Looking for good pizza is never an easy task. With so many styles to choose from and personal preferences to consider, it's often difficult to narrow down the options. Individual pies may differ, but there's always a set of requirements that must be met: a beautiful crust, just the right amount of cheese, a tasty sauce, and the perfect toppings. More than any other food, pizza is perhaps the most subjective of fare.
In Palm Beach County, a handful of late-night spots off the downtown strips in cities like West Palm Beach and Lake Worth serve standard slices. In Delray Beach and Boca Raton, specialty coal- and wood-fired restaurants dish out varying versions of what each spot considers the perfect pizza. A few follow the old-world techniques, delivering Neapolitan-style pies using imported flour and artisan ovens.
But, no matter what style, shape, or size, a good slice of pie is a good slice no matter which way you, um, slice it.
To help navigate Palm Beach County’s selections, New Times teamed up with WorstPizza.com founder and South Florida pizza expert Craig Agranoff to find the area’s best slices. Here are our picks for the best pizzerias in Palm Beach County.
1501 NW Boca Raton Blvd., Boca Raton; 561-368-1330; augys.com.
A family-style and family-run spot, Augy's Restaurant and Pizza has been baking up some pretty stellar round and square pies for decades. The deep-dish Special Sicilian is a favorite, baked hot and fresh with a boatload of toppings including pepperoni, mushrooms, hamburger meat, sausage, green peppers, bacon, and onion. It's a mouthful, to say the least, but these pizzas hit home with a flavorful, tangy sauce. Arrive during the day and you can pick up a slice, rather than a whole pie. Fancy a thinner crust? Each of Augy's several specialty pizzas can be made with a traditional, thin crust. That includes everything from the white pie, with homemade ricotta and mozzarella cheese, to the Bellagio, with toppings like chicken breast, roasted red peppers, and artichoke hearts.
14466 S. Military Trl., Delray Beach; 561-638-6442; bambinisgardenpizza.com.
If you're the type that likes to dine and dash (while paying, obviously), look no further than Bambini's Pizza Garden in Delray Beach. From the same owner of the Girls and the Boys Market, the walk-in eatery offers a large selection of grab-and-go pizza by the slice — plus Italian subs, both hot and cold. You can eat in as well at any of the tables next door at the Girls' sit-down dining area or at one of the two-seat tables where walk-in customers place their orders. Regular slices come in a variety of toppings — a total of 20 to choose from — each prepared with homemade cheese and sauce. They also have a stellar Sicilian that can be ordered plain or with pepperoni and meat, always with a doughy crust that arrives with a layer of toasty-melted cheese atop a thin layer of sauce.
10. Hot Pie Pizza
123 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach; 561-655-2511.
Hot Pie Pizza, located near Clematis Street on South Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach, is a favorite for many late-night diners. The owner, who hails from Queens, New York, headed south to be near family after selling off a couple of pizzerias in his home state. While you can be easily confused by other places named Hot Pie, this is the original that the chef currently owns. He's also building a new establishment on Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. So what makes these pies so good? Hot Pie uses a hybrid oven that burns gas and coal, a heating style that keeps the temperature at approximately 550 degrees, the coal used to add a smokey flavor to the crust. The sauce is made from crushed San Marzano tomatoes with a touch of basil, salt, and pepper that marries beautifully with the fresh-grated mozzarella. The regular pie is the crowd pleaser, but if you prefer fresh cheese, try the Johnny’s New Yorker. Pro tip: Don’t go after lunch between 2 to 5 p.m., when they close to take a break and freshen up the place before dinner service.
9. Pizza de Roma
5615 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach; 561-547-2348; pizzaderoma.net.
Sometimes you find the best food in the most unlikely places. That's how you'll feel when you walk into Pizza de Roma off Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. The restaurant has been faithfully serving up slices to area residents — many of whom hail from Palm Beach Island nearby — since 1998. Today, the chef-owner who runs the business for his late father-in-law may be Albanian by birth, but his pizza is straight-up Italian American. The plain cheese pies he bakes up offer the golden ratio of dough (thin and crispy on the bottom but strong enough to hold its own), sauce (not too sweet and not too tangy), and cheese (a thin veil of melted Grande that is neither greasy nor burnt). There are a half-dozen specialty pies on the menu, including a salad pie with lettuce, tomato, onion, black olive, and gorgonzola cheese, but the plain is good enough to hold its own against area competitors.
