Life of Pie: Slicing Up Orlando's Best Pizza

By A.D. Thompson, Orlando Local Expert

Is there a food more divisive than pizza? We wonder.... Find any city's "best" and you'll find one dissenter who knows better. At least. Ranking is almost a no-win prospect, but we'll do it anyway. Orlando has its fair share of Italy and New York transplants who have brought their secrets along with. Case in point, Epcot's Italy Pavilion, where everyone from the gelato vendor to the shop cashiers is imported via Disney decree If you’re lucky enough to be here when that pizza craving hits, look no further than Via Napoli’s volcano-hot ovens. That said, the City Beautiful is not without its neighborhood joints, among them the native New Yorker-owned Pizzeria Del-Dio. Francesco’s in Maitland has a decidedly more upscale feel (though it’s still casual and cozy), and its primary pizza-slinger hails from Palermo in Sicily. The founder of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza was born and raised in the Empire State, though this Florida-based chain was founded in Fort Lauderdale. It’s since migrated up to the northeast, but Sunshine Staters were the first to fall in love with the crisp, lightly charred crust that is the restaurant’s signature. Relative newcomers to the city's formidable-and-growing pizza scene include Pizza Bruno, Pizzeria Roberti and The Pie, a Roman-style eatery in walkable College Park.

10. Brick & Fire
Photo courtesy of Brick & Fire

The locals love Brick & Fire – for Chef Mark's welcoming attitude, for 50-cent wing night, for regular wine specials, for Italian entrees, but most of all for the pizza. Like anyplace else, you're welcome to build your own but the house and specialty pies are a foodie's delight. From the Milano – with its Italian sausage, Portobello mushrooms and balsamic-roasted red onions to the Chicken Club with bacon and gruyere, bacon, tomato and baby greens, Brick & Fire delivers not only delicious pizzas, but creative combinations. Gourmands can sample it with duck confit; true carnivores can do their best to take down a pie with eight different meats piled on. Game on.

9. Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza
Photo courtesy of Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza is a Florida original, opening its first restaurant in Fort Lauderdale back in 2002. Since then, they've expanded across the state and into Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and founder Anthony Bruno's native New York. They've got a few other Italian specialties on the menu – along with coal-fired chicken wings that come topped with a pile of caramelized onions, as well – but it's pizza that packs the place regularly. The chain's slogan, "pizza well done" does double duty as something of a warning – a crisp, slightly charred crust is Anthony's signature – and an array of signature pies make for some unique, delicious topping combinations. Of course, pies are wholly customizable, as well.

8. Armando's Cucina Italiana & Pizzeria
Photo courtesy of Armando's

As laudable for its location and atmosphere as much as its crisp, oven-fired pies, Armando's makes for a jovial post-work pit-stop for a glass of wine � the No. 1 gateway drug to cheese. Here you can enjoy either in the cozy interior or, if the weather's agreeable out back on the patio or people-watching beneath the sidewalk awning. No matter where the table, the pies...? Perfecto. Creamy cheese, fresh herbs, rich sauces, wonderfully browned, salty meats. Oh yes. You know you want it. Pastas, meat-based entrees, salads (try the Caesar!) round out the menu but the pizza is really where it's at.

7. Via Napoli
Photo courtesy of Disney

Visitors to EPCOT expect, rightfully, to get authentic cuisine in the various international pavilions around the park. Located in "Italy," Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria delivers the sauce for certain, but its thin-crust pizza, which bakes in record time in the gaping maws of ovens so hot they're named for the nation's most famous volcanoes – Etna, Vesuvius and Stromboli – is a crispy, chewy, gooey delight for the taste buds. In fact, they take the art so seriously, Via Napoli brings in water sourced from a domestic spring similar to Italy's Campania region. With the crust well covered, diners are welcome to source the toppings themselves for an array of meats, cheese and vegetables.

