what they affectionately call Pizza D. The menu is concise, just the classics—cheese, pepperoni, margherita—plus a rotating menu of specialty pies with toppings like broccoli rabe and pancetta. Everything is made from scratch.
Steal it: Remember where you came from and apply that to what the community you’re in needs.
Owner: Tim Semler and Lydia Moffet
Chef: Tim Semler and Gavin Sapien
How they do it: The kitchen? It’s a barn. The dining room? A field. At Tinder Hearth, the wood-fired bread and pastry bakery serves pies outside a few nights a week during Maine summers. The focus is on top-rate ingredients, that surround diners in the garden while they eat. The team sources meat and vegetables from local farms and slow-ferments their sourdough crust.
Steal it: Keep it simple—Tinder Hearth has a tiny menu, and changes the available toppings daily based on peak produce. “Our customers don't mind one bit,” says co-owner Lydia Moffet.
Owner: Betsy (Elizabeth) LeRoy
Chef: Paul Egnor
Pastry Chef: Anna Wilson
How they do it: Elizabeth LeRoy and Elizabeth Snyder opened Pizza by Elizabeths in 1993. LeRoy has been the sole operator for the last 15 years. When the restaurant was conceived, the Elizabeths loved making pizzas at home for their families and had shared recipes for years. “Then, we just decided to take a chance,” LeRoy says. With a marble bar, French chandeliers and a double-sided fireplace, Pizza by Elizabeths is not the typical pie shop. LeRoy calls it “the Disney World of Pizza.”
Steal it: Go beyond expectations.
New York City
Owner: Demian Repucci
How they do it: Bruno runs on love, says owner Demian Repucci, the love of pizza. “New York loves pizza. I love pizza. So why not pizza?” he says. Repucci sources organic wheat to grind into flour daily, giving the dough a deeper, more intense flavor. His foundation in design influenced a clean, modern space with “sculptural clarity,” plus a little bit of East Village rock and roll.
Steal it: Hire a team you hope will stay for a million years, but still be prepared to do everything yourself.
Owners: Ettore and Maria Rusciano
Chef: Ettore Rusciano
How they do it: Ettore Rusciano hails from Naples and he and wife Maria say they have just always loved true Neapolitan pizza—Verra Pizza Napoletana, as the certification goes. Like a pizzeria in Naples, Menomale makes the wood-burining oven the centerpiece of the restaurant. Pies are baked at 900 degrees and topped with the traditional fixings.
Steal it: Be passionate about pizza and don’t cut corners on cost.
Owners: Edward Bosco and Marianne Kresevich
Chef: Evan Bosco
How they do it: At Verde, pizza is for everybody: it’s delicious, it’s approachable, and it’s affordable. While Italian in origin, pizza is a food eaten by almost every American, says Verde co-owner Edward Bosco. When done right, it can have good margins and compete with any protein on the menu.
Steal it: Never compromise on quality.
Wilmington, North Carolina
Owners: Amber and Jud Watkins
Chef: Jeffrey Porter
How they do it: Wrightsville Beach Brewery’s primary goal is to brew great beer, but making unique pies goes right along with it. The pizza dough is made in-house daily with WBB’s Arlie Amber Ale. Co-owner Jud Watkins says not to worry, the alcohol bakes off in the oven. “You won’t get drunk off the pizza!”
Steal it: When it comes to making pizza dough, watch the moisture content—living in the South, Watkins says he notices humidity can impact the pizza dough. “We see this every summer but also on brew days.”
Owner: Stefanie and Mike Albaeck
How they do it: Stefanie and Mike Albaek thought their neighborhood needed another pizza place, specifically the type of pizza place from childhood. As a result, Proletariat is a family-friendly joint with video games and a play place. “It’s like the pizza parlor from being a kid—with better pizza and beer,” says Mike Albaeck.
Steal it: Like the lesson from “Ratatouille,” the Albaecks believe anyone can own a pizza place. Their advice is just to dive in.
Owner: David Mancini
Chef: David Mancini
How they do it: There was a decided lack of thin crust pies in Detroit when Supino opened, says owner David Mancini. Detroit is traditionally the home of the Sicilian-inspired Sfinciune-style pie. Supino’s pizza is mixed using minimal yeast and a bit of starter to develop full flavor, Mancini says. But making classic thin-crust pie doesn’t inhibit creativity. Manicini says Supino will try anything from the local markets, “rutabaga, celery root, sweet potatoes, you name it.”
Steal it: Model hard work for your crew—Mancini used to sleep in the basement on a cot sometimes in the beginning.