8. Manhattan Joe's
5030 Champion Blvd., Boca Raton; 561-995-6563; manhattanjoespizzeria.com.
Manhattan Joe’s has yet to be discovered by the masses. It is located in the Polo Club Shoppes just outside of the Polo Club in Boca Raton, near the Delray Beach Border on Military Trail. Owner Joe Chiapetta opened the pizzeria by way of New York, then Beverly Hills. Although the regular slices are great here and the Sicilian is topnotch, the best is an off-menu pizza Vannuchio makes only on Thursdays called the Long Island Sicilian. The pizza has a small coating of sauce layered across the square-shaped dough. From there, it's topped with quality sliced mozzarella cheese and then another layer of sauce. Bread crumbs, fresh garlic, and parmesan cheese provide the final layer, along with some extra virgin olive oil as a finishing touch. You'll know when the pie is ready; a heady aroma of fresh-baked cheese and garlic wafts from the oven. A new East Boca location is slated to open later this year, so you won't have to head out west for a taste of these spectacular pies.
7. Motor City Pizza
1538 SW Eighth St., Boynton Beach; 561-736-3000; motorcitypizzandeli.com.
With so many transplanted New Yorkers calling South Florida home, it's easy to find a slice of NY-style pie. But deep dish is a little harder to come by. And Detroit-style deep dish? Forget it. You probably didn't even know that was a thing, unless you're from the Midwest. The square pies are just one of many Detroit-inspired dishes you'll find at newly opened Motor City Pizza & Deli in Boynton Beach. According to co-owners Amy Pozzi and Jeff Emming — who opened the business alongside Pozzi's cousin Mark Tocco and his wife Vanessa — the three-week-old restaurant offers a little bit of everything from their home state of Michigan, including more than a dozen deep-dish pizza options prepared by Tocco himself. Each features a perfect deep-dish crust: a light, porous dough that's spongy and soft at the center, framed by a crispy bottom and cheese-baked crusty top. Motor City's deep-dish pies are baked in rectangular-shaped industrial steel pans and topped with a combination of Wisconsin brick and mozzarella cheeses. The blend allows the cheese to remain gooey at the center while the cheese at the edge of the pan caramelizes into the crust. Pozzi says customers have already compared the pies to Buddy's, the Detroit-based restaurant credited with introducing the city's deep-dish pizza recipe in the early 1940s. It's a huge compliment, especially coming from Michigan natives.
6. Pizzeria 5000
1901 NW Second Ave., Boca Raton; 561-672-7854; communitytbl.com.
Boca Raton's Pizzeria 5000 (once known as Community Table) opened in a rather unassuming shopping center near Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton with one mission in mind: to make the best pizza in Palm Beach County. The square pie is killer. Today, the pizza joint also serves regular round pies as well as several specialty pizzas. One of the pie's is even a tribute to Agranoff's favorite combo. Dubbed "The Craig," it's a white pie featuring a layer of both grated and fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic, olive oil, and sliced homemade meatballs topped off with still more fresh-grated Romano cheese. Love it? You can order the Craig Fries too, a basket of fries featuring the same toppings.
1901 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach; 561-404-1334; gratowpb.com.
When you want the best of the best where pizza is concerned, you head to see chef Clay Conley. As the most casual of the local celebrity chef's restaurants, Grato is still sophisticated, certainly not your average pizza joint. The roar of conversation will bounce from the exposed Dade County-pine-covered ceilings 40 feet above the open, wood-fueled pizza oven painted a bright Ferrari red. Patrons can choose to sit at the kitchen bar for a front-row seat to the action, watching as chefs shuffle pies in and out of the oven from open to close. If $17 seems high for a Hawaiian pizza, note that the pineapple and pork in question are spit-roasted, wood-fired, and married with house pickled jalapeños. Like almost all of Conley's fare, each pizza is beautifully cooked, a mild kiss of smoke layered between chewy-crusty dough and a sweet-tangy red sauce.
