The United States of Pizza: Mississippi
William Faulkner wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages about his native Mississippi, but not a paragraph about its pizza. I'm not entirely sure why. In The Sound and the Fury, the Compson family is hit with a brick ton of tragedy; a tasty pie from Tribecca Allie's or Sal and Mookie's might have at least cheered them up a bit.
With the help of local writers—Liz Barrett, blogger (Eating Oxford) and editor-in-chief of PMQ Pizza Magazine; Evelyn Roughton, who blogs and runs a gourmet food shop and the Crown Restaurant in Indianola; Sarah Ribstein, of Carpe Jackson; and a Jackson-based food writer who blogs at Eat Jackson! (EatJxn) and Eat 228—as well as local newspaper archives, we put together this guide to the best pizza in Mississippi. We've rounded up a diverse range of options—old and brand new, locally-sourced, Neapolitan, wood-fired—but as usual, we'd love to hear your recommendations in the comments.
Where to Eat Pizza in Northern Mississippi
Tribecca Allie Café
Located a few miles outside Oxford, the Tribecca Allie Café serves some of the area's best Neapolitan-style pies. Thecafé's owners, Dutch and Rebecca Van Oostendorp, moved to Sardis, Mississippi from New York, and the restaurant's name and its pizza are homage to their former home. Pizzas are baked in a hand-built wood fired oven; a visiting US Pizza Champion compared the Van Oostrendorps' perfectly charred crust to Chris Bianco's. In keeping with Neapolitan style, toppings are pretty traditional, but a house specialty, the "Rosa Magnolia," features Mississippi pecans.
This past September, Tribecca Allie won second place at the American Pizza Championship in Orlando, FL. The award-winning pizza—a modified version of their Rosa Magnolia, with red onion, whole milk mozzarella cheese, "two additional cheeses," and pecans topped with arugula, pine nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette—is now available on their everyday menu. Liz Barrett, who runs EatingOxford.com and edits PMQ Pizza Magazine, picked the champion pie as her favorite, but says the plain cheese pizza is great as well: "I'm usually at Tribecca at least once per month—if not more—and make sure to sit at an extra large table with my friends because it's inevitable that we're going to order tons of food!" Barrett writes.
Bonus tip: apparently the cinnamon rolls (also wood fired) are pretty good, too.
216 South Main Street, Sardis, MS; 662-487-2233; tribeccaallie.com
Lost Pizza Company
Evelyn Roughton particularly recommended this place to us, saying that "their pizza is fabulous!" Lost Pizza (originally Lost Dog) was founded in 2007 by childhood friends Preston Lott and Brooks Roberts. Since then, they've added two locations in Cleveland and Tupelo. Local fans say Lost Pizza is the best in the state; one Yelper says "if you're in the Delta and don't eat here, you are missing the point of being in the Delta."
If you prefer a less-traditional pie, you might like some of Lost Pizza's original creations. In addition to standard options—sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, etc—there's also the "Pit Boss" (pulled pork, barbecue sauce drizzle), a Taco Pie with ground beef and a salsa base, and a handful of other pizzas topped with ranch dressing. At the Cleveland location, you can play Guitar Hero while you wait.
807 Highway 82 W, Indianola, MS; 662-887-1555, also 3745 Highway 61, Cleveland, MS; 662-864-1300 and 1203 N Gloster Street, Suite J, Tupelo, MS; 662-841-7887; lostpizza.com
Exactly what it sounds like. Square or rectangle pies are relatively common in the Midwest, but a rarer bird below the Mason-Dixon. This spot (which advertises dough made daily, and fresh shredded provolone) is a hit with Ole Miss students. It's such a campus institution that a university art class recently displayed their art in the Square Pizza windows.
It's also especially popular with the late-night, post-party crowd. One Yelper warns, "if you're not drunk, you might want to find another place to eat."
1101 Van Buren Avenue, Oxford, MS; 662-234-9333; squarepizza.com
Old Venice Pizza Co.
