Or, more accurately, top five pizzerias in the Charlottesville area. Despite the modern pizza’s roots in Naples, Italy, the delicious combination of flatbread, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and various toppings has long occupied a place in American hearts, notable for its status as “the only thing my kid will eat.” We can’t live without pizza; it’s good for sporting events, birthday parties, and getting people to come to interest meetings. Enough already…you know what pizza is. But do you know where it is? Now you do. Take a look at our picks for five of the best pizza joints to land in the Charlottesville area! Many of these spots get bonus points for sourcing their ingredients from central Virginia farms. Note: We’ve only included local spots, but you probably already know that Cville has a laundry list of all your favorite pizza chains. Anyway, let’s get started!
1. Dr Ho’s Humble Pie
Our #1 pick for sure. The self-described “Alternative Pizza” has been a personal favorite for as long as this author can remember. It was love at first bite. The spot is located just south of Charlottesville, in North Garden , a small “town” in Albemarle County. It’s been around since the late 90s (which makes it older than you’d think, at first), adopting an artisanal, handcrafted approach to good pizza. This means housemade dough, local beer, and a whole bevy of fresh ingredients locally-sourced from a plethora of farms in the Charlottesville area…places like Belair Farm, Double H Farm, Caromont Farm…the list goes on. It’s also worth stopping in to Dr. Ho’s to eat your pie there; they cultivate an open, inviting atmosphere. Don’t be surprised to see a bluegrass quartet pickin’ away while you sip a beer and wait for your pizza. A comfortable, delicious affair.
Favorite pie: A two way tie between the Popeye (spinach, caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, mozzarella, cheddar) and the Lil Mermaid (shrimp, house-made basil pesto, roasted tomatoes, cheddar, feta, and mozzarella)
If you are Lampo, and you’ve somehow been imbued with consciousness, and are reading this, please know it wasn’t an easy decision and that you are a close second. Lampo is Italian for “lightning,” probably one of the more appropriate descriptions of a place that churns out a pie in 90 seconds. But “churns” make it sound like fast food, which it certainly is not. The folks at this authentic Neapolitan pizzeria are steeped in culinary tradition, taking their cues from the great pizza makers of Italy. That means San Marzano tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella…if you doubt their commitment, check out the 3-ton brick oven. They keep wood burning throughout the day, making sure the oven gets up to 1000 degrees…whoa. A lot of their producers are Charlottesville farms: Free Union Farm, JM Stock and Provisions, and Wolf Creek Farm just to name a few.
Favorite pie: Technically it’s a panuozzi (a sort of pizza/sandwich hybrid) but the muffuletta (prosciutto, salami, mortadella, giardiniera, provolone). Also can’t go wrong with a good margherita pizza.
3. Crozet Pizza
This spot has a lot of history in the area around Charlottesville and Crozet. In a way, it epitomizes the small-town charm of a place like Crozet. We’ll explain: In 1977, Bob and Karen Crum bought an unoccupied building in Crozet. The original Crozet Pizza was pretty small…it had only five tables, all of which were handcrafted by Bob himself. The couple teamed up to build a successful pizza place from the ground up. Karen perfected Crozet Pizza’s inimitable dough recipe while Bob concocted the sauce from scratch. Pretty soon that tiny, five-table restaurant started getting calls for orders days in advance. The same recipes are in use today, under the ownership of Colleen, their daughter, although the wait time is considerably shorter. There’s also a location on some prime real estate in Charlottesville proper, steps away from UVa’s campus. We can’t tell you exactly what makes Karen Crum’s secret dough recipe so delicious, but we’re willing to go broke trying to figure it out.
Favorite pie: The “Meet Me in Crozet” (Pepperoni, sausage, and meatballs)
4. Christian’s Pizza
Charlottesville pizza purists might agree with the order of this list, but even they would agree that Christian’s is the most ubiquitous name in Cville pizza. That comes from over one-and-a-half decades of hard work by the titular Christian Tamm himself. The franchise started with a location in downtown Charlottesville, at the heart of the pedestrian mall. It soon opened up locations in Pantops, on the UVa Corner, and in Richmond, VA between West Franklin and West Grace Street. The secret? Fast, fresh, delicious pizza at affordable prices. We’ll let you in on a little secret…each Christian’s is different. The Corner location is great for a quick slice of cheese after a night out. The downtown location is perfect for lounging and people-watching, especially from its elegant patio. If you’re grabbing a few pies for a group/party/event, hit up Pantops. Either way, you’re in for a treat!
Favorite pie: Spinach and feta (spinach, feta, sauteed mushrooms, diced tomatoes, garlic)
5. College Inn
Bringing up the rear is the almighty College Inn (not to be pronounced like or confused with collagen), a place that has transcended typical “restaurant” status and become an institution. It’s been around since 1953! This place is older than the president! Some of the delivery drivers have stories about delivering hundreds of pizzas to UVa libraries and fraternities during Finals Week…and this was before cellphones mind you. This place keeps its lofty place in our hearts because it delivers, rain, snow or shine until 2am every single day. College Inn, you’re playing a dangerous game, but we love it. In fact, this is the only delivery joint on our list. It’s the only one you need, whether you’re lounging at home or planning a tailgate. They’re here for you, long after Domino’s and Papa John’s have closed their doors.
Favorite pie: Chicken alfredo (grilled chicken, sliced mushrooms, ham with mozzarella & parmesan cheeses, alfredo sauce base)