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Pizza and Wine Pairings that Go Beyond the Classics

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When it comes to wine pairings for pizza, the possibilities are endless. Are you eating a classic New York City slice? Or Chicago deep dish? What about the toppings?

Given the Neapolitan origins of pizza, the “grows together, goes together” rule might suggest pairing your pizza pie, slice or square with Campanian wines. Or, an Italian bottling at the very least.

But those are hardly your only options. Some pizza places find that a bit limiting. Here, a few restaurants that take pizza and wine pairings further afield.

Marta in Manhattan
Marta / Photo by Liz Clayman

Champagne with Mushroom Pizza

While the wine list at New York City’s Marta restaurant is, in fact, mostly Italian, the cellar includes more than 50 selections of Champagne. According to Katie Morton, wine director for Marta, Caffe Marchio and Vini e Fritti, it’s not just to be festive.

“Champagne is high in acid,” she says. “Pizza can be rich and cheesy, but then you have the tomatoes and their acidity, or lemon juice on a white pizza.” Champagne both matches that acid profile and cuts through the richness. “A second factor is the lees flavor [that] can give a bready undercurrent to the wine, and good pizza dough has similar notes.”

Recommended pairing: “One longtime favorite of mine is the Paul Bara Grand Rosé Brut, paired with our mushroom pizza. The earthiness of the mushrooms makes a great contrast with the fruitiness of the Paul Bara.”

White Lightning pizza at John & Vinny's
White Lightning pizza at Jon & Vinny’s / Photo courtesy Jon & Vinny’s

Gamay with Bolognese Pizza

With a retail wine shop, Helen’s Wines, in the back of the restaurant, Jon and Vinny’s gives diners a chance to enjoy their pizza with wines pours from all over the world, via bottles purchased at the retail wine shop located in the back of the restaurant, helen’s wines, which have a retail and dine-in price. The options include up-and-coming Californians, older vintages from Burgundy, and yes, Italian classics.

Recommended pairing: “I always have a Gamay on.” says Helen Johannesen, the beverage director. “Usually a cru from Beaujolais. To me those wines really lend themselves to red sauce and Bolognese, especially if they’re a little semi-carbonic in the winemaking. They come out of the wine shop at cellar temperature, and it just goes so well with all the flavors.”

Pizza at Moleskine in Montreal
Moleskine / Photo courtesy Moleskine

Lambrusco with Margherita Pizza

Montreal’s Moleskine restaurant is a chameleon. Depending on your mood, it can be a pizza place, an elegant gourmet destination, a snack bar or an ice cream stand. But all of its personalities possess playfulness. Pizza offerings, for example, include classics like a margherita, as well as more unexpected pies, like a salmon pizza, with Mornay sauce, black sesame seeds, red onions, capers, dill and gravlax. The wine cellar allows slice fans to explore the same selections as diners seated in the more formal, upstairs section, featuring a frequently changing list of nearly 40 small producers from all over Europe.

Recommended pairing: While the list is diverse, co-owner and sommelier Veronique Dalle admits a liking for classic combinations. “I love Lambrusco with pizza. Cinque Campi’s is particularly delicious.” For Dalle, it’s more about choosing wines “that are coherent with our values…wines that are honest and sensitive.”

Pizza and Wine in the Vineyard

A pizza oven at a Planeta winery in Sicily.
Pizza oven at Sicilian winery Planeta’s Vittoria estate / Photo courtesy Planeta

Sometimes, it seems as if pizza and wine have been paired together since birth. At Sicilian winery Planeta’s Vittoria estaste , workers uncovered an ancient pizza oven on the premises during renovation. An evening spent making pies together is now a highlight for guests, who also get to take advantage of Sicily’s bountiful ingredients.

“My cousins are producing a great cherry tomato variety, Kamarino, on a nearby farm, so we have the possibility to use an extra tasty sauce as a base for our pizzas,” says Alessio Planeta.

Recommended pairing: “Another reason we do a lot of pizza dinners at this estate is because the wines from Vittoria fit superbly. Fine, delicate tannin structure, a lot of fruit, and a playful taste are characteristics of both the Frappato and the Nero d’Avola grown in this area.”

Pizza at Bebu
Pizzeria Bebu / Photo courtesy Pizzeria Bebu

Red Blend with Sausage and Peppers Pizza

“Ultimately where it’s from and what kind it is was irrelevant,” says Zachary Smith, the owner of Pizzeria Bebu in Chicago. “We just wanted to serve wine that was very drinkable.” The concise list found here highlights picks from around the world. “Whatever we pour by-the-glass, people will try,” he says. “We can put something esoteric in the Italian slot and people will either gamble on it or go for something else. And we have those things that most diners love to see, like Oregon Pinot or California Cabernet, things that people can fall back on very comfortably. But we also want them to know they can confidently take a risk with us.”

Recommended pairing: “The concrete minerality and great fruit on the Cruse Monkey Jacket red blend pair naturally with our house sausage and pickled piparra peppers pizza”

Red wine and pizza at Pizzicletta in Flagstaff, AZ.
Pizzicletta / Photo courtesy Pizzicletta

Chardonnay with Gorgonzola Pizza

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an Italian wine list, especially when it explores the nooks and crannies of the peninsula’s vineyards. “The backbone of all [Italian] wines is acidity, so it’s likely to go well with all the food,” says Caleb Schiff, owner, Pizzicletta in Flagstaff, Arizona. “That’s the beauty of [it]. So we do have some richer, cheese-based pizzas that could really hold up to a Barolo or something fuller and more tannic, but also the high-acid white wines go really well with that because they can cut the richness of that cheese.”

Recommended pairing: “Our ss-145 pizza has gorgonzola, almonds, charred kale and a little spray of lemon juice. On our list we’ve got this really beautiful Chardonnay from Vignai da Duline in Friuli. You get the oak and power and body of the wine, but you get this acidity that you almost don’t expect because of everything else going on, and that complements that pizza really well.”