United States of Pizza: Kentucky
The Bluegrass State may be better known for the Colonel's fried chicken (or burgoo, mutton barbecue , and the hot brown sandwich), but it has plenty of good pizza to offer. Louisville has a number of celebrated pizzerias, but some of the best pies can be found at restaurants that don't specialize in pizza. Outside of Louisville, you can find VPN-certified pies as well as a pizzeria that caters mostly to rock-climbers. And things are getting better and better: local pizza fans are fired up about new wood- and coal- fired options coming to Louisville soon.
Of course, these are just a few places we've heard good things about. Got a recommendation for great Kentucky pizza? Help us out and put it in the comments.
Where to Eat Pizza in Louisville
Serious Eater kirkharrod calls Impellizzeri's is "the best in Kentucky." Owner Benny Impellizeri has been making pizzas in Louisville for over 40 years and has amassed a loyal following. He makes his pizzas with two layers of toppings and two layers of cheese in what he calls "Louisville Style Pizza".
Doug and Lynda from OurSerendip provide a more detailed description of Impellizeri's pepperoni pie:
The crust, though very thin, was soft and quite pliable, almost foldable like a New York-style pizza...It was also pleasantly chewy, yeasty with a caramelized aftertaste that a good pizza crust should have. The sauce was more like tomato paste, rather than the watery sauce you get most places, with a full-bodied, herby spiciness that will, without question please discriminating adult palates, but isn't quite sweet enough, I am afraid, for most kids. Paper-thin slices of pepperoni sit upon a thick layer of cheese. Unlike a lot places, these pepperoni had not curled up into little bowls that filled with grease...This was an almost grease-free pizza, which is very unusual for a pepperoni pie. As they took the pizza out of the oven, it had received an ample dusting of Parmesan cheese and herbs and was rushed steaming to our table.
1381 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204; 502-454-2711; 4933 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, KY 40222; 502-425-9080; 110 W Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202; 502-589-4900; impellizzeris.com
Tony Palombino has been making pizzas around the country since the early 90's, and he returned to Louisville in 1998 after pizza-making success in Kansas City and Cincinnati. The specialty at BoomBozz (Italian slang for "wild, crazy and fun") is a gourmet, nearly California-style pie, such as the Pollotate, topped with marinated chicken, roasted potatoes, Asiago, and red onions and the Portobello Bello, topped with sliced portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, fresh spinach, mozzarella, Asiago, and Fontina. But that doesn't mean that the pizzas as BoomBozz totally ignore tradition. Louisville food critic Robin Garr wrote:
They've recently been advertising a "Neapolitan Pizza" option with an "Italian-style thin crust." I rushed out for lunch and picked up a "Nonna" model, a generous medium pie topped with Italian sausage, prosciutto, red onions, fresh mozzarella, Asiago and Romano cheeses and Boombozz's pomodoro (tomato) sauce. Sure enough, it came close to the Neapolitan mark, particularly in the thin, cracker-like crust and judicious rations of textured, flavorful tomato sauce, toppings and cheese. The Asiago and Romano cheeses add a level of dairy earthiness that those accustomed to mild cheeses might find challenging, but this turophile loved* it.
Aaron Landry was quite impressed by BoomBozz's feta and artichoke pizza:
There was a perfection to its roundness and thickness to its crust that was pretty surprising. Even the evenness of the ingredients seemed calculated and the slices seemed to be cut perfectly. Despite it being served on a piece of corrugate, BoomBozz was the best pizza I had had in Louisville so far. A fantastic balance of ingredients and flavors. Great crust too.
