Italian tonight? We’re not sure it’s considered Italian food anymore so much as simply a part of the food pyramid. Hot, cold, reheated, it’s versatile and delicious. Then there are the seemingly endless styles: New York, Chicago, Sicilian, to name a few popular ones. If you’re not in the mood for the best frozen pizza, you may be left wondering which pizza chain is the best. Well, we had to know so we set out across the web to find the consensus best pizza chains, according to food experts, and we’ve listed them here for you. Before getting to the list, let’s discuss some differences in the styles.
Tasting Table says that NY style pizza is “probably the most common style of pizza in America.” They note that these “pies typically have a thinner crust, with lots of low-moisture mozzarella cheese piled on top. They’re prepared as big, flat pies — typically 18 inches or more — and sold as whole pies or slices. The cheese goes almost all the way to the edge of the crust, with an inch or so of dough left to handle the slice while eating.” These are generally the large floppy slices that many people fold to devour.
If the typical NY style pie isn’t your thing, and you’re looking for a pizza that doesn’t look like a stereotypical pizza, Sicilian may be more to your liking. “This variation of pizza offers up a square slice baked in a deep dish, with a far thicker crust and a lot more chewiness than its flatter cousin,” writes Tasting Table.
Chicago deep dish pizza stands out from the crowd with its thick crust and sauce that rests on top of the cheese and ingredients. It has all the makings of a typical pizza, just organized in a different fashion as noted by The Spruce Eats: “As for those fillings, they’re layered on in an inverted order, with the cheese on the bottom, any meat and vegetable toppings in the middle, and the tomato sauce on the top. This is to prevent the cheese from burning, due to the longer cooking time required for deep-dish pizzas.”
Now that we’re all hungry, let’s get to that list of the five best pizza chains, according to the pie pros. As always, we want to hear from you. Comment below to let us know which pizza chain most often makes its way onto your table!
The List: Best Pizza Chains, According To Experts
A chain that years ago wasn’t known for great pizza has undergone drastic changes in recent years. They’ve revamped their locations and menu offerings to keep pace, and often outdo competition. Domino’s now tops the list of many reviews when it comes to best pizza chains.
Far & Wide notes: “Is this the best pizza you’ll ever taste? Of course not. This is fast food we’re talking about. But this is our go-to when we want something that goes well with a movie night without burning holes in our pockets. Besides, Domino’s Philly cheesesteak pizza is one of the best pizzas in the fast-food world.”
“Domino’s is probably the brand that surprised me the most during this ranking. The quality here is higher than you’d think a national pizza chain would have — the dough is yeasty and crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, with an airy crust and a liberal dusting of cornmeal that helps create a really great and sandy texture to this pizza,” writes UPROXX. Hard not to crave pizza after reading that.
2. California Pizza Kitchen
What started in Beverly Hills as one restaurant in 1985 has now spread globally. Though this brand struggled in 2020, even filing bankruptcy, they seem to be back on track and plan to add new franchise locations.
Spoon University writes: “This pizza chain restaurant takes the gold with a slightly more upscale dining experience to go with delicious, innovative flavors. California Pizza Kitchen invented the barbecue pizza in 1985, but they didn’t stop there. Now they offer a wide range of pizzas with fresh, California-inspired ingredients alongside pastas, power bowls, and amazing salads. The wood fired oven takes these pizzas to a level beyond chain pizza.”
“Since pizza originates from Italy, one might think pizza made with Italian ingredients is superior to those without Italian ingredients or baking style. California Pizza Kitchen is one of the few pizza chains that successfully discredits this assumption. From their operating style, you’d notice a strong zeal to discover more pizza mixes that can taste even better than their Italian counterparts,” writes Oak and Rowan.
3. Pizza Hut
With the number of locations this pizza chain has, it would be hard for anyone to go through life without bumping into one. It’s so well-known that it’s even mentioned in an Eric Church song.
“Pizza Hut is one of the most iconic pizza joints in America, and is a firm favorite with many. While pizza is the main food they serve, they have a good selection of wings and sides too. Pizza Hut have been established since 1958, and have over 7,000 restaurants in America,” writes Restaurant Clicks.
“’Nobody out-pizzas the Hut,’ the brand boldly proclaims, and against the other major national franchises, this ended up being pretty close to totally true,” writes Eat This, Not That!.
And for a couple of fun facts about the chain, from the Pizza Hut blog: “(1994) Pizza Hut becomes the first national chain to offer pizza delivery ordering on the internet; and (2001) Pizza Hut becomes the first company to deliver to space with a pizza delivery to the International Space Station.”
4. Mellow Mushroom
The name may not make you think of pizza, but this chain popped up as one of the best across many lists we reviewed. According to Wikipedia, there are 170 locations in the US with the first opening in 1974.
“Quite a few restaurants have some very unique names, and Mellow Mushroom is certainly no different. This place began in Atlanta, Georgia, and it’s since become a very popular place for men and women to take their families when they want to enjoy a nice pizza out of the house,” writes The Recipe.
And according to Mashed, this pie isn’t just for college kids looking for a late-night slice: “If you went to college in the southeast, you no doubt had more than your share of pizzas from Mellow Mushroom, which was considered “the good stuff” compared to your late-night $5 pies. But Mellow Mushroom still holds up even when you’re not in school. The chain’s pizzas come with a relatively sweet and wheat-forward crust that’s dotted with parmesan cheese and a light coat of olive oil.”
5. Papa John’s
You’ve likely seen Papa John’s commercials. They were the official pizza sponsor of the NFL for years. And though that deal is now dead, the chain is still very much alive with over 5000 locations worldwide.
Papa John’s touts “Better Ingredients” as part of their slogan, and they seem to back it up as Shopfood.com notes: “Papa John’s serves pizza that is free of MSG, BHA, BHT, cellulose, and partially hydrogenated oils.”
Restaurant Clicks ranks this chain number one on their list of best pizza chains “because not only is this takeaway pizza delicious, but it is great value for the money too. Their sauces are delicious, and they also sell things such as wings and sandwiches.”
And if you’ve ever wondered why there’s a pepperoncino in every pizza box, we found out from Insider: “The reason behind this goes back to owner John Schnatter’s days as a dishwasher at his father’s pub where the free pepperoncini was ‘his thing.’”
You may also be interested in:
- Best Frozen Pizza
- Best Pasta Sauces
- Best Fast Food Breakfast
- Healthiest Fast Food Options
- Best Taco Bell Menu Items
- Best Ben & Jerry’s Flavors
- Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Restaurant Clicks
- Spoon University
- Far & Wide
- Eat This, Not That!
- Oak and Rowan
- The Recipe
- Tasting Table
- The Spruce Eats
- Pizza Hut
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