4. Scuola Vecchia
522 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561-865-5923; scuolavecchiapizzeria.com.
Scuola Vecchia in Delray Beach translates into “Old School,” and what you get at this Atlantic Avenue Pizza spot is truly authentic old-school style, which means the recipes — and the pies — are straight from Italy. This is, without a doubt, one of the best authentic Neapolitan pizzas in the county, with housemade ingredients cooked inside an Acunto wood-fired oven delivered straight from Napoli, Italy. The restaurant works closely with Roberto Caporuscio, president of APN America (Assciazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletana), ensuring the organization's standards on everything from flour consistency to the tomato sauce, the quality of the mozzarella, and the temperature of the oven (950 degrees, to be exact). Pies are done in just a minute and a half, keeping with tradition. The Margherita in particular must use an exact amount of sauce, fresh basil, and mozzarella in order to be worthy of being served. It's a fast-paced yet precise process, and the restaurant's design allows you to watch the action from wherever you sit.
3. Nino's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
7120 Beracasa Way, Boca Raton; 561-392-9075; ninosofboca.com.
Since 1983, this family-owned and family-operated Boca Raton place located in the back corner of a shopping plaza off Palmetto Park Road has been preparing some of the best red sauce and Italian Sicilian pies around, says Agranoff. It was one of WorstPizza.com's favorite slices when he moved to the area more than 15 years ago, and the pizzeria remains one of his go-to stops for a quick slice to this day. Agranoff's personal favorite here is the upside down pie they call Nona's Sicilian, an off-menu pie you'll need to ask chef-owner Marco Tornabene for by name. It takes about 45 minutes to prepare but is worth the wait, made using only the finest Mozzarella cheese available, layered generously between coatings of Tornabene's grandmother's original pizza sauce. The Sicilian is fluffy yet crisp, and the regular slice crowd is the perfect balance of chew and crust, making Nino’s one of those places that deserves to call itself true New York-style pizza in South Florida.
201 E. Ocean Ave., Lantana; jerkoceano.com.
Whether you know it as Jerk Oceano or Pizza Oceano, this Lantana spot is best known for its slow food approach to pizza. Chef-owner Dak Kirpatrick marries daily-bought and imported specialty ingredients to create thin-crusted pizza perfection. The 450-square-foot bungalow-style restaurant is in little more than a shack — just a table or two inside to eat, a short bar, and string lights strung from the roof to the wooden patio that offers a few more tables al fresco. Every day it's open (Tuesday through Saturday), a new menu is printed listing the day's ingredients and specials, all cooked right in front of you in the chef's handmade wood-burning oven. Selections, created anew each day, feature all locally sourced produce and seafood. The true beauty of Oceano's pizza is its crust, a crisp bed to lay out these marvelous gourmet toppings. It's a dough that's made daily and in finite amounts, fermented for 24 hours. Sometimes there's just enough to yield only 50 pies a night. Pizzas rotate between Kirpatrick's classic red or white and — some weekends — both. Get there early and set up shop on the outdoor patio. You won't be disappointed.
1. Tucci's Fire N Coal Pizza
50 NE First Ave., Boca Raton; 561-620-2930; tuccispizza.com.
According to Agranoff, Tucci's Fire N Coal Pizza is one of the 10 best pizza restaurants in the U.S., a nod to the quality of pies produced by chef-owner Alberto Alecto, also owner of Boca's 13 American Table. This quaint eatery, located off a quiet side street near Boca Raton's Mizner Park, offers beautiful pies baked in an oven that burns both coal and oak wood. You might be discouraged by the line of people waiting outside for a table (especially on weekends), but don’t let that stop you from scouting out a parking spot. These are really some of the best pizzas Palm Beach County has to offer. Agranoff's favorite is the restaurant's regular slice, a simple Margherita that arrives at the table with a thin, crispy crust cooked just right with dots of fresh mozzarella. The real secret is in the sauce, a light but zesty tomato sauce made with California plum tomatoes that uses an old-country recipe passed down for generations through the family.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.