March Madness: RVA vs. NYC Pizza, Round 1

You can definitely feel madness in this March air, and I'm not just talking about this lingering freezing rain/sleet/snow storm that's hovering over our area. Today marks the start of the 2013 NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament. I'm not one to follow the event, so you won't find much about that here besides a special shout out to our VCU Rams who secured a #5 seed. Shout out and all basketball coverage over. So while most of America will fill out their brackets to determine the NCAA National Champion, I've got my eye on the pie. This is the RVA vs. NYC Pizza Bracket.

In 2010, Slice created a nationwide bracket of the top pizzerias. New York City was properly represented, though they missed some of my favorites which you can read about here next week. Unfortunately, no Richmond restaurants were included in their bracket. So I felt like it was the most natural place to start (to see the NYC bracket click here). I've lived in both places and enjoyed pizza from both, but which has the best? Richmond might surprise you.

There are many pizzerias in Richmond, and many restaurants that sell a serviceable slice, but these four are easily the tops on my list: Mary Angela's, Stuzzi, Pizza Tonight, and 8½ (It's 2013 and they don't have a website. Really?).  They are all almost impossible to choose between, but let's start with a Richmond mainstay and pit them against one of the newer local establishments...

Mary Angela's vs. 8½

Mary Angela's Pizzeria is a Richmond institution that's been serving up fabulous New York style pizza in Carytown for more than 20 years. It's appearance is nothing fancy, just a simple, booth seating, hole-in-the-wall Italian joint that has amazing pizza. You can't go wrong with crust that's not too thin and not too thick, whole milk mozzarella cheese, and a sweet sauce. My favorite pie is the Special (hold the mushroom) and Brian's is the Meat Lovers (big surprise). If you like New York Style pizza, this is the best spot in Richmond. And if you're going, but aren't in the mood for pizza, they also have a great cheese steak!

I love New York style pizza, but on the other hand I'm also very fond of thin, crispy pizzas. 8½ has just that. Nestled in the Fan District and managed by owners of Richmond Italian restaurants Mamma Zu's and Edo's Squid (both of which I love), this take-out only spot is a Richmond gem. I picked it up on Strawberry Street yesterday after work hoping it would cure our rainy Monday blues. It worked. Their pizzas come in only one size and are on the small end, so I'm glad we ordered two. The red sauce on our pepperoni/sausage pizza had a spicy kick to it and the crust was the perfect balance between chewy and crispy. The white pizza was cut into strips as opposed to slices, and the sauce was also a little spicy, garlicky, crunchy, and had a nice taste of Fontina cheese.

Both of these pizzas are great, but served in totally different ways. While I loved 8½ and will certainly be going back for smaller, gourmet-style pizzas on the go, I have to pick Mary Angela's this time because I love the homey feel of an old restaurant where I can get a large, delicious pizza for a great price and enjoy leftovers. It's the only place I'd recommend for New York style pizza.

Stuzzi vs. Pizza Tonight

Stuzzi is a unique Neapolitan pizza restaurant located in the Museum District. According to their website, "true Neapolitan pizza is so pure, there are only a handful of restaurants in the US that make it – and Stuzzi is one of them." I've been here numerous times and what keeps me returning is the delicious, authentic, "real-deal" pizza - the flour is from Naples, the tomatoes are from San Marzano, the oven is handmade from lava stones from Mt. Vesuvius and is wood-fired to 1,000 degrees. The thin crust is slightly singed by the wood fire oven, and slices are cheesy but not too cheesy, have an assortment of fresh Italian toppings, and are best eaten folded. There are some surprisingly harsh reviews on Yelp for this place, as people complain about the service, their neighbors at the next table, and other matters that have nothing to do with the food. If you go here for the food, you'll love it. It is the place for Neapolitan pizza.

Pizza Tonight is a totally unique concept that I'm jealous I didn't think of first. Instead of just making and serving pizza from a wood-fired oven in a restaurant, why not make the oven mobile and start a pizza food truck? Oh wait, while you're at it, sell your homemade pizza dough and sauce in take-home pizza packets. Genius. If it sounds like one of Cosmo Kramer's get-rich-quick schemes, that's because it is. Brian and I hunted down one of these coveted pizza packets for a special Valentine's Day dinner. The crust, sauce, and seasonings were light, sweet, and tasty, and you can add any number of your favorite toppings. For those looking for a fun night creating your own pie, this is the way to go.

In choosing between these two, my heart lies with Stuzzi. I first had it in 2009 after spending the summer gorging myself in New York, and I haven't looked back since. It is, in my opinion, the finest Neapolitan pizza around.

You can't go wrong with any of these choices, but while 8½ is perfect for on-the-go convenience and Pizza Tonight is uniquely fun, I'm forced to narrow it down to Mary Angela's (New York style) and Stuzzi (Neapolitan). My preference is Neapolitan, so if it were up to me, and it is, I crown Stuzzi the best pizza in RVA!

I encourage you all to check these places out and let me know who you would crown the winner. And be sure to check back next week as we complete the NYC side and crown the overall winner!


  1. Stuzzi has $2 margarita pizza (with purchase of a drink and sitting at the bar) on Monday nights. It's utterly delicious and talk about a good deal!