Old Venice opened in Oxford in 1997, and since then has expanded to two more locations in Mississippi and another in Tennessee. Billed as "the product of a Deep South upbringing blended with old-world Italian heritage," Old Venice offers both traditional and more creative hand-tossed pies, and while this spot doesn't get universal praise from critics, it's popular with locals.
The "Banscueccio" comes topped with Creole spiced chicken, red onions, jalapeno, mozzarella, and cream cheese (which is apparently a pizza trend in Missisippi); several Yelpers recommend the pie topped with crawfish tails.
1112 Van Buren Avenue, Oxford, MS; 662-236-6872, also 3117 McCullough Boulevard, Belden, MS; 662-840-6872 and 110 E. Main Street, Starkville, MS; 662-320-6872; oldvenice.com
More pizzerias to look into around Northern MS: Pizza Den (499 Heritage Drive, Oxford, MS; 662-234-5537), 3 Guys Pizza (121 Heritage Drive, Oxford, MS; 662-234-3310), and Vanelli's Restaurant (1302 N Gloster Street, Tupelo, MS; 662-844-4410).
Where to Eat Pizza in Central Mississippi
Sal and Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint
It's hard to imagine state-wide consensus about where to find the best pizza. But bloggers across Mississippi—EatJxn, who blogs about both Jackson and the Mississippi Coast, Liz Barrett of Eating Oxford and PMQ Pizza Magazine, and Carpe Jackson's Sarah Ribstein—all put Sal and Mookie's near, if not at the very top, of their list. Barrett says, "I never travel through Jackson, Mississippi, without stopping into Sal and Mookie's for a pie—extra large so there are leftovers!"
Sal and Mookie's is also a consistent high-scorer in the Jackson Free Press Best of Jackson Awards. Fans love their hand-crafted pizzas made with King Arthur flour, whole milk mozzarella, and imported Italian tomatoes. Fresh herbs are grown on premises, and the pies are cooked in brick-lined, gas-fired deck ovens. EatJxn writes:
I love the crust on these pizzas. It's the perfect texture, not too chewy not too soft. It has a crispy finish and it's the perfect thickness.
There are a number of topping combinations to choose from; Liz Barrett loves the 4 Train, which features homemade spicy Chipotle BBQ sauce, sharp yellow cheddar, mozzarella, roasted pork loin or grilled chicken, corn, red onions, and fresh cilantro.
565 Taylor Street, Jackson, MS; 601-368-1919; salandmookies.com
Tom's Original Fried Pies
Not strictly a pizza place, but I think this one deserves special mention. Tom's Original Fried Pies serves, well, fried pies—both sweet and savory, and fried to order. Standards like apple and pecan find their place on the menu, as do chicken and hamburger and breakfast (egg, sausage, and cheese) variations. This being a pizza roundup, there's also a fried mozzarella-and-marinara-filled option. One Yelper describes it as "like a fresh Hot-Pocket or something."
225 E. McDowell Road, Jackson, MS; 601-665-4030
Thin-crust (some say crispy) pizza in downtown Hattiesburg. In the Jackson Clarion-Ledger dining guide, Bianchi's is described as a spot with "authentic Ellis Island roots, selling mouthwatering New York style pizza by the slice, perfect for a late night snack after a pub crawl."
Whole pizzas are available too, with a variety of toppings. The Gallucci comes with pancetta, prosciutto, sausage, and lamb; the Gianette combines sun-dried tomato pesto with avocado, pancetta, chicken, and red onion. Most of the wood-fired pies are topped with a three-cheese blend of mozzarella, Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano.
128 East Front Street, Hattiesburg, MS; 601-450-1263; bianchispizzeria.com
According to the restaurant's own website, Pizza Shack is "known for Mississippi's best pizza." Locals have backed them up on the municipal level, and voted the Pizza Shack Best Pizza several years running in the Jackson Free Press Best of Jackson Awards.
