The Pizza Capital of the World is Actually in Pennsylvania

The best pizza in the world is a hotly debated topic, one that usually doesn’t end well. Much like our allegiances to sports teams, folks from New York to Chicago and St. Louis to Los Angeles are willing to die on their respective hills claiming their city is home to the best pizza joint worldwide. To those with such passionate stances, please know that we have no skin in this game. We love all pizza the same.

That said, as we drive through the lovely state of Pennsylvania, we can’t ignore the huge signs as we reach Old Forge, PA that scream from the mountaintops, “Pizza Capital of the World.” And so began our investigation into this mighty county with an even mightier claim. Spoiler: it’s damn good pizza.

Where Is the Pizza Capital of the World?

The “Pizza Capital of the World” is in Old Forge, Pennsylvania. The destination is famous for its square-cut pizza that is served in a rectangular metal pan, known as a tray.

Located in Lackawanna County in northeastern PA, there are over 160 pizza shops and restaurants that offer their own special styles of red and white pizzas, including those dotted along the town of Old Forge’s Main Street. “Old Forge Pizza” is served by the “cut” rather than the “slice” and you order a “tray” instead of a pizza “pie.” Pizzas come in half trays, full trays and individual cuts, often rectangular in shape due to the metal pan they’re served in.

Old Forge Style Pizza

The History of Old Forge, PA

It may come as a surprise that this small part of Pennsylvania, lying two hours west of New York City, could be considered the “Pizza Capital of the World,” but follow us down the rabbit hole for a history lesson.

Known for its coal mines, this county was largely home to Italian immigrants who left the city to find coal work around Scranton. Since Scranton is the biggest city in the county, Italians often settled in the surrounding towns. Enter: Nonni Ghigiarelli, a resident straight from Italy. In 1926, this one-woman-show started baking pizza for the laborers and families that lived in her town of, you guessed it, Old Forge, and so the Old Forge style of pizza was born.

Old Forge Style White Pizza

Types of Old Forge Style Pizza

Old Forge pizza is rooted in its Italian ways and similar to a Sicilian or Grandma style pizza (not deep-dish, different ball game). These trays consist of a light, crispy, inch-thick crust, a house blend of cheeses, and can be served either “red” or “white.”

The red.

A red pizza, Old Forge style, is a rectangle “tray” of pizza that has a light and fluffy crust with a crispy bottom and is topped with sweet tomato sauce and cheeses. The closely-guarded cheese blend varies from place to place and includes mixes like mozzarella, parmesan and yes, even American! This “twist” makes the cheese extra melty and thus the perfect bite every time. Adventure eaters will love their topping options, made of fresh and unusual ingredients from sizzling onions to shrimp and hot peppers.

The white.

A “cut of white” is how you’d order a slice of white pizza in Old Forge and it’s usually double-crusted, sauceless, stuffed with a mountain of oozing cheese and topped with herbs like rosemary. Think of a grilled cheese made with pizza dough and that’s the style and consistency you’re getting here. An open-faced calzone may be another way to explain this marvel.

Old Forge Style Pizza with Shrimp and Peppers

What Makes Old Forge Style Pizza Unique

Having tried several Old Forge style pizzas ourselves, we can confirm that it’s extra special. What separates it from the pack are things that seem all too familiar on the surface, but are anything but.

The crust.

The crust on Old Forge style pizza manages to be about an inch thick while staying light and airy. It’s got a pillowy-texture with a crispy bottom, and you feel like you can eat a whole tray to yourself without a second thought.

The cheese.

Cheese blends in Old Forge are secret and sacred, but what we can tell you is each restaurant makes its own with special twists and turns. Mozzarella and American cheese seem to be the stars here, but in what proportions, we’ll never know!

How it is cut.

The great thing about Old Forge style pizza, and why it deserves a title like “Pizza Capital of the World,” is that it’s made for sharing. A bar crowd, family with kids or group of friends gathering together can enjoy a full tray that comes with 12 cuts or a half tray that comes with 6 and everyone feels satisfied. The cuts are rectangular in shape and have enough variety for crust-lovers or loathers.

Delicious Old Forge Style Red Pizza

Pizza Places to Try in Old Forge

Old Forge is home to some of the best pizza spots we’ve come to know, each with their own distinct look and feel. Despite the seemingly endless number of pizzerias in such a small area, there’s no such thing as competition here. Though the locals may have their favorites, that’s something that’s ever-changing. The constant here is that these are all neighbors who look after one another and help each other whenever they need. From sharing ingredients to smiles, it’s all about family here.

Arcaro & Genell.

There are few pizza places more famous in the area than Arcaro & Genell. This family-run business is where the locals go to grab a cut from their takeout shop and to sit down with friends in the warm, inviting restaurant or private event space. The red pizza tray with shrimp and hot pepper tray cannot be missed!


Revello’s feels like an old-school diner serving peace, love and pizza. TVs line the bar with the best of Pennsylvania sports on the screens, and families are gathered around for a quick bite with the kids. The white cut is the way to go here, with melted cheese that spills out the sides and contains a surprisingly delicious amount of American cheese. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!


Those looking for a more upscale vibe should head to Cusumano’s. The cozy, sunken bar serves up both red and white pizza, as with the other local joints, with a slightly crunchier crust and a slightly sweeter sauce than their neighbors. Go with the onion tray here for a nice balance of flavors.


Anthony’s is a classic red-sauce restaurant that has an incredible menu of Italian food, steaks and seafood. It has the classiest atmosphere of the group listed here and spans from a white-tablecloth dining room to a more casual (but still upscale) bar at the entrance. The red pizza here has the finesse of a fine-dining restaurant with the flavors of what we’d expect from the destination, and it will absolutely blow you away.

Augustine Club 17.

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And the name of that place is Augustine Club 17. Transport yourself into an episode of Cheers at this local haunt that has a dark, wooden bar with plenty of seating, four-tops galore and bar games to boot. The pizza here is even more varied, like the Coyote, an Old Forge style tray topped with red pepper sauce, grilled chicken, jalapenos and a house blend of cheese.

Mary Lou’s.

We have a working theory that you can tell how quaint a pizza shop is by its online presence, and Mary Lou’s is no exception. The owners feel like family and that family shares updates on Facebook; no website, no DMs. This little spot has a great atmosphere with a small, simple menu of homemade pastas, traditional pizzas and more. Foodies will feel transported to Naples at this mom-and-pop-shop.

Salerno’s Cafe.

Friends of ours from South Jersey where pizza reigns supreme would move mountains to get a Salerno’s cut nearby. This beloved local restaurant joins the other renowned pizza cafes in serving up the classic Old Forge style, but focusing on fresh, seasonal ingredients to let its trays shine. Similar to a neapolitan style topping, Salerno’s is known for its seasonal plain red with ripe, juicy tomatoes, hand-cut basil and fresh garlic.


A day trip and a good ole fashioned pizza crawl through Old Forge is a must-do to add to your list. After all, who doesn’t want to go on a road trip to the Pizza Capital of the World. Maybe for  National Pizza Day? Just saying…