With a Few Variations Authentic Pizzerias Do Exist Throughout The Low Country of South Carolina
Jeff Walker Food & Beverage Review
Many would agree Charleston, South Carolina is a food town. To those who live here and to those who visit the Holy City, Charleston is known for four things, tourism, history, hospitality, and great food. While Charleston is primarily known for it's seafood, shrimp & grits, soul food, and barbecue, throughout the 20th century pocketed areas of Mediterranean, Asian, Jewish, and Hispanic eateries emerged with many being among the best Charleston has to offer.
However Italian and more specifically pizza was the late comer to the food and drink industry. Granted there are a few restaurants (local & chains) that offer up decent Italian fare, with pizza it's a different story altogether. Folks raised in the south and in the low country of South Carolina grew up chowing down on national and regional fast food pizza, which as most northerners and mid-west people know is not authentic pizza.
Not discounting their place in the fast food world, but they are not real pizza. True pizza was born out of Europe and Italy and made popular by those immigrating to America in the early 1900's. Italians settling in the bigger cities on the east coast gave birth to thin crust pizza and pizzerias. That is why communities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia & Baltimore are teeming with street corner pizzerias, often with pizza lovers backed up at the counter.
There is something about the water and the local ingredients in the northeast that combine to make a great pizza. Whether it's the Charles & Mystic in Bean Town, the East & Hudson in the Big Apple, or the Delaware River surrounding Philly, the water makes a big difference. True pizza connoisseurs (someone who knows taste) understand pizza is all about three elements, the crust, the perfect marinara sauce, and the cheese. And it's the right mixture and ratio of the three that make the perfect pizza.
It wasn't until the 1980's that northerners began to introduce real pizza to Charleston. Scampy's in Goose Creek with Philadelphia heritage gave low country residents a taste of authentic pizza. While Scampy's closed down in the early 90's the Castellucci family owned and operated Philly's until it closed in 2022 where they were voted 'Best Cheesesteak in Charleston' countless times.
Circling back to pizza. A few more pizzerias popped up in the 1980's but it was the 1990's that saw the real explosion of authentic Italian American pizza here in Charleston.
Husband and wife team David and Beth Clark relocated from upstate New York in 1996 opening A Dough Re Mi in Mt. Pleasant. They quickly gained favor with locals east of the Cooper due to their authenticity and streamlined menu. Located at 2700 Hwy 17N (Brickyard Plantation), A Dough Re Mi concentrate on the Italian staples, ie pizza, pasta, salads, and subs.
As a kicker A Dough Re Mi offers up Greek style gyros. A good addition to an already great menu. I've eaten there many times and highly recommend them. Not the thinnest crust in town but for overall taste they knock it out of the park. Similar to the 'Do Re Mi' scales that are music to the ears, A Dough Re Mi pizzeria is magic to the taste buds. Close to Snee Farms & Long Point Road neighborhoods. An old school pizzeria. Taste the difference at https://www.facebook.com/adoughremi/
Up on Hwy 41 near Dunes West you'll find Rivertowne Pizza & Deli. Owner Ryan Brett hails from upstate New York as well, and he's been slinging pizzas since he was a teenager. Ryan like myself believes pizzerias are more about character and feel, rather than glitz & glamour. I've sampled his plain cheese and pepperoni slice and they are flat out awesome. His deli sandwiches further cement his 'A Plus' status. I recommend the Meatball Sub, or the Sicilian or Italian Combo.
Like many of the competitors Rivertowne Pizza slay an awesome calzone or stromboli. Homemade cannolis and a delightful Limoncello Mascarpone Cake are just a couple of their half dozen Italian desserts. If you live near Dunes West, Rivertowne, or along Clements Ferry Road I would suggest dropping by. Ryan majored in finance but his real degree is in pizza chemistry. The best of both worlds at https://rivertownepizza.com/
Matt's Pizza, formerly NYPD Pizza at the corner of 17N and Hwy. 41 faithfully served Mount Pleasant for years, offering up authentic New York style pizza alongside a few signature Italian desserts. While Matt has moved on, the new owners Joanne and Don Migliori (MILL-YOUR-EE, which means ‘the best’ in Italian), have taken the east Cooper eatery to the next level, renaming the restaurant after themselves.