Andi Agnew from the Free Press writes:
Pizza Shack's crust alone is so delicious: It provides a solid, never-too-greasy foundation for whatever toppings you choose, even rare items like gyro meat and smoked Gouda.
This is another place that likes to get creative with its toppings. The "Turkey Club" is a pizza-fied version of the sandwich, plus honey mustard tomato sauce, and the "Thai Chicken" builds on a peanut sauce base. In fact, few pizzas start with just plain tomato sauce—maybe a good thing, since one blogger I spoke to found the sauce way too sweet.
1220 North State Street, Jackson, MS; 601-352-2001; thepizzashackjackson.com
Soulshine Pizza Factory
Soulshine Pizza Factory was named best pizza in Mississippi Magazine's 2010 "Best of Mississippi" Guide (which you can download here.) So if you find yourself a couple miles outside Jackson craving a pie, Soulshine is worth a shot—if you're lucky, you might catch one of the local bands the restaurant hosts several times weekly.
Locals recommend the Jacksonian, which comes with garlic ranch sauce, mozzarella cheese, grilled chicken, chopped tomatoes, green onion, and Parmesan. Other favorites include the Rainbow Warrior (a Hawaiian pie) and the Carnivore, a more traditional pizza topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella, Canadian bacon, ground beef, Italian sausage, and pepperoni.
1139 Old Fannin Road, Flowood, Rankin, MS; 601-919-2000, and 1111 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, Madison, MS; 601-856-8646; soulshinepizza.com
Local 463 Urban Kitchen
Local 463 serves "Southern comfort food with a big city twist," and among the honey fried chickens and pecan braised short ribs are a handful of awesome-sounding pizzas, prepared with local ingredients and "chargrilled over an open flame." Carpe Jackson's Sarah Ribstein raves:
I chose the Florida rock shrimp and fried green tomato ($12). Although it is listed in the "First Bites" portion of the menu, it was plenty for dinner for me. There were quite a lot of ingredients on the pizza, but I was thoroughly impressed with how well they all worked together. The tomatoes added a slight tartness, which contrasted well with the subtly rich "truffled cheese" and the salty bacon lardons. The crust itself, which was char-grilled,was neither flimsy nor tough; I thought it had a great chewy consistency, and maybe a hint of sourness (which I liked).
The Spicy Thai pizza includes fresh mozzarella, roasted pork, cilantro-siracha slaw and crunchy peanut sauce; the Greek is topped with artichoke hearts, Greek olives, carmelized red onions, feta, and Romesco sauce.
121A Colony Crossing, Madison, MS; 601-707-7684; local463.com
We've also heard good things about Bravo! (4500 Interstate 55 N, Highland Village Shopping Center; 601-982-8111; bravobuzz.com), run by the folks who own Sal and Mookie's, and regional chain Mellow Mushroom (275 Dogwood Boulevard, Flowood, MS; 601-992-7499; 6133 Highway 98, Hattiesburg, MS; 601-268-6969; 1108 Bienville Boulevard, Ocean Springs, MS; 228-875-4888; mellowmushroom.com).
Where to Eat Pizza at the Mississippi Coast
Tony's Brick Oven Pizzeria
Tony's Pizza was born out of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which left southern Mississippi struggling to rebuild. Owner and chef Tony Swirgis wanted to help his community, and his love for cooking inspired him to start a pizzeria as part of Gulfport's Historic Downtown Renovation Project.
Since opening in 2010, it's gotten rave reviews from bloggers, Yelpers, and local papers. EatJxn raves about the veggie pie, with fresh, locally-grown toppings. Scott Hawkins at the Sun-Herald loves the "Perfect Pepperoni:
It was beautiful, and biting into it was great—crispy on the top, nice, sweet marinara, tasty cheeses and a crispy crust outside that was soft inside
Dough and sauces—rustic tomato, pesto, or marinara—are made in-house, and Tony uses a four cheese blend of provolone, mozzarella, Romano, and Parmesan. In keeping with Tony's local-minded spirit, a frequent special features Gulf shrimp.
