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What an Authentic Margherita Pizza Costs Across America

That price can give you a glimpse into how expensive it can be to restaurant in certain locations.

pizza margherita eataly la Photo: Jeremy Repanich

Growing up in the American suburbs of the 1980s and ’90s, pizza was pretty indistinguishable from the box it was delivered in. Bland, cookie-cutter, mass-market pies that American corporations served up had become a far cry from what you’d get in Naples, pizza’s ancestral home. The difference became crystal clear to me more than a decade ago. I traveled to the Southern reaches of the Boot and tried a pizza made from naturally leavened dough, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, garlic, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano that was all cooked in a wood-fired oven. It was chewy, fresh, not greasy, simple, and delicious. I was in heaven.

You don’t need to go across the Atlantic to get this experience now. In most corners of the United States there’s outstanding wood-fired pizza being made, just like in Naples. Pizzaiolos in 98 pizzerias across 29 states craft pies that adhere to a set of rules set forth by the organization Vera Pizza Napoletana. You can make pizza with any ingredient you want, any way you want, but in order to be certified by VPN, you’ve got to use the methods, ingredients, and suppliers the organization prescribes. It’s a stamp of authenticity for those wishing to make Neapolitan-style pizza. So a VPN-approved margherita in Washington should closely resemble one made in Texas, South Carolina, or Southern Italy.

It may seem a bit didactic and heavy handed to preserve a recipe in amber like this, but no matter how you feel about it, the consistency does make it easier to compare prices of pizzas across America in an apples-to-apples sort of way. And with a large enough sample size in each locale, it can offer an indication on how expensive it is to run a restaurant there. Once you control for ingredients, it allows you to see how other economic factors like labor and rent affect the price of food.

Over at Eater, they’ve compiled the prices of a margherita pizza at each of the 98 VPN-certified restaurants, then averaged those in each state. Not surprisingly, New York and California have pretty costly pies at $17 and $15.53, respectively. Pennsylvania has the highest average, by dint of only having one VPN-certified place, so it doesn’t quite tell a complete story about the price of running a restaurant there. Check out the full list of average prices below, or visit Eater to see the map they’ve created.

  • Arizona – $12.55
  • California – $15.53
  • Colorado – $12.00
  • Connecticut – $13.67
  • Hawaii – $16.88
  • Idaho – $14.50
  • Illinois – $14.17
  • Indiana – $12.50
  • Iowa – $11.00
  • Kentucky – $8.90
  • Michigan – $10.00
  • Missouri – $9.00
  • Nevada – $13.00
  • Maine – $13.00
  • Massachusetts – $13.00
  • Minnesota – $9.25
  • Nebraska – $13.50
  • New York – $17.00
  • New Jersey – $12.00
  • Oregon – $15.50
  • Pennsylvania – $17.50
  • South Carolina – $14.50
  • Tennessee – $14.00
  • Texas – $12.80
  • Utah – $13.50
  • Virginia – $13.20
  • Washington – $16.12
  • Washington D.C. – $14.50
  • Wisconsin – $13.93

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