If you talk to anyone who loves food in Seattle, you’ll hear a lot of lamenting about how the city is bereft of excellent pizza. If you consider New York the source of top-notch slices, then Seattle couldn’t be farther away in proximity. But distance shouldn’t determine everything, right? So, where are Seattle’s best slices?
That’s what I set out to discover with compadres-in-taste-testing Julia Massey and Eva Walker. Massey lived on the east coast for much of her life; if anyone has been exposed to a lot of excellent pizza, it’s her. (For added fun, we brought her 3-year-old son Carl along to a few places with us.) Eva is a life-long Seattleite and cares about food more than just about anyone I know—she even once aspired to be a competitive eater!
Together, the three of us hunted for the best places you could get a slice all over the city, seeking the most simplified variety of pizza—cheese—and visiting nine spots from Ballard to White Center, which were chosen based on reputation and crowd sourcing. We judged the slices on five categories: the crust, flavor, vibe of the place, how long it took to get the slice, and how excited we’d be about taking home a whole pie of it. Each category was rated from 1 to 10, with a possible high score of 150.
Final note: we only tested places that served pizza by the slice. Obviously, there are plenty of places in Seattle that make great pies, but they weren’t considered unless they served it by the slice. And we didn’t consider local staples like Pagliacci and Zeke’s because there’s no real need—everyone has their own opinion on them already. Now, onto the scores!
Winner: Dino’s Tomato Pie (Score: 129.5)
This place had it all, including two types of cheese slices. While every other place we went to offered the traditional triangle slices, Dino’s specialty is what they call “New Jersey-style,” or thick, square-cut slices from a larger Sicilian style pie. Either way, these were the best in the city—and were priced right, too, at $11.56 for three slices that were thick and delicious, with some cheese baked a crispy, golden-brown clinging to the side. A combination of three 10’s, two 9.5’s and three 9’s made Dino’s stand out above the rest. The only category where it suffered was in the time it took to get the slices, which was about six minutes (most others were around two). But we waited happily, enjoying a beer as we hung out in the hip digs.
Second: Rocco’s (124.5)
Rocco’s is an elegant restaurant with paintings of Tom Waits and Basquiat on the walls, and gorgeous carved wood ceiling tiles. Important note: Rocco’s is a sit-down place. And it was the longest we waited on a slice (17 minutes). But that didn’t stop us from scarfing the rich, cheesy standout—$12.92 for three slices—or Rocco’s from earning five 10’s. The kids’ books on the tables, and the choice between regular and cucumber water added to an already great experience.
Third: Veraci Pizza (121)
Veraci was one of our favorites: tangy sauce, good cheese distribution. But it was also a bit pricey—$14.04 for three slices. They were large, and the vibe of the place was comfortable and congenial. So much so that it bumped Veraci just ahead of the fourth-place spot. Veraci lost a few points, though, because its crust was so thin that, if we’d ordered a whole pie, we’d worry some of our friends might remain hungry.
Fourth: Proletariat Pizza (120)
Essentially tied for third, this White Center joint offered an excellent slice of thin crust pizza and a family-fun vibe; before taking our order, our server brought Carl a kid’s cup of water unprompted, which we appreciated and, at the back of the restaurant, there was a photo booth and arcade games. The tasty foldable slices—$8.25 for three—came out in a remarkable two minutes, which is perfect if you have to catch a bus and scarf lunch before work.
Fifth: Big Mario’s Pizza (112.5)
Big Mario’s is fine. It’s a good place to fill up before a night of drinking and live music on Capitol Hill. Our three large-but-thin cheese slices cost $10.50. We didn’t love it when the woman behind the counter mistook Eva for an Uber Eats driver, but she apologized. And, on the flip side, kids can come in and eat by the counter in front of the bar, which benefits parents seeking a quick bite.
Sixth: Hot Mama’s Pizza (92.5)
Hot Mama’s is where things began to slip. Sadly, the dry and rigid crust kept us from finishing our order. “It’s edible,” Julia commented. While the service and vibe were pleasant enough, our three cheese slices a mere $8.85, and the wait to get the slices short, the overall product was not great.
Seventh: Post Alley Pizza (91)
We were excited to pop in here. Our eyes lit up on seeing the old show posters and concert tickets adorning the walls. Post Alley is a great place to get a slice on the go. But the slices—$10.50 for three—tasted sub-par (mostly because of the thick, wooden crust), and the man who served us from behind the counter made an off-color remark about a popular all-lady Seattle rock band that was playing on the radio, which turned us off on the whole experience.
Eighth: Pizza Pro (84)
The restaurant was bright and clean in an at-times grimy downtown. But, as Julia pointed out, it felt like a sports bar more than anything else. The owner told me a few times how popular his food was and while the cheese and sauce on the greasy slices ($14.27 for three) were tasty, the crust was brittle and the overall experience forgettable.
Ninth: Ballard Pizza Co. (82.5)
The aesthetic and service here were top-notch. The ladies working the floor brought Carl some dough to play with at our table, and it seemed within three minutes they all knew his name and were playing peekaboo with him. This made us feel very comfortable. But, sadly, the cheese pizza ($9.75 for three slices) was essentially flavorless.
When it comes to pizza, it’s often the little things that stand out. When your dish is essentially three components—bread, cheese and tomato sauce—those components better be perfect. And whether the service is good or shitty, it will have an effect on your overall experience. Unfortunately, we found that at many places in town, the crust suffered most, whether dry, brittle or lacking in creativity. In the end, though, we were happy to discover at least two great places to get a slice of cheese pizza in the city we love and call home.
Jake Uitti likes to eat, and so do his friends. Check out their survey of fried chicken here.