The best pizza in Tempe ranked by a New Jersey Italian

Some may say my standards are too high, but my hunger for quality pizza near campus had yet to be satisfied

Back in my home state of New Jersey, we have the best food — yes, I’m biased, but Italians from the East Coast have strong opinions, OK? 

We especially excel when it comes to Italian cuisine. Every town has at least three pizzerias and delis in the same strip mall, and each is ready to serve a little slice of heaven.

Imagine my horror after moving to Arizona and realizing this was not the case here. According to West Coast standards, the highest quality Italian establishments are Domino’s Pizza and Hungry Howie’s Pizza. 

Some may say my standards are too high, but my hunger for quality pizza near campus had yet to be satisfied. Italian food is definitely not a cuisine Arizona is well known for, but it’s worth a shot to show they have some skills to make it palatable — right? 

In order to satisfy my need for quality pizza, I went to eight places in Tempe and narrowed down my top 5. 

1. Sal’s Pizza 

By November of my freshman year, I was facing withdrawals. I could no longer stomach the cardboard from the dining hall — I needed real pizza as soon as possible. That’s when I stumbled upon Sal’s through a friend’s recommendation. Once I stepped in, I knew I was home. 

The slice’s size is reminiscent of something you would find on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk. When you order one slice, you’re basically getting two. The crust is the perfect in-between of fluffy and crunchy with just the right amount of dough air pockets. 

The pizza is always hot — so my mouth was burnt while writing this. With so many toppings and combinations to choose from, I never get tired of going. 

2. Gus’s New York Pizza 

Is there anything better than a 24-hour pizza shop that also serves pasta, subs and stromboli?

Gus’s definitely fits my modus operandi for eating pizza. Redbrick aesthetic, styrofoam cups, thin paper plates and — most importantly — grease-drenched napkins. Like Sal’s, the slices are huge, so go on an empty stomach. The dough is made from scratch every day and isn’t too dense. The gravy (yes I call it sauce gravy) isn’t too sweet or acidic, it’s just right, and the stringy mozzarella really brings it all together. 

Gus’s claim to fame is their oversized 32-inch pie, and although I have yet to tackle one, I still have two more years left of college to do so. 

3. Otto Pizza and Pastry 

After doing some research, I was a little apprehensive about eating pizza made by a French person — it is an Italian staple after all. 

New York-style pizza is hard to find outside The Big Apple, but Otto's comes close to the real deal. The homemade crust has the perfect crunch to it and the cheese to sauce ratio.

The prices are extremely reasonable, especially on a college budget. Nothing really beats getting a 12-inch cheese pie for $10 and a single slice is only $2.79! 

I've passed it multiple times unbeknownst to me since it's a bit tucked away, but I'm excited to go back to this little hole in the wall. 

4. D.P. Dough

It may not be a pizzeria, but D.P. Dough holds a special place in my heart. A steaming hot calzone just hits differently at 2 a.m. 

From the classics to the “construction zone,” there are so many options for so little time. While my usual order is the Chicken ParmaZone, I opted for the Buffer Zone this time. I am truly a sucker for anything with hot sauce and blue cheese. 

This shop is the real winner for cheese stretchability. It simply oozes out and each type of cheese perfectly complements the other ingredients. Not to mention they have a whole calzone with just mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta — talk about cheesy goodness. The side of gravy isn’t anything you would write home to Nonna about, but it’s pretty decent for a calzone shop. 

5. Zesty Zzeeks Pizza & Wings

This shop placed third for pizza in Ahwatukee Foothills News Best of 2018, so I had high expectations going in. 

I am glad to say, they did not disappoint. When I walked into Zzeeks, I felt like family, and that is something I greatly value in pizzerias. Their menu was more diverse than any of the others on this list. They had the classics but also offered cauliflower and broccoli cheddar crust, pizookies, and something called a crustless pizza bowl. 

To truly tell if this pizzeria was good, I played it safe with a regular slice of cheese pizza. In the future, I am ready to expand my horizons and come to truly understand what a pizza bowl really is. 

After a saucy week of trying every pizza place Tempe residents claim to be the “best,” I can safely say I narrowed down some options. But I also learned not all pizzas are created equally, especially in Arizona. 

I am stuffed, bloated and need to only eat salad for the next month to make up for all those carbs. 


Reach the reporter at omunson@asu.edu and follow @munson_olivia on Twitter. 

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