Our “8 Great” lists are not listed in order of preference.
1 Think outside the common crust with the sweet potato, apple bacon and fried oregano white pizza at Flatbread of Englewood. Owner/chef Glenn Comeau makes his dough in-house, sprinkles it with EVOO and asiago and mozzarella cheeses, and pops it into a 600-degree pizza oven. Next comes the baked, peeled and mashed sweet potato, arranged along the perimeter. The adventure continues with bacon, fresh oregano and—surprise!—a drizzle of heavy cream. 1951 S. McCall Road, Englewood, (941) 460-8044.
2 Where would Tony Soprano go for pizza? Benny Bada Bing, we guarantee it. If you’re looking for a build-your-own type of pie, this Brooklyn-style establishment gives you more topping choices than Tony has RICO counts. These guys serve up a margarita pizza to die for, metaphorically speaking, of course. We’re talking traditional Italian pizza topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, basil and maybe a little salt. If you’re looking for pineapples, go someplace else. 1815 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 445-5963.
3 Made In Italy serves pizza by the yard (or, strictly speaking, by the meter). Either way, the pizza al metro feeds five hungry mouths. Chef/owner Giuseppe Del Sole creates his Neapolitan-style, thin-crust pizza from scratch and cooks it the old-school way in a wood-fired oven. His Norcina pie is an homage to Norcina, a town in Umbria famed for its black truffles and pork. This all-white pizza is a combo of mozzarella, sausage, truffle-infused EVOO, thinly sliced potatoes and fresh radicchio. Delizioso! 117 W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-8282.
4 In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi founded the first American pizzeria in New York City with a Neapolitan recipe passed down through generations. Frankie’s Italian Ristorante honors Lombardi’s legacy—which is why New York-style pizza lovers wait patiently here for la cosa reale. Frankie’s crisp-chars its pie in a wood-fired oven and tops it with fresh mozzarella di bufala and a marinara sauce. The crust is thin enough to fold and eat “street-style.” Try their house special with grilled chicken, house-made pesto and walnuts. 1072 S. Tamiami Trail, Osprey, (941) 966-4453.
5 Whatever your taste or dietary persuasion, Asaro’s Pizzeria Ristorante wants you to leave satisfied. Meat lovers can indulge in the stuffed meat pizza, pan-style with ham, soppressata (cured salami), pepperoni, meatballs and sausage. Vegetarians can enjoy the guilt-free feast of Grandma’s Sicilian, made with light fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil. Need your pie gluten-free? Just ask. 2454 Laurel Road E., Venice, (941) 485-5588.
6 “Do one thing and do it well.” Italiano’s Pasta and Pizza Parlor rephrased that philosophy as “Pizza: It’s What We Do.” Their house specialty, the Rockefeller, is a flavorful affair of spinach, bacon, goat cheese, mozzarella and fresh garlic. The crust is chewy at the center and crisply charred at the edges, the spinach (you can also ask for fresh arugula) a bright green, the cheeses melting together like a melodic symphony in your mouth. 1055 U.S. 41 Bypass, Venice, (941) 488-1797; 4191 S. Tamiami Trail, Venice, (941) 496-9090.
7 Cheese, sauce and dough are the holy trinity of pizza. Caffe Panini makes these ingredients by hand and as fresh as can be. Their mozzarella is milky, mild and tender; their New York style dough wickedly crisp; the sauce began its life as a San Marzano tomato—considered by many the world’s best. Take the signature prosciutto pizza and add sweet baby arugula, tangy cherry tomatoes, salty prosciutto and buttery Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s the stuff delicious dreams are made of. 339A W. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 375-8517.
8 Some like it white. Joseph’s Diner and Pizza caters to the non-tomato crowd with its roasted garlic pizza. This lip-smacking pie comes loaded with fresh garlic, mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, fresh basil and parsley. While the white pies you’ll find at big pizza chains can be uninspired, this one is heavenly and filled with gourmet subtleties. Think golden crust, melted bubbly cheeses, and the hearty zing of flavor that only fresh garlic can create. 625 N. Tamiami Trail, Nokomis, (941) 480-0095.