6. Francesco's Ristorante & Pizzeria
Photo courtesy of Francesco's Ristorante & Pizzeria

Francesco's has a decidedly more upscale atmosphere than your average grab-a-slice pizzeria to be sure, but stuffy it isn't. Its broad menu, often accented by wonderful appetizer and entrée special, will not disappoint, and its pizza – gooey, hot from the oven and generously topped is really, really good. Try one of the house pies – Quattro Stagioni, with ham, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and roasted red peppers, is exceptional – or create your own. And it's always fun to check out the action in the eatery's open kitchen where the staffers seem to be enjoying themselves amid the fray. Reservations are recommended for busy weekend nights.

5. Pizzeria Roberti
Photo courtesy of Pizzeria Roberti

Small, cozy and absolutely reminiscent of the simple, walk-in pizzerias of New York City, Pizzeria Roberti, helmed by neighborhood native Joe Roberti, is a welcome addition. Though the pizza appears in a straight-up,New York-style, Roberti actually takes elements of several styles to create a pie, with stellar, handcrafted crust, that's been bringing folks back since the place opened. Italian specialties outside the pizza realm may beckon some, but don't miss the garlic knots �" wonderful, warm, slightly underdone and chewy, they reside in a pool of pure love that's masked as cheesy, garlicky sludge. Eat your slice down to the end and use the crust as a mop. You won't want to waste a drop.

4. Pizza Bruno
Photo courtesy of Pizza Bruno

Try the octopus! Okay, so it's not the usual lead for a blurb about a local pizza joint, but we're local, so take our word. Chef Bruno's wine-glazed, wood-fired octopus is the stuff even your kids (well, assuming they're adventurous eaters) will scarf down. And before the pizza arrives, too. You likely won't have much time, Pizza Bruno's specialty is Neopolitan-style pies, which means roughly a minute or so inside a 900-degree oven and it's headed to your table, crisp, delicious and ready for consumption. If you're a toppings-focused gourmand, you might want to knife-and-fork it. Pizza Bruno isn't just known for it's pizza, though. The garlic knots are legendary among locals and it's brunch – they do breakfasty things alongside the regular menu – is exceedingly popular. Come get it.

3. Pizzeria Del-Dio
Photo courtesy of Pizzeria Del-Dio

This local favorite, run by a Brooklyn native whose first endeavor served Canarsie for some two decades before heading south to Orlando, Pizzeria Del-Dio serves up Italian specialties – along with what some call the city's best pizza – using recipes garnered from family members. Like most pizzerias, the atmosphere is decidedly casual, infused with both garlic and happy regulars getting their fix. New York-style and Sicilian crust pies are available, whole or by the slice, and if you're looking for a pizza for that special someone, Del-Dio's will make you up a heart-shaped order for $9.95 – presumably for the purpose of courting a very serious foodie.

2. The Pie College Park
Photo courtesy of The Pie

You don't have to have pizza at The Pie. They've got an array of pasta, sandwich choices and even wood-fired wings ready to go. But if you skip it, you'll be missing out. This Edgewater Drive outpost is the only place in town to try Roman-style pizza al taglio ("by the cut"). They don't quite serve it by true Roman standards, wherein you can simply hold your hands about as far apart as you want them to slice your serving, but the square pie and wonderful crust – such a lovely chew! – is almost better, since you're guaranteed four corner slices. Sure, you can take it out, but really – you want to taste this pie right out of the wood-fired oven for the optimal experience, especially if it's your first visit.

1. The Wine Barn
Photo courtesy of The Wine Barn

Much in the way that parents dream of an in-Target margarita bar come school-supply shopping season, so, too, have wine enthusiasts fantasized of local shops wherein the bottles they covet might be opened, right there on the spot, and enjoyed alongside fine food. Sans fancy dress code and wine snobbery, of course. Orlando, it turns out, has given us just that in the form of the Wine Barn. Long a favorite among locals looking for good bottles at every price point, the addition of a wood-fired pizza oven has made it that much more beloved. Delicious, crisp pies, classic to creative, not to mention a host of other offerings from within the oven and without, make it the sort of place you may not have planned on camping out – but you're sure glad you did. Reservations recommended.