Where is America’s best pizza? Lawmakers slice into an old debate

Where is America’s best pizza? Lawmakers slice into an old debate

One of the country’s most contentious debates made its way up to Capitol Hill on Wednesday: What’s the pizza capital of the United States?

The answer depends on who you ask.

Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D) stirred up the conversation when she held an event on the House steps to declare New Haven, Conn., the best spot for a slice. The congresswoman handed out boxes of the famed Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria, a pride and joy of New Haven since 1925, before delivering remarks on the House floor crowning Connecticut “The Pizza State” and New Haven “the pizza capital of America.”

“There’s something special about New Haven apizza,” she said on the House floor, using the local pronunciation for the city’s slice. “Some say it is the coal fire; some say the brick ovens; some say it is the char; some say it is the water used to make the dough. Personally, I believe it is generation after generation of dedication to the craft.”

“You can’t put into words what you can only taste, and anybody who thinks that any other pizza’s as good as New Haven pizza hasn’t had a New Haven pizza,” Rep. Jim Himes (D), another Nutmeg State representative, told The Hill. “Connecticut is the Tom Brady of pizzas.”

Not so fast, others chimed in.

Lawmakers representing New York, the Chicago area and districts near Detroit took aim at DeLauro’s declaration, fiercely proclaiming that their pizza hot spots reign supreme in the long-running debate over who has the best place for a cheese pie.

“It’s absurd,” Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.), a self-described pizza “expert,” told The Hill. “I mean, c’mon, they’re fooling themselves, and they’re only going to live in total disappointment. New York is the pizza capital of the world.”

Molinaro, who said his first job was at a pizza shop, where he worked for 10 years — “I throw dough” — said he learned the secrets behind New York pizza on the job.

“I know why New York pizzas better than theirs — it’s the water, it’s the dough, and it’s the personality,” he said. “Our pizza has personality.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who hails from the Bronx, had a succinct response to DeLauro: “Vociferously disagree.”

Head to the Midwest, and folks near Chicago and Detroit tell a different story.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), whose district includes parts of Chicago, said the Windy City’s deep-dish style is the premiere type of pizza, knocking DeLauro — whom she called a “dear friend,” despite their sharp disagreement — for her “poor taste” in pies.

“I love my dear friend Rosa DeLauro, but to be frank, I had no idea she has such poor taste in pizza. It’s no question that Chicago’s deep-dish reigns supreme,” Schakowsky said. “I guess I’ll have to give her a taste of what real pizza tastes like.”

Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.) echoed that sentiment, propping up the infamous — yet controversial — deep-dish style in addition to tavern style, which offers Chicagoans a thin-and-crispy alternative to the heavier type.

“While I respect and appreciate all the advice my mentor Rep DeLauro has given me, when it comes to pizza she is wrong,” Ramirez said. “The pizza capital is 868.4 mi away from New Haven, in the Midwest, in Chicago. She should come and try a deep-dish or a tavern style pizza.”

But for lawmakers representing Michigan, Detroit’s pan-style pizza is the optimal option when searching for a slice, especially when up against contenders from New Haven, New York and Chicago.

Rep. Lisa McClain (Mich.), the vice chair of the GOP conference, knocked her competitors when campaigning for the Motor City’s square slice.

“Detroit-style pizza is by far and away the best pizza in the country,” McClain said. “New Haven and New York pizza is way too thin. Chicago pizza is basically lasagna. Detroit style is light, crispy and made the right way. There’s nothing better.”

“Connecticut my friend cannot beat it, and we claim pizza with the autos,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) said.

She listed a number of pizza chains headquartered in Michigan: Domino’s, Little Caesars, Hungry Howie’s and Jet’s Pizza.

“We have the biggest appreciation for a variety of pizza styles,” she added. “No way, Jose, can Connecticut claim that title.”

Not all lawmakers, however, wanted to join the contentious debate over what city has the best pizza in America. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.), who represents parts of Long Island, deferred to DeLauro, noting her high-ranking status on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

“Listen, they have great pizza in New Haven. I love Rosa DeLauro; she’s the top Democrat on Appropriations, so I will always praise her pizza,” he said.

Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, recused himself from the debate, telling The Hill that he plans to focus his attention squarely on his belief that New York has the best bagels after establishing the House Bagel Caucus last year.

“The only thing I will say to you is, having gone to college in New Haven and very much enjoying New Haven pizza, I am going to stick to my firm view that New York bagels are the best,” said Goldman, a graduate of New Haven’s Yale University. “I can only focus on one food.”

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.