By Anna Klainbaum
Any way you slice it, the holy trinity of cheese, tomato and crust has never let us down. But great chefs know there’s always room for improvement. Just take a look at how they’ve applied a little creativity and a lot of unexpected ingredient s to this classic dish. The results? Craveable pies. From established favorites to new-on-the-scene gems, these are the places to go for dangerously delicious pizzas.
You know his name and his pizzas. Wolfgang Puck is renowned for his inventive takes on the classic pie. Pizza has become one of his most requested dishes and a legacy he whole-heartedly stands behind. But the pioneer of the gourmet pizza – not to mention thousands of other dishes – chalks his masterpieces up to “happy accidents” that come from a handful of ingredients he made work together. And make them work he did. At Trattoria del Lupo at Mandalay Bay, his eponymous Bar and Grill at MGM Grand and American Grille at Borgata, the chef credits the simplicity of the classic Margherita for its popularity. The sweetness of the San Marzano tomatoes, combined with the creaminess of fresh mozzarella and bite of fragrant basil shine through to make the most delicious bite. Lover of the simple tastes, it’s no surprise Chef Puck’s favorite toppings are a bevy of summer veggies. His ideal combination features eggplant, zucchini, yellow summer squash, bell peppers, cherry and sun-dried tomatoes to make the perfect sunny-day pie.
1. BLACK TRUFFLE PIZZA @ LIBERTINE SOCIAL
A Gastropub for Gatherings: This hip spot with outdoor seating rocks a boho vibe and boasts one of the top mixology menus on The Strip.
Must Try: Black Truffle Pizza
Order a few of the shareable “boards” at Libertine Social for a fun night out and be sure to ask for the Black Truffle Pizza. Your truffle-obsessed friends will appreciate how the Fontina, Parmesan and farm egg balance the irresistible earthiness of those delicious little fungi.
Chef’s Choice: For some people it’s all about the crust. Libertine’s Executive Chef Jamaal Taherzadeh looks for flavorful pizzas with “backbone,” as he calls it, and makes the dough with a treasured five-year starter. “Great pizza gets its backbone from a true sourdough starter,” he explained.
2. TUNA PIZZA @ MORIMOTO
Chic Japanese Fare: A meal in the Iron Chef’s new digs – his very first Las Vegas restaurant at the MGM Grand – is sleek and sexy from start to finish.
Must Try: Tuna Pizza
On Morimoto’s appetizer menu you’ll find this gateway to raw fish for sushi virgins. Featuring a crispy tortilla crust, jalapeños and anchovy aioli, it’s the misfit menu item that’s so good it’s become his signature dish.
Chef’s Choice: Leave it to the master of kitchen Zen to seek out the very essence of an authentic pizza pie. He’s all about the Margherita, with its crisp crust and basic tomato-mozzarella-basil combo. “I like simple things,” he said.
3. THE FARMSTEAD PIZZA @ FIVE50
Game Night Nibbles: Craft beer, pizzas for sharing and olives and salumi make this ARIA restaurant a top choice for game night.
Must Try: The Farmstead Pizza
The incredible menu of totally unique pizza pies shows off James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain’s knack for delicious invention. You can't go wrong with the Farmstead, a rich and savory masterpiece of prosciutto, arugula and crème fraiche dotted with teeny, tiny farm eggs.
Chef’s Choice: Chef de Cuisine Douglas can talk about pizza for days, but “spicy, salty, sweet and porky” are the words he uses to describe his dream pie. Pepperoni, soppressata, olives and onions are his go-to toppings, and a frosty beer is a must.
Nothing goes together better than pizza and beer. Don’t miss out on the diverse selection of craft brews from Breckenridge, Golden Road, 10 Barrel and Four Peaks breweries at Five50.
4. BRUNCH PIZZETA @ LAGO BY JULIAN SERRANO
Italian Tapas with a Lakeside View: Enjoy beautifully crafted Italian small plates along with spectacular views of the famed Fountains of Bellagio.
Must Try: Brunch Pizzetta
Chef Julian Serrano created this savory sensation for those who can’t decide between breakfast and lunch. From the perfectly cooked egg yolk melting over the smooth ricotta cremolina cheese and salty guanciale pork cheek, pizza for breakfast doesn’t get any better.
Chef’s Choice: The James Beard Award winning Serrano likes his pies to hit every taste bud, and his Salsiccia Pizza certainly does. The combination of “spicy and hearty flavors of the sausage and almost sweet flavor of the Silano cheese,” along with the bitter notes of the broccoli rabe keeps him coming back for more.
5. CARNE ASADA PIZZA @ CPK
Laid-Back Hangout: It’s our fancy pizza go-to because Mirage CPK delivers on comfy booths, good salads and a chill ambiance amid the all-hours bustle.
Must Try: Carne Asada Pizza
SoCal-style pies are on the menu, but we’re not just talking wood-fired crust. The latest hit here is the Carne Asada pie, topped with the marinated, grilled steak of Cali-Mex taco dreams. The poblanos and tomatillo salsa come together brilliantly, but don't be surprised. These are the folks that put Thai Chicken pizza on the map, after all.
Chef’s Choice: The restaurant’s culinary guru, Chef Brian Sullivan, comes up with crazy-good pies while on the clock but when it comes to his own dinner, he goes classic. “Sweet California tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and a spicy salumi is so comforting,” he said.
6. PIG IN THE GARDEN PIZZA @ TOM’S URBAN
Global Street Eats on the Patio: This otherworldly watering hole takes its inspiration from the taco trucks, dumpling markets and to-go slice joints foodie travelers dream of.
Must Try: Pig in the Garden Pizza
Chef Tom Ryan (THE Tom of Tom’s Urban) designed his best-selling pie to please both meat and veggie lovers. Go whole hog with crispy bacon, pepperoni, ham, herb-roasted mushrooms, onions, peppers and creamy asadero cheese.
Chef’s Choice: Chef Ryan is all about the flavor journey when it comes to pizza toppings. He aims to deconstruct the world’s best comfort foods down to their essence – like Kansas City BBQ – and put them on a pie, resulting in his self-described “damn good pizzas.”
7. SWEET ELVIS PIZZA @ CRUSH
Charmed Digs for Inspired Eats: This spot is designed for good times with friends, as is the chef’s bold menu of shareable plates and pizzas.
Must Try: Sweet Elvis Pizza
The Elvis pie is a shout out to The King himself, and the sweet-salty combo of peanut butter, bacon and banana is an admittedly oddball mix that feels right at home on Crush’s slightly squared, thin crust.
Chef’s Choice: No surprise, Chef Billy DeMarco – inventor of the Elvis slice – is a fan of sweet and salty pizza toppings. Combining sweet roasted tomatoes and salty capers veers more traditional than bacon and banana, but the combo is still one of his favorites.
From the Italian Countryside to the Gulf Coast
Stalla’s traditional menu is inspired by the cuisine of the northern Italian countryside, but it’s the local flair of the Gulf Coast that catches the attention of diners. Hailing from Italy, Executive Chef Paola Bugli brings nearly 20 years of culinary experience to Beau Rivage and incorporates the freshest seafood into her Italian classics. Hints of local delicacies dot the menu, including the wood-fired pizzas. A new take on the traditional, the Marinara pizza combines the classic mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil of the Margherita and adds baby Gulf shrimp and fresh garlic to deliver several different flavors in one delicious bite.
Chef Bugli says guests are often dubious about the addition of shrimp to the classic Margherita. “Once they taste it, they really love it,” she said. “It all comes together with harmony. It’s light and flavorful and ideal for a light supper Italian-style.”