When it comes to their staple foods, it's hard to imagine getting any better thin crust pizza in greater Charleston, just the way northerners are accustom to. Migliori's is a welcoming family style pizzeria, run by a very close knit family. Migliori's still offers up pizza slices at lunch with a beverage special for $9. Aside from a few smaller items and the breads they get regularly from Saffron's Bakery, Migliori's makes everything in house. Sauces, dressings, cremes, handheld edibles all crafted with love.
Their meatball sub is another TDF 'To Die For' Italian sandwich. Three ample well seasoned meatballs blanketed in their marinara, on a slightly toasted bun. Served with Cape Cod Chips for under $14. Awesome and filling. You won't go 'fowl' (pun intended) with their Chicken Parm sub, a moist hand-breaded cutlet layered under mozzarella and Mig's marinara. Totally satisfying. Explore the difference at https://migspizzeria.com/
At the corner of King and Calhoun behind Refuel is Sabatino's NY Style Pizza, the definition of a neighborhood pizzeria. It's a clean, small hole in the wall with a few tables that serves up incredible New York style pizza. A CofC grad Sabatino Covollo honed his skill in Bronx New York before finding his way south to attend school. Covollo has educated himself on the art of the slice and knows pizza is all about the dough.
Sabatino's is in the running for the thinnest slice in all of Charleston. Another one of my personal favorites in downtown Charleston. Easy in and out and has that pizzeria vibe. Savor a slice at $3.50. https://www.bennysva.com/locations/benny-palmettos/
Those of you from Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania who now reside on Daniel Island or off Clements Ferry Road can find northern style pizza at Orlando's Pizza in down town Daniel Island. Open since 2004 on the island, David the owner who hails from south Jersey said he simply saw an opportunity to bring authentic pizza to vastly growing area. With spaghetti & meatballs as the only pasta dish, a few signature salads, calzones and Chocolate Mousse Cake on the menu, Orlando's concentrates on serving up what the sign outside indicates, PIZZA! Plenty of tables inside with a few on the oversized sidewalk.
While Orlando's like many of his competitors, offers up designer pies to appease eclectic tastes, David like myself believes in not over thinking pizza. Enjoy a simple cheese slice or maybe a pie with a couple of toppings. Orlando's is just one of two local pizzerias utilizing a carousel brick oven. It simply allows them to make more pizzas at the same time, which when diners fill up the place for lunch looking for couple of slices, provides quicker turn around time. 15 years after establishing a loyal customer base Orlando's opened a second location off Mathis Ferry Road near Johnny Dodd's and Wingo Way. Orlando's pizzeria is about as real as you can get. Manga, https://orlandospizza.com/
Smack dab in the heart of the Olde Village of North Charleston you'll come across Park Pizza. I would call them a pizzeria plus. They may be small in size but they do a huge business, with sandwiches, salads, and calzones aplenty. As soon as you step inside the aroma of pizza fills your sensory organs. Just three bar stools, and couple of tables inside with cafe seating on the street when weather permits.
Park Pizza is more a take out or get it delivered kind of pizzeria. Adam who hails an hour south of Boston and Leigh Ann (local girl) serve up NY style with a slight variation. The crust is a tad thicker, but since they know how to bake it to perfection, it's a soft and chewy breadstick at the end of your slice. Find them at 1028 East Montague or online at https://parkpizzaparkcircle.com/
Finding your way in Goose Creek and discovering you have hankering for pizza, than I would recommend Vinny's Pizza on St. James Avenue near Crowfield. Locals like to call Vinny the Pizza Physician of Goose Creek, because he likes to doctor the dough himself. You know Vinny's is laid back because he's operating a pizzeria in Goose Creek.
