Friday, April 22, 2011

Pizza Wars

Do you have a refined taste for... pizza? It might seem like a Chicago vs. New York-type battle when it comes to the best pizza in the nation, but we can get some pretty good pizza pies at more destinations than the Windy City and the Big Apple—if we are willing to experiment, of course. Americans spent $336 billion on pizza just last year, and when Travel + Leisure readers voted on the top places to eat pizza in the U.S., they were divided between 20 popular “pizza towns” in the United States.

Top Pizza Cities

Chicago deep-dish pizza is basically the stuff of legend, with its amazing thickness, its special crust, and its combination of rich flavors. If you've been eating New York-style pizza all your life, trying Chicago pizza will ensure a memorable trip to Chi-Town.

Experts Say: “Some pizza lovers might find the decadent, deep-dish Chicago pizza extreme—but most fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Even so, the Windy City offers plenty of thin-crusted and gourmet-style pizza places too. As some kind of proof, the city ranks in the top 5 for being diverse.”

Where to Stay
Park Hyatt Chicago: Get a room with a view at the Park Hyatt Chicago, where you can find some of the best amenities and features of any hotel in town. Their downtown Chicago restaurant has been recognized by national publications.

Ritz Carlton Chicago: Soaring high about Michigan Avenue, the Ritz Carlton Chicago offers 24-hour business center access, newspaper delivery, and long-term luggage storage.

New York
If you try one kind of pizza in your life, it should be New York-style pizza (author's opinion only, of course). Famous for its thinness, its flavor, and the pride NYC residents have in it, it's an easy way for tourists to fill up before seeing all the sites.

Experts Say: “You can’t walk more than a block in the Big Apple without passing a pizzeria—and there are precious few chains (unless you count all those variations on Ray’s). These thin-crusted slices—fold yours lengthwise to look like a local—are probably the best bargain in the city, costing scarcely a couple bucks.”

Where to Stay
Sofitel New York: The midtown Manhattan hotel is close to some of New York's hottest attractions, and why wouldn't it be a popular stop for the well-to-do? Offering a fabulous Art Deco dining experience, this is a prime spot for experiencing the best of New York.

Jumeirah Essex House: The Jumeirah Essex House opened its doors after a decade of true luxury in American history, the 1920s, and has been flawlessly restored to highlight its rich 1920s past.

Philadelphia pizza can be hit-or-miss for the tourist who doesn't know quite where to go, but we'll try to help you get a handle on things. 5th-generation Tacconelli's Pizzeria is a good place to start your Philly pizza exploration, since they regularly get rave reviews for their oven-made pizzas cooked in an oven used to bake Italian immigrant's Giovanni Tacconelli's bread in the early 1900s.

Experts Say: “One of the classic East Coast thin-crust pizza cities, Philly seems to attract visitors who would rather eat than drink: its cocktail hour ranks a lowly No. 27. Locals, meanwhile, would perhaps rather eat than exercise or make chitchat.”

Where to Stay
Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia: This classic hotel is smack dab in the middle of it all, positioned close to the financial and commercial district, but still well-placed for shoppers and movie-goers.

Sofitel Philadelphia: This downtown Philadelphia hotel is a four-star luxury hotel lying just on the corner of Philadelphia's French quarter. Each of their well-appointed guest rooms features French bath amenities and a well-stocked mini bar.

Savannah might surprise you when it comes to pizza eateries. The city ranked high on the list of pizza towns in the United States, and we can't help but wonder if the high population of students helps pizza sales move at a quicker pace.

Experts Say: “Must be all those fresh coastal breezes—to AFC voters, everything in this Georgia city tastes great. Its neighborhood cafés ranked No. 2 in the survey, and its burgers and barbecue join pizza in the Top 10.”

Where to Stay
When you're trying out Savannah, don't forget to swing by Atlanta, too!

Old-time Boston isn't famous for its pizza, but its rich cultural makeup does boast a fair number of Italian immigrants. Pizza pies are easy to find, and rustic variations with a New England twist are definitely part of the artisan pizza movement in this city. Keep an open mind and try a slice!

Experts Say: “This city full of history boasts great neighborhoods, many with longtime Italian roots. That means plenty of old-school pizza options, such as legendary spots Regina and Santarpio’s.”

Where to Stay
Fairmount Copley Plaza: Since opening in 1912, the Copley Plaza has delivered exemplary service to a stream of high-ranking guests from around the world. Look into the Fairmont Gold, which is a lifestyle experience service offered by the hotel.

InterContinental Boston: Boston's past is at your fingertips when you stay at the Intercontinental Boston. The hotel has its finger on the pulse of the international scene, but it is located right on the historic waterfront.

Pizza Quotes

John Vakidis, a Dallas-area sales consultant: “Chicago-style pizza beats New York pizza any day. The crust has more flavor, and people would drive 50 miles to eat it. Most New York–style pizza tastes like cardboard, and I wouldn’t drive five minutes for it.”

Alex Hayden, a Seattle photographer: “Both styles have their merits. But New York’s is obviously better.”

Peter Reinhart, a cooking instructor: “Pizza is really changing, thanks to an artisan movement. The focus has really shifted to the crust, creative toppings, and local ingredients. Some people say that deep-dish is more of a casserole than pizza, but who cares? It’s still really good.”

With all these opportunities to try new pizza, perhaps you could lift your loyalty for just a single vacation. The artisan movement delivers new and unusual pizza-cooking techniques and recipes all over the United States, and if you have a good basis of comparison in New York or Chicago, you can be an even better judge.

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