Perhaps the only thing hotter than a South Carolina summer are the brick pizza ovens turning out artisanal pies across the state. With hellish temps between 650 and 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, these wood-fired chambers can blister a crust and melt mozzarella before the first round of beer arrives at the table.
Creative toppings (often locally sourced), freshly made dough and finely honed technique make for serious pizza craft. Of the nearly 73,000 pizzerias in the US, South Carolina lays claim to 1,000 or more, with a growing number following the artisanal trend. Pie-curious? Experience the skills of master pizzaiolos at these and other brick oven eateries.
Wood-fired pizza is made here with locally and regionally sourced ingredients. Food Network named their pistachio-pesto pizza the best in South Carolina. Notable toppings: house-made sausage, heirloom pumpkin, Fresno chiles, Castelvetrano olives.
Crust, James Island and Summerville
Aptly named, this eatery serves up house-made and locally sourced ingredients on a crust that is tender in the center and charred just enough around the edges to deliver a supremely satisfying crunch. Notable toppings: roasted squash, locally grown mushrooms, braised beef, farm egg, truffle oil.
Named for the Italian super-speedway, this hot spot is the finishing line for diners with an appreciation for Old World pizza-making aesthetics. Italian flour, Neapolitan yeast and other imports team up with local and regional ingredients to create delicious wood-fired pies. Notable toppings: eggplant, capers, oven-roasted chicken, arugula pesto, house-made sausage.
Here, crispy, thin-crust pizzas are baked at 1,000 degrees in a wood-fired oven. In keeping with the Charleston aesthetic, there's a strong focus on locally sourced ingredients with a few select imports sprinkled in for exotic good measure. Notable toppings: San Marzano tomatoes, San Simon di Costa (Spanish smoked cheese), Brussels sprouts, apple, Calabrian chiles.
Main Street Public House, Downtown
This bustling newcomer to the downtown dining scene keeps its brick oven hustling to meet the high demand for its wood-fired, Italian-centric pies. Notable toppings: prosciutto di Parma, vodka sauce, shaved pork belly, porcini mushroom cream sauce.
The pizzas issuing from the imported Italian wood-fired oven at Persona are crave-worthy and award-winning, with its Chicken Chipotle Pizza snagging top honors at the 2007 World Pizza Championship in Napoli. Imported Italian flour, handcrafted artisan meats and locally sourced veggies have helped this pizzeria win plenty of accolades from patrons, too. Notable toppings: sopressata, peppadews, beets, burrata, pine nuts.
The roots of this pizza are authentic Italian and it all begins with the brick oven fashioned after those found in the ancient city of Pompeii. San Marzano tomatoes grown in the soils near Mt. Vesuvius and Caputo flour from Naples are fundamentals for these pies, which arrive at your table with perfectly charred perimeters. Notable toppings: Calabrese salami, blueberries, apricot chili sauce, shaved pears, almonds.
Za's Brick Oven Pizza, Devine Street
Wood-fired pies emerge from the brick oven of this rustic, yet contemporary neighborhood gathering place layered with farm-fresh local flavors and choice imports. Notable toppings: Gruyere, fire-roasted peppers, house-made sausage, cilantro, sriracha.
Tucked away in a small shopping center, Rebel Pie is the defiant little pizzeria that could. Authentic Neapolitan taste is the specialty of this mom-and-pop establishment, where every pie baked in the wood-fired oven challenges the generic offerings of pizza chains in the area - no small feat in this modest-size town. Notable toppings: Carolina Heritage Farms sausage, goat cheese, baby clams, signature béchamel sauce.
This pizzeria pays homage to Antonio Bova, a storied home-kitchen chef and Tuscan farmer who prepared amazing meals for his extended family. At first slice, you'll feel like part of the famiglia, thanks to the wonders of its wood-fired brick oven. Notable toppings: fresh shrimp, Pecorino Romano, wood-roasted chicken, black bean hummus, salmon.
Trio, Downtown Greenville
The rustic flavors of wood-fired pizza are enhanced when served against a backdrop of brick walls and gas lanterns. Locally owned, this café has been serving up pizza and other Italian dishes for more than a decade to the downtown crowd. Notable toppings: sweet fennel sausage, herb-infused olive oil, Kalamata olives, rotisserie spiced chicken.
This mainstay on Restaurant Row draws the pizza-loving crowds with a lineup running the gamut from Southern Pizza - with grilled chicken and barbecue sauce - to Pizza del Pescatore - with baby clams and shrimp. Notable toppings: ricotta, prosciutto, Philly steak, feta.
This pizzeria brings a bit of Mount Etna to the South Carolina coastline with a fiery hot brick oven and imported Italian cheeses, tomatoes and cured meats. Notable toppings: capicola, clams, fried eggplant, hot cherry peppers, bleu cheese.
Artisanal pies might share billing with the craft brew, but the success of this symbiosis falls squarely on the shoulders of Millstone's pizza. A hickory wood-fired oven infuses the dough with a hint of flavor and delivers a proper hearth-baked blister to the crust. Notable toppings: Calabrian peppers, local goat cheese, calamari, Grana Padano, red pepper-infused olive oil.