3400 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206; 502-896-9090; and Westport Road at Herr Lane; 502-394-0000
1448 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204; 502-458-8889; and 12613 Taylorsville Road; Louisville, KY 40299; 502-261-0222
Papalino's NY Pizzeria
Papalino's recently won the Slice of the Highlands competition, taking home both the critic's choice and people's choice awards. Chef/owners Allan Rosenberg and John Browne opened this restaurant earlier this year, focusing on quality ingredients. Robin Garr of Louisville Hot Bytes describes the pizza:
Papalinos builds a big, basic pie—Rosenberg's 18-incher, hand-formed and close to the diameter of an irregularly shaped manhole cover, starts with a thin crust (they use the same flour as Louisville's Blue Dog Bakery, he boasts). It's topped with discreet, balanced portions of whole-milk mozzarella, sauce of Italian plum tomatoes, earthy grated Pecorino Romano cheese and dashes of oregano and snipped basil leaves...Thin, crisp, bread-like crust gains a light smoky char from high heat.
Special toppings sometimes include duck breast, smoky house-cured bacon, and spinach sauteed with garlic. The secret's out, though: lines form well into the early hours of morning.
947-949 Baxter Avenue; Louisville, KY 40204; 502-749-8525; papalinosnypizzeria.com
The building housing Clifton's Pizza used to be a hardware store, until Mark Langley converted the space to a pizzeria in 1990. Serious Eats community member Lhjone03 calls Clifton's "another great Louisville choice." Here's more from Louisville Hot Bytes writer Robin Garr:
Clifton's pizzas come on a thin but sturdy cracker-like crust and are piled generously high with topping ingredients; our 10-inch sausage, onion and green-pepper pie had to be at least an inch thick at the middle, most of it tangy tomato sauce, silken melted cheese and quality topping ingredients. The decor is funky and fun, more like a much-cleaned-up '60s hippie's pad with its old photos, pictures of Elvis, remarkable collection of clocks, Italian flags pinned to the ceiling and, in the front room, a continually-under-construction mural of a vaguely European village in a faraway kingdom with a name like Psychedelia.
Live music also draws crowds; there are performances most nights of the week.
2230 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville KY; 502-893-3730; cliftonspizza.com
Opinions are divided on Spinelli's. Some say that the only virtue to this pizzeria is that it has late night delivery until 4:30 a.m. Others are more generous. Urbanspoon user Frank writes:
I love the food here. I'm from the East Coast and this is as good as it gets with their hand tossed dough and the best pizza sauce. The service and attitude was authentic as well...Lol! You got to love the East Coast-style service: 'Here's your pizza now beat it!'
Though some think that the pizza is inconsistent, the convertible car turned into a booth for seating may justify a visit.
Highlands, 614 Baxter Avenue, Louisville, KY 40204; 502-568-5665
East End, 2905 Goose Creek Road, Louisville, KY; 40241; 502-632-2832
Serious Eater SFink recommends Luigi's pizza on Main Street in downtown Louisville: "Down the block from the Slugger Museum—baseball and pizza a great combination!" Yelper Ed H. agrees:
This is probably the best pizza in Louisville if you like it NY-style and by-the-slice. Their veggie pizza features lots of garlic, fresh tomatoes, and spinach, but the plain cheese pizza is still worthwhile. I wonder whether they make their own sausage because the pepperoni and sausage pizza is something to experience too. The sausage is sweet with a slight hint of spice.
702 W. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202; 502-589-0005
Wick's Pizza Parlor
Meredith and Michael Wickliffe started this local favorite in 1991 and have expanded to four locations. They're known for "The Big Wick", which is a huge (ten pound!) pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, tomatoes, onions, olives, mushrooms, and green peppers. If you're not ready for 10 pounds of pizza, there are plenty of other options, including Mexican pizza with chorizo, a bacon and ranch dressing pie (don't knock it till you've tried it), and a Philly cheesesteak pizza. Yelp user Mary R. declares:
Wick's is, hands down, my favorite pizza in the world. Yes, folks, I have lived in Chicago. I have lived in New York. I will take Wick's. I have brought New Yorkers to their knees with the Big Wick. A friend in Florida has called and begged to have them FedEx it to her. And every time I'm home, it's the last place I eat so that I can stuff the foil-wrapped leftovers in my bag for the long plane trip home.
