When most people talk about the best pizza in the U.S., they usually mention New York City, Chicago and New Haven. But there’s another city that rises to the top of the ranks, and that is our dear, dough-rich city of Baltimore.

How can I make such a bold claim? Well, I eat a lot of pizza. I know — so do a lot of people. But allow me to state my qualifications.

In the week leading up to “demerit-free pizza day” at my elementary school in Anne Arundel County, you could find me in a corner with crayons, construction paper and scissors, making made-to-order paper pies for my classmates. (I went to a small Christian school so this was the highlight of the month.)

Some members of The Pizza Pod. From left: Jamyla Krempel, Lee Krempel, Virginia Byrne, Abbie Day, Carl Aquila, Bess Aquila, John Aquila, Jacob Kriss.
Some members of The Pizza Pod. From left: Jamyla Krempel, Lee Krempel, Virginia Byrne, Abbie Day, Bess Aquila, Carl Aquila, John Aquila, Jacob Kriss. (Jamyla Krempel)

As an adult, I still look forward to pizza parties. During the pandemic, I created a pizza bracket to share with a group of friends. We call ourselves the Pizza Pod and we meet in each others’ homes to taste and vote on pies from across the city.

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But perhaps the most important thing you need to know about my love of pizza is that the stars aligned so that National Pizza Day, February 9, is my birthday. You know how I’ll be celebrating.

I have a deep appreciation for pizza and for Baltimore. Baltimore’s pizza scene is like its more than 200 neighborhoods — manifold, layered, beautiful.

A note before we dig in: I’m a pescatarian, so you won’t find any double pepperoni or pizzas piled with prosciutto. Carnivores should check out these recommendations from Charm City Table and EatMoreBeMore.

Let’s begin.

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Hersh’s

Hersh’s kale and pistachio pizza is a masterpiece. The crunch of the crispy kale, the meatiness of the slivers of pistachio, the heat from the red pepper flakes, the way the cheeses meld into the thin pizza floor, the chewiness of the crust … it’s a piece of wood-fired perfection and I pray it never leaves the menu.

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1843-45 Light St., Baltimore

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Verde

I love their artichoke, mushroom and eggplant-laden vegetariana and the briny depth that the olives and roasted red peppers bring to the verdure miste. But you can’t go wrong with any of their pizzas, including their vegan pies. Also, order yourself some of the homemade burrata cheese. Owner Edward Bosco once showed my husband and me how he made some of the rustic wood tables in his restaurant and gave us some of the screws to make our own, which we did. He’s a real one. And so are these pizzas.

641 S. Montford Ave., Baltimore

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Vito’s

Don’t overlook this gem because it’s in a shopping center. I have three favorites here: the caprese pizza with hearty rounds of mozzarella and a generous sprinkling of fresh basil; a NY-style cheese that has just the right amount of sweetness to the sauce and, when it’s fresh out of the oven, a decent cheese pull; and the white pizza with broccoli (because it’s healthier, right?). Tip: Order the garlic sauce for dipping your crust and don’t take long to order. The pizzaiolo is no-nonsense, but he often wears a T-shirt that reads, ”They see me rolling,” featuring a cartoon pizza-maker holding a rolling pin. I need that shirt.

6304 York Rd., Towson

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Jamyla Krempel peeks out behind a two-tier pizza tower at JBGBs.
Jamyla Krempel peeks from behind a two-tier pizza tower at JBGB’s. (Lee Krempel)

JBGB’s

Order the cheese pizza but ask them to put cherry peppers on it. I love the depth of this pizza and the two-tiered rack the friendly staff uses to deliver the pies. Not the best for conversing when you’re sitting at a small table, but my eyes are usually focused on the pizza, anyway.

2600 N. Howard St., Baltimore

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Pasta Mista

In a winter 2022 Pizza Pod tournament, Pasta Mista’s pesto margherita pizza won singlehandedly. The perfect amount of herbiness and saltiness and brimming with oil, it’s decadent and delicious. Note: This pie is not available at the Canton Pasta Mista. Get the plain cheese from there.

822 Dulaney Valley Rd., Towson

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Double Zero

All the pies at Double Zero are vegan and expect them to be artfully presented, whether it’s the rustic, sauce-heavy margherita, a rotating selection of vegetable-topped pizzas or pies complemented by various “meats.” Their macadamia- and cashew-based cheeses are delicious and it’s a double win if you get a pie that has the leopard spotting on the crust that appears when it’s cooked in a wood-fired oven.

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414 Light St., Inner Harbor

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Trinacria

Most people come here for the sandwiches, packaged goods or desserts, but I love visiting the 115-year-old store to pick up pizza crusts, a can of Don Pepino sauce, freshly grated mozzarella, and black olives with rosemary to make pies at home. You can also get a freshly made pie at their new Lexington Market location.

406 N. Paca St., Seton Hill

Best slices

I don’t need to be verbose here. They’re tasty and fill that one (or two) slice hankering.

Ribaldi’s (3600 Keswick Rd., Baltimore)

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Pasta Mista (3600 Boston St. #45, Baltimore)

Whole Foods (1330 Smith Ave., Baltimore) OK, I will explain this one: For the past couple months they’ve had a mushroom and caramelized onion pizza in the hot bar. Need I say more?

Best carryout

If you can manage not to scarf down the whole pie in transit, the pizzas below taste as good at home as they do dining in.

HomeSlyce (various locations)

Turp’s Sports Bar and Restaurant (1317 N. Charles St., Baltimore)

Zella’s Pizzeria (1145 Hollins St., Baltimore)

Pizza Boli’s (various locations)

One final note: This list is not wholly representative of Baltimore’s pizza offerings, they’re just my favorites. I encourage you to explore Baltimore’s pizza bounty and send me your recommendations. I will add a Reader’s Choice list to this story as your suggestions roll in.

jamyla.krempel@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jamyla Krempel is The Baltimore Banner’s digital editor. She manages our site and identifies opportunities to incorporate audio storytelling into The Banner’s coverage.

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