There’s no doubt that we love pizza in America. According to some studies, it’s our favorite food, enjoyed more than steak, hamburgers, tacos, or pasta. Statistics show that we eat an average of 23 pounds of pizza per capita annually.
A lot of that gets consumed at home, of course, either made from scratch or, far more often, picked up from the supermarket freezer case or ordered in for delivery. And a lot of that comes from some of the nation’s top pizza companies — led by Domino’s and Pizza Hut, both of them $12 billion-plus businesses worldwide.
But there are about 77,000 pizzerias and restaurants specializing in pizza around the country, and many of these are single operations or units of small regional chains. Some of these minor players in the pizza world are very good, offering unique approaches to this favorite food of ours — and pizza-lovers would benefit if they were more widely accessible.
Considering various pizza rankings and reading through numerous regional reviews, 24/7 Tempo has come up with a list of regional pizzerias that are well deserving of attention beyond their original target areas. All are first-rate — even though none of them made 24/7 Tempo’s recent Yelp-based list of America’s 25 favorite pizza joints.
In some cases, these chains have remained — at least so far — in just one state or small geographical area, like Pat’s Pizza, whose 15 locations are all in Maine, or Buddy’s Pizza, exclusive to Michigan.
Others, like Chicago-based Aurelio’s, have a few outposts far afield. One, L.A.’s 800 Degrees, has even opened in Japan and the Middle East. But if a chain is concentrated in one portion of the country, it qualifies as local by our reckoning.
We haven’t listed anything that’s too big, however. Some chains on this list have fewer than 10 units; only one has more than 50. We haven’t included such operations as Marco’s, with more than 900 units, or the 1,400-unit Papa Murphy’s — though both are among the restaurant chains with the happiest customers.
We’d be happy to see any chain on this list opening down the street. Perhaps one day some of them will.