People love pizza, probably more than they love themselves. With great pizza chains come great responsibility — getting all that extra cheese and the perfect sauce into the gluten-loving faces of pizza lovers the world over. And that is why we find it necessary to rank the top major pizza chains in America, because God knows it’s the only thing we’re good at these days.
12. Chuck E. Cheese’s
There’s nothing like getting plastered while your kids play with creepy oversized animatronic animals and unbeatable indoor carnival games, which distract you from the subpar pizza and the fact your kids will cry when they realize they’ll never have enough tickets to get a decent prize. With 600 shops and a decent income, Chuck and the fellas are doing just fine, and their pizza is quoted as never being frozen. Lucky us! If you didn’t notice, the singer of Bowling for Soup is the new voice of Chuck E. More like Creep E.
11. Little Caesars
Surprisingly the third-largest American pizza chain, Little Caesars is closing in on six decades of stomach-churning service. It may smell tasty. It may even taste it, but lord knows I’ve had my bouts with the pizza of the (Roman) gods. Actually founded in Michigan, this is the fastest growing pizza chain in the world with franchises in every state and looking to go international. For $5, who wouldn’t want a whole pizza, but you’re not getting royalty pies (hell, their slogan is “pizza, pizza”).
10. Papa John’s
Many a heavy college drinking night ended with fingers in a garlic dipping sauce of Papa John’s, and many a following morning were filled with regret and putrid breath. New to the pan pizza business, Papa cooks, according to him, with only the freshest ingredients. Tell that to my burning butthole circa 2006. The chain is one of the three largest for take-out pizza, with three decades’ experience and nearly 5,000 locations. Better ingredients, better pizza? Maybe it’s time for better ingredients because no 30-year-old can eat that stuff without a lead stomach.
Founded in 1960 as a small pizza shop, DomiNicks, the number two in pizza chains is classic in so many ways — “Where the hell is 122 and an 1/8?” — at least until it remastered its tough with a garlic finish. Along with its change in brightly lit delivery logo, the 50th anniversary sparked new crust, new loyalty offers and 30-minute guarantee that has sales driving way up. You can’t get bad gas like this anywhere else at midnight!
8. Pizza Hut
The top dawg of the pizza chain game, which used to house classic white plates and red soda cups, is now the king of takeout. Even the original location in Wichita, Kansas, has closed, but that doesn’t stop them from having the most (15,000) locations of any pizza chain. Despite other chains mixing up their recipes, Pizza Hut stayed true to its smell, taste and insanely high salt content until 2007 when they were forced to reduce their sodium content by 15 percent. And everybody went there for their favorite pizza until the Book It! program ceased in 2002, and I quit getting my free pan pizzas!
7. California Pizza Kitchen
Headquartered in the upcoming Playa Vista side of Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills-based pizza chain carries on 30-plus years of dine-in and store-bought pizza with its innovative and nontraditional recipes. New menus and redesigned restaurants went into effect in 2014, but that hasn’t gotten it to number one in franchises, nor in taste, just yet.
The East Coast answer to CPK would be the mall-favorite chain, Sbarro. Founded in New York by a family emigrated from Naples — that’s Italy, genius — the Sbarro family started what would become one of the top-ranked quick service pizza joints of the next 60 years. Heck, they even have one in The Pentagon! There may have been a couple hiccups (bankruptcies) in the past, but the chain continues on in more than 30 countries with more than 800 locations.
5. Round Table
Many may not realize it, but Round Table is one of the largest parlor chains in the western United States. Founded and headquartered in California, the employee-owned chain adheres to a King Arthur theme to go with its Round Table name, but now its focus is on draft beer, wings and not filing for bankruptcy again. Round Table, the last honest pizza? Not necessarily. I mean, I’ll still eat it!
4. Papa Gino’s
If you’ve never been to the upper northeast to Massachusetts, here’s one more reason: the self-proclaimed best delivery and take-out pizza of New England. Originally Piece O’Pizza, the small-time Dedham-based joint changed its name and started its expansion, specializing in hand-tossed pizza, pastas and Italian sandwiches. Pizza is at its best at Papa Gino’s and its 150-plus locations, especially if there’s self-serve fountain soda and a salad bar involved.
3. Papa Murphy’s
Either they’re incredibly lazy or way too trusting, but the reputable take-and-bake chain is serving up love at 425 degrees with its delicious (and quite ginormous) pizzas. It’s just nice to eat restaurant pizza in your underwear without any trouble with the law!
The merger of Papa Aldo’s and Murphy’s in 1995 started up a fiery oven-hot chain, one of the five largest in America, voted Best Pizza in America on multiple occasions by Pizza Today and Zagat’s Fast-Food Survey. Forbes ranked it one of the top 20 restaurant chains to buy, despite some financial lawsuits about a little reporting discrepancy.
It’s as old as time, but it’s still kicking, and rightfully so! The deep pan and the super thin crusts of a classic pizza chain are not to be disrespected. Since its conception in 1973 (the year after “The Godfather” was released), Godfather’s has been making pizzas you can’t refuse. With their Don Vito Corleone knockoff and promises that anyone who doesn’t like anchovies will be sleeping with the fishes, it’s about as cheesy as a pizza joint can get. Their slogan? “We serve good pizza.” Well, that pretty much does it here.
1. Monical’s Pizza
It’s amazing that a place serving the smallest amount of pizza can have the best pizza, especially when you could just have more pizza. The Illinois-based chain, which specializes in, but is not limited to, its incredible garlic salted, thin crust pizza, has been booming since its franchising in 2007. Now with 60 locations across the Midwest and its own Sweet & Tart French dressing, there’s simply no stopping yourself from another slice. Illinois may also be home to the best single pizza joint (in my humble opinion), Agatucci’s, but Monical’s takes the pie when it comes to chains. It’s slogan? “In a world that pulls people apart, we bring people together.” Dark, but true. I like “pizza, pizza.”