975 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204; 502-327-9425; wickspizza.com
Mozz Mozzarella Bar and Caffe Classico
Some of the best pizza in Louisville may be coming from places that aren't, strictly speaking, pizzerias. Robin Garr of Louisville Hot Bytes suggests that while the new Mozz may take some time to warm up, "The pizza (part of a more extensive menu) at Caffe Classico is closer to pizzas I've enjoyed in Italy than any other in Louisville." The chefs at Mozz make fresh mozzarella every hour, and the restaurateurs source their ingredients from local farmers.
Mozz: 445 East Market Street, Louisville, KY 40202; 502-690-MOZZ; mozzlouisville.com
Caffe Classico: 2144 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206; 502-895-0076; caffe-classico.com
Jake's Mr. G's Lounge
Serious Eater lhjone03 writes: "Mr. G's is a hole-in-the-wall, but by far the best thick crust and cheesy pizza ever." Drinks are cheap and there's karaoke, too.
10432 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40223; 502-244-0165
This local chain, founded in 1977, has expanded throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana. Square cut, thin-crusted pizzas are piled with toppings (though some complain the crust can't stand up to the weight of the toppings.) Local beers on tap.
1318 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204; 502-456-4556 and several other locations. bearnos.mealamigo.com
Marty Rosen from The Courier-Journal writes that "this downscale, casual eatery, with its vinyl tile floors, plastic-covered red and white tablecloths, and kid-friendly feel, is about as cheerful as can be...the pizzas, pastas and sandwiches taste even better than memories of the good old days...[Mike Egnew takes pizzas from the oven] when dark, dramatic char marks have freckled the surface and crisped the edge." The thin crust is paper-thin and sliced tavern-style.
6614 Manslick Road, Louisville, KY 40214; 502-363-3211
Coal's Artisan Pizza and Other Spots on the Horizon
If you talk to local observers of Louisville's food scene, one of the most exciting developments has been the impending opening of two new pizzerias in St. Matthews. Steve Coomes of InsiderLouisville writes that Tony Palombino of Boombozz may soon be opening a restaurant with a wood-fired oven.
A coal-fired oven is being installed at Coal's Artisan Pizza, which may open as soon as January. Like the restaurant, their website is under construction, but you can check their Facebook page for updates. In the meantime, you can watch the oven video above.
3724 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY, 40247
For more adventures in Louisville pizza, check out Aaron Landry's blog, where he recounts his Louisville pizza tour.
Where to Eat Pizza in Lexington
Smashing Tomato has the distinction of being the only VPN-certified pizzeria in Kentucky. The "smashed" pizzas feature a spicy Arrabiata sauce. Wendy Miller of Kentucky.com writes that the "thin crust is tender and supple, a little chewy yet slightly crisp," and the sauce "does the dance that tomatoes, garlic, onions and herbs were born to do."
3801 Mall Road, Lexington, KY 40503; 859-273-0184; and 2200 War Admiral Way, Lexington, KY 40509; 859-264-1500; smashingtomato.com
Serious Eater PuckOTG22 recommended Joe Bologna's pizza to us—he's also a big fan of their breadsticks. This pizzeria is housed in a building near the University of Kentucky that started out as a Presbyterian church and was later converted into a synagogue. Yelper Adam A. writes that the toppings are the highlight of Joe Bologna's pies: "the sausage is ample and succulent, the veggies always fresh and cooked perfectly."
117 West Maxwell Street, Lexington, KY 40508; 859-252-4933
Pazzo's Pizza Pub
Serious Eater BigWillUK told us that Pazzo's is tough to beat in Lexington. This beercentric spot won WKYT's 2009 Best Pizza in Kentucky contest.
385 S. Limestone Street, Lexington, KY 40508; 859-255-5125.
The Grey Goose
Serious Eater Ali pointed us toward The Grey Goose, which she says "has great pizza if you like a thin crust. I tend to get their white pizzas, which are usually the pizza special. All the pizzas on the menu are tomato-based. And while its beer selection can't rival Pazzo's, the Grey Goose does have Kentucky Ale and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale on tap."