2417 14th Street, Gulfport, MS; 228-868-9877; tonysbrickovenpizzeria.com
Leo's Wood Fired Pizza
EatJxn says Leo's ranks just after Tony's as best pizza at the coast, and warns that "folks might come to blows over whose pizza is better." Like a lot of the most-loved spots around the state, Leo's is Neapolitan-style—down to the Caputo 00 flour and imported San Marzano tomatoes.
But it's unlikely that Leo's would qualify for VPN certification. Ordering a Jimi Hendrix means cream cheese, grilled chicken, red onion, jalapeno, mozzarella, and pesto, and the Jane Fonda gets you sautéed shrimp, feta, and basil. Some Yelpers said the crust could be too soft; others said the tangy dough was the best part of the pie. Order a locally brewed beer and enjoy your pizza outside on the patio.
1107 Government Street, Ocean Springs, MS; 228-872-7283
As the name suggests, Brooklyn serves up New York-style pies. If you find yourself in Gulfport looking for pizza by the slice (and garlic knots), then this is the place for you.
Brooklyn is a serious favorite online. One happy eater even raves "I now live in New York City, and haven't found anything that compares." Going by Internet consensus, this bare bones strip-mall storefront sounds like a gem.
51 Hardy Court Shopping Center, Gulfport, MS; 228-864-6555
Tom's Extreme Pizzeria
At Tom's each pizza is state themed. Texas is represented by a hot-pepper-and-bacon pie, and Nevada's two entries for some reason or another) are a BLT pizza topped with ranch dressing and a turkey pie (Nevada: A great sandwich state?). Indecisive eaters might elect a North Dakota-South Dakota, which lets you choose a different combo for each half. The pizzas—thick or thin crust, your choice—are cooked in a massive stone oven which holds up to twenty pies at a time. "It's the best oven we could find for making old-style pizza, which has a low-acid tomato sauce, freshly made dough and all fresh ingredients," owner Tom Bennett told the Gulf Coast's Sun Herald.
There's the option to create your own pie. Gene Coleman, a food writer with the Sun Herald, was impressed by the sheer variety of toppings, noting the "variety of beans, grilled zucchini, shallots, celery, prosciutto, chili meats, Capicola and more." And if you're looking for a pie representing Mississippi, you have four options at Tom's: Meat Lovers, Buttered Crab, Biloxi Shrimp, or something called the Hugo's Special, which apparently involves a lot of Catalina dressing.
5116 Gautier Vancleave Road, Gautier, MS; 228-497-2221 and 1006 Robinson Road, Ocean Springs, MS; 228-872-4340; tomsextremepizzeria.com
Doughboys Pizza & Poboys
Doughboys' slogan is "where their large is our small!" Ordering a small here means a 14-inch pie; a large is 18", but despite their size they're hand-tossed. The pizzas are billed as New York-style, cooked in a brick oven, but from Gene Coleman's description in the Sun Herald, Doughboys pizzas are defined by their gooey cheesiness and a heavy-hand with toppings. "I love a pizza with a hearty helping of cheese and pepperoni that doesn't ooze tomato sauce," writes Coleman, "and Doughboys does a great version of this."
For those who don't want to wrangle with an entire giant pie, the menu also includes 7-inch individual flatbreads that can be made with any of the available toppings. Plain cheese pizza is served by the slice at lunch and during Monday Night Football.
6512 Washington Avenue, Ocean Springs, MS; 228-875-7828; doughboyspizzaonline.com
A few more coastal spots we've heard good things about: Bootlegger's Pizza (1670-I Pass Road, Biloxi, MS; 228-435-4438), Sicily's Pizza (15804 Lemoyne Boulevard, Biloxi, MS; 228-392-1991), and Fregene's Italian Thin Crust Pizza (1116 Cowan Road, Gulfport, MS; 228-604-2750).
Add Your Favorites!
This brief guide is just an introduction to Mississippi's best pizza. Where are your favorite pies? Add your recommendations in the comments.
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