Nick Krunkkala & Caroline Zeller from Oysterhead Pizza Co in Damariscotta, ME

Chefs Nick Krunkkala and Caroline Zeller are the driving force behind Oysterhead Pizza Co., a tiny shop perched above the flowing Damariscotta River, about an hour-and-a-half north of Portland. This vacation town now has a serious pizzeria, where the dough is thoughtfully made and the wood-fired (rotating) deck oven burns a bit lower than your typical Neapolitan joint, producing chewy-crunchy pies. Also, Nick is a whiz with naming his pizzas.

Noah Sandoval from Pizza Friendly Pizza

Noah Sandoval has to be the only two-star Michelin chef currently making pizza. His fine dining restaurant – Oriole – was taking a break during the pandemic, so he and his business partners came up with a new take on Sicilian pizza, previously unseen in Chicago. With complete humility, he reached out to an expert in Las Vegas for guidance. The result? Pizza Friendly Pizza in the Ukrainian Village/Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Mike Keon from OTTO in Portland, ME

Mike Keon and his business partner, Anthony Allen, founded Otto Pizza in 2009 in Portland, Maine. Over the past decade, they’ve expanded in New England, due in part to their creative take on toppings – including bacon, mashed potatoes and scallions, among others. Steve spoke with Mike just a few yards from the original store in downtown Portland.

Michael Zaffiro from Zaffiro’s in Milwaukee, WI

Michael Zaffiro was born into the pizza business. His family has run Zaffiro’s for more than 60 years, satisfying a local craving for thin and crispy, square-cut “bar pies” that rule in the Midwest. He shares a few family secrets in this very candid interview.

Emily and Chris from Slab Sicilian Street Food in Portland, ME

Steve Lanzalotta created a unique Sicilian-style of pan pizza while working at Micucci Grocery in Portland, Maine, but after a falling-out, left to continue that tradition with partners Emily Kingsbury and Chris Bassett at Slab Sicilian Street Food, located in the old Public Market. You can get one pound slices, four pound half sheets or even 8 pounders (entire sheet pans) that look like bricks, but eat like feathers. The key is hand-mixing and making dough throughout the day (plus high hydration).

Thomas McNaughton from Flour + Water Pizzeria in San Francisco

Thomas McNaughton has had success with Flour + Water in San Francisco for more than a decade, but he wanted something more substantial than the delicate Neapolitan pies from that wood-burning oven. His latest – Flour + Water Pizzeria, in the Mission – emphasizes long fermentation, wet dough and electric ovens, to produce some glorious pizzas with exceptional crumb.

Jonathan Goldsmith from Spacca Napoli in Chicago

For the past 15 years, Jonathan Goldsmith has led the charge for authentic Neapolitan pizzas in Chicago at Spacca Napoli, a result of spending several years living and working in Italy alongside master pizzaiolos. But he got a late start in life, after spending many years in academia and clinical social work. He continues to train, educate and nurture others in the industry, while also furthering his own knowledge of the craft. These days, he’s wrestling with the idea of putting in an electric oven to accommodate the large number of to-go orders for a style of pizza that traditionally does not travel well.

Neal DeNardi from Long Bridge Pizza in San Francisco

Neal DeNardi spent years working for various heavy hitters in San Francisco’s pizza world: Pizza Hacker, Tony Gemignani, Del Popolo among them. His hard work led to the birth of his own place – Long Bridge Pizza – located in the Dogpatch neighborhood just south of downtown. If you miss the large, semi-greasy NYC-style slices from back East, you’ll want to spend some time eating your way through his menu, which takes a more artisan approach to the standard slice.

The @eatfreepizza gang from Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream in Chicago

When friends Brad Shorten, Cecily Rodriguez and Billy Federighi started @eatfreepizza on Instagram, they were known for giving away their handmade, artisan pies to their fans. Fast forward two years, and they’re now making a legit East Coast Sicilian with a crispy undercarriage and a focaccia-like interior, from their take out window in Bridgeport. Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream may sell just three things, but pizza is their true passion.

Mark Hopper from Farmshop Marin in Larkspur, CA

This week, Steve takes the ferry from San Francisco’s Ferry Building Market, for a peaceful 30-minute ride up to Larkspur, where Chef Mark Hopper has been working tirelessly on a pair of outstanding pizzas: one emerging from a wood-fired oven, the other a near perfect Sicilian square with lots of chew and crunch. Farmshop Marin is probably better known for their wood-fired pies, but you’d be a fool not to try the squares.

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