170 Jefferson Street, Lexington, KY 40508; 859-233-1500
BigWillUK also recommended Sutton's. Toppings include spicy home-made sausage. Wendy Miller of Kentucky.com praised Sutton's pies, writing: "the supple crust with its glaze of marinara sauce and the slightly crisp edges makes for a heavenly rendition of one of America's favorite foods."
110 N. Locust Hill Drive, Lexington, KY 40509; 859-268-2068
Sir Pizza of Kentucky
Sir Pizza has the distinction of being the oldest pizza restaurant chain in Lexington, serving Central Kentucky since 1963. According to Nick Weiler, "the BBQ pizza is the bomb diggity, try it some time." The pizzas are thin-crusted, tavern-cut, and loaded with cheese.
8 locations in and around Lexington; sirpizzaky.com
Where to Eat Pizza in Bowling Green
The Brickyard Cafe
When Serious Eater DoubleA, isn't making pizza at home, he enjoys the pies at The Brickyard Cafe. "Some may call them 'artisan,'" he writes, but "I just call them really good." The namesake pie includes Gorgonzola, tomatoes, mushrooms, and prosciutto, and you can also order pizza topped with shrimp or mussels.
1026 Chestnut Street, Bowling Green, KY 42101; 270-843-6431; and 205 W. Cedar St., Franklin, KY; 270-586-9080; brickyardcafe.net
Serious Eater Double A also likes The Bistro, calling their stuffed Chicago-style "fantastic". Yelper Kelly W. says the pizza: "was like this strange deep dish/thin crust mutant that made my stomach sing with glee."
1129 College Street, Bowling Green, KY 42101; 270-781-9646
Where to Eat Pizza in Richmond
Several Serious Eaters recommended that we check out Apollo Pizza in Richmond. SE'r Leo1881 said: "We had them deliver to our hotel when passing though town...it was amazing! We went totally nontraditional and got the bacon cheeseburger pizza and ultimate sub. Both were so good...definitely not healthy, but very tasty." There's also a blue bacon cheeseburger pie with blue cheese.
228 South 2nd Street,Richmond, KY 40475-2102; 859-623-0330; apollopizzamenu.com
Where to Eat Pizza in Berea
Puck OTG22 recommends Papaleno's in Berea: "A must try." It's close to the Berea college campus, and a student favorite (though some complain it's gone downhill.)
108 Center Street, Berea, KY 40403; 859-986-4497
Where to Eat Pizza After Rock Climbing in Slade
Miguel's Pizza & Rock Climbing Shop
Serious Eater Devil Ant Hatfield brought rock climber's hangout Miguel's Pizza to our attention:
Miguel's is one of America's great places. Nestled among the rocks and arches of Red River Gorge, it offers climbers and hikers a much-needed haven from the elements. Good pies, convivial atmosphere, and an wide variety of rappelling and climbing gear.
Owner Miguel Ventura came to Kentucky from Portugal and opened his climbing shop and pizzeria (plus campground!) in 1983. Miguel's was recently included in the "51 Great Pizza Parlors" roundup in USA Today.
1890 Natural Bridge Road, Slade, KY 40376; 606-663-1975
Where to Eat Pizza in Corbin
Vittorino's Italian Restaurant
Serious Eater Scrupmtiouschef recommends Vittorino's:
Not sure how a lady from Spain ended up opening an Italian restaurant in the former Dixie Dog Cafeteria on Main Street in Corbin, but she did. The restaurant scene in Corbin is not real strong but Vittorino's puts out an estimable slice. Nice char, scant sauce, bubbly edges on the crust. It won't make you recalibrate your view of pizza, but for a town of 7000 in the Appalachians, it is good.
208 S. Main Street, Corbin, KY 40701; 606-258-8383
What Are Your Favorites?
This guide is just a start. Slice'rs, help us out: where are the best pizzas you've ever tried in the state of Kentucky? Let us know in the comments.
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