While some may argue that the hamburger reigns supreme as America’s food – I’d like to put in my vote for pizza. I know it has Italian roots but hear me out. What is the food you can literally get everywhere? When it’s Friday night, what are we ordering? Okay, to be accurate, pizza has been the third most popular food ordered lately, but not everyone eats chicken (#1) and not every town has a Chinese restaurant (#2). In Kansas City we love our BBQ, but we also love our pizza. Hot debates abound about who has the best pizza in Kansas City, but we have you covered across the state lines.
UPDATED: This post was first published in 2021 and was recently updated in May 2023.
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Where: Various Locations
If you’ve watched local Kansas City television or listened to the radio since 1976, the words “Gourmet, and going to stay that way” bring to mind one place.
With 18 locations across the metro, you’ll easily find this gourmet-style pizza cafe near you. They serve their pizza on a variety of crusts including honey wheat, thin, cauliflower, sweet potato, and gluten-free. If you’re looking for more than pizza, they also serve plenty of other things like wings, salads, pasta, and cheesesteak sandwiches.
Where: Three locations
The first time I encountered d’Bronx pizza I was blown away by the size (huge), slice shape (square), and taste. It was just like the Staten Island ferry terminal pizza I ate as a kid, which is actually very good. (For those of you who are not familiar with the boroughs of New York, you take the Staten Island ferry to get to the Bronx.)
Celebrating 31 years of business, you can enjoy pizza, calzones, and deli delights that will transport you to The Big Apple at three d’Bronx locations.
Joe’s Pizza by the Slice
Where: 4058 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, MO (back of Kelly’s in Westport)
This next stop on the pizza tour is one of my favorites. Not only is the pizza delicious and hot, they offer affordable meals. Joe’s is open from 5 p.m. to midnight or 3 a.m., depending on the night. They used to be open for lunch but now they are offering delivery.
The founder and owner of the place, Joe Addington, is a kind and generous guy. When I worked downtown I used to go so often, usually twice a week, that they knew my order. Plus, it’s in the back of an Irish pub, so you can grab a pint with your slice.
Where: 412 Delaware St., Kansas City, MO
Neapolitan pizza was born in Naples, Italy in the late 1600s. Il Lazzarone (pronounced “lazzaˈroni”) opened in Kansas City near the River Market in March 2015. With their gorgeous Neapolitan pizza oven, they can cook up your bubble-crusted pizza in 90 seconds. On the menu you’ll find inventive and delicious ingredients like fresh herbs, Italian meats, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic vinaigrette. They also have 30 beers on tap, wine, and cocktails to accompany your pizza and delicious salads. If you’re ever in St. Joseph, Missouri they have a second location there.
Where: 7433 Broadway St., Kansas City, MO
Located in the Waldo area of Kansas City for more than 30 years, Waldo’s features pies with a variety of crusts including hand tossed, honey wheat, thin crust, and cauliflower. The restaurant also has a popular salad bar, great pasta dishes, sandwiches, and an impressive beer list.
When you visit you can enjoy some classic decor like the neon “Pizza Nymphs” who were part of their original logo, and are meant to depict “Pizza elevated to a fine art” dating back to 1987.
Where: 5060 Oak St., Kansas City, MO
Next to the University of Missouri, Kansas City campus, you’ll find Pizza 51. While this former gas station at 51st and Oak was initially intended to feed hungry students when it opened in 2004, you’ll find folks from all over the city stopping by.
Whether you grab a pie to go or enjoy it on the large covered patio, you’ll love their pizza, or calzones, or pitchers of local beers.
Where: Three locations
If your favorite style of pizza comes from New York, Sicily, or Detroit, you’ll want to head to Providence Pizza. They serve up pizza by the slice, garlic knots, and cannolis. The team behind Providence Pizza and brothers from Providence, RI. They opened their first location in Grandview, MO and have since added two more locations in Kansas City. One is in The Parlor and the newest location is in Westport.
The pizza is delicious, but they also have incredible salads that you can order in whole or half sizes.
Where: 417 E. 18th St., Kansas City, MO and 10240 Pflumm Road, Lenexa, Kan.
Not only does Grinder’s serve up great pizza, but they are also one of the hottest music venues in downtown Kansas City. They have a big, fenced-in backyard in the heart of the Crossroads where bands come to play to an open-air crowd.
Back to the menu, you’ll find a big variety of items in addition to pizza like Death Wings, sandwiches, burgers, and a nicely curated beer selection. If you haven’t caught on yet, Grinder’s is a bit heavy metal and a lot of rock and roll. The owner, STRETCH, is also a well-known sculptor.
1889 Pizza Napoletana
Where: 2876 W. 47th Ave., Kansas City, KS
The husband and wife team behind 1889 Pizza Napolentana both studied abroad in Italy separately. They both fell in love with the culture and the pizza there and brought it to the Westwood neighborhood in 2016. You’ll find the wood-fired crust supporting a variety of toppings including fresh pear, roasted wild mushrooms, smoked pulled pork, and truffle oil.
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What is Kansas City-style pizza?
Yes, there is a style of pizza that is commonly referred to as Kansas City-style pizza. This style of pizza is characterized by a cracker-thin crust, a sweeter tomato sauce, and a unique blend of cheeses that includes provolone, mozzarella, and cheddar.
The origin of Kansas City-style pizza is a bit unclear, but it is believed to have originated in the 1950s or 1960s. One of the most well-known purveyors of this style of pizza is a local chain called Pizza Shoppe, which has been serving up its signature pizza since 1967.
In addition to the crust, sauce, and cheese blend, Kansas City-style pizza is often topped with a variety of ingredients, including Italian sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Some variations of this style of pizza also include a sprinkle of oregano or garlic powder on top.
What are some unique toppings used on pizza in Kansas City?
While traditional toppings like pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and onions are popular on pizzas in Kansas City, there are also some unique toppings that are commonly used to give the pizzas a local twist. Here are a few examples:
– Barbecue Sauce: Kansas City is known for its barbecue, so it’s no surprise that barbecue sauce is a popular topping for pizzas. Some local pizzerias even use smoked meats like pulled pork or brisket as toppings.
– Provel Cheese: While provolone, mozzarella, and cheddar are the traditional cheeses used on Kansas City-style pizza, some local pizzerias use a unique cheese called Provel, which is a processed cheese made from cheddar, Swiss, and provolone. It has a smooth texture and a mild, slightly tangy flavor.
– Pickles: Some local pizzerias offer a pickle pizza, which is topped with sliced dill pickles, sausage, and onions. Don’t know it until you try it!
– Goat Cheese: While not necessarily unique to Kansas City, goat cheese is a popular topping at some local pizzerias. It pairs well with ingredients like arugula, prosciutto, and caramelized onions.
– Fried Chicken: Another nod to Kansas City’s barbecue heritage, some local pizzerias offer pizzas topped with fried chicken, barbecue sauce, and cheese.
About the guest writer
Jenn Beard is the founder of Cocktails Away—a collection of adventures in pursuit of a great drink, a quality spirit, a unique ingredient, and the places they come from. When not traveling, she lives in Kansas City. Check out her blog for mouthwatering recipes and insider tips on DIY bartending and cocktail culture or travel to bars around the world at @cocktailsaway.