A northern boy, pizza is in his blood. Signature New York style thin crust pizza, slices during lunch (until 4pm), a few pasta dishes, and sub sandwiches crafted with Boar's Head meat and cheeses, pretty much the industry gold standard. A cheese slice will run you $2.99 or save $5 and get the whole 16" pie (8 slices) for $16.99. Yo Vinny at https://www.vinnyspizzasc.com/
Out in Summerville you have several choices and three of them belong to Famulari's. Brothers Jason and Justin Famulari teamed up with longtime friends Josh and Brandon back in 2008 opening their first location in on Trolley Road in Oakbrook. Quick success lead to a second pizzeria near Azalea Square, with a third site at the entrance of Cane Bay serving Summerville, Goose Creek, and Moncks Corner addresses. For nearly a decade they've been voted best pizza in Flowertown, and the nod is well deserved. Additional locations in Tanner Hall Hanahan, Hwy 61 West Ashley and Folly Road James Island.
Famulari's motto is 'Respect the Slice' and that speaks volumes, especially since they serve slices all day long. The perfect foldable slice, crispy crust, with cheese that oozes and oil that drips. Not only do they celebrate New York style pizza but the guys pay tribute to the Windy City with a deep dish Chicago style. Hoping to bring their unique brand of New York style to the ever growing low country, Famulari's has locations on Hwy 61 West Ashley and on James Island. It's nice to know if you're in a part of greater Charleston and crave real pizza, Famulari's is nearby. Drop by a location near you at https://www.famularis.com/
For those northerners who live along the Ladson Road corridor, between Hwy 78 and Dorchester Road, you can satisfy your NY style cravings at King's Pizza. Certainly not the thinnest crust in the low country, but inviting nonetheless. At King's they blend both NY and Philly style together, offering up a slightly thicker crust and a heaping helping of cheese. They are just as billed, a pizzeria that doubles as an Italian ristorante, serving hot & cold subs, two dozen pasta dishes, gourmet salads, and Italian desserts. Mangia! Take the royal plunge at https://www.kingspizza.co/
Fresh and authentic are the core values at Pizza A Modo Mio aka 'I do it my way'. Make no mistake owner Mike Pitera believes in making pizza his way which begins with real dough from New York. When his real dough runs out he stops making pizza because he's not about to offer up a version he wouldn't even serve his worst enemy. Fear not he has dough delivered twice weekly which helps accommodate the long lines during lunch and dinner.
Just 37, Mike has been slinging pizza since he was in high school. He followed his retired parents to Charleston during the pandemic and soon Mike and his girlfriend were serving up slices (pizza) & ices (Italian ice) from a food truck. When a primo location in West Ashley became available he took the marinara plunge serving up traditional NY style pizza, Sicilian pies, garlic knots, meatballs, desserts, and incredible and creamy Italian ices.
Located in the Lowes Food Shopping Center at the corner of Bees Ferry and Hwy 61 across from Shadowmoss, Pizza A Modo Mio is the essence of a NY pizzeria. The overall decor proudly displays New York's timeline, with the tables covered in NY Times headlines that pay tribute to Mike's family birthdays. Damn straight Mike makes his own sauce which includes San Marzano tomatoes. Grab a slice or go old school and take home an 18" New Yorker (cheese pie) for $18. Taste the difference at https://modomiopizza.com/
There is no rhyme or reason, but clearly Mount Pleasant and Summerville have the bulk of the low country pizzerias, and with a slew of them there is still room for more. In the Big Apple there is a pizzeria about every four city blocks. Many of the establishments I've profiled in this article serve up great pasta dishes, hot & cold subs, calzones, stromboli, anti-pasta (salads), garlic knots, desserts, and more.
Several of aforementioned offer wine and beer including brews from local craftsmen. You can take this to the bank, there is nothing like a hot Italian thin crust New York style pizza and a cold brew. Pizza and beer go together like fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and cold milk. It's a marriage made in food & drink heaven.
New York style pizza can be simply described as a thin slice you can fold in half, cheese oozing, and a hint of oil decorating your plate. NY style pizza is always best when you order a whole pie, and that first slice should gently burn the roof of your mouth just so. The crust should be just soft enough with a bit noticeable burn on the underside, and provide a little crunch to enjoy at the end of your meal. God forbid, you never need a fork to eat a slice of New York Style pizza.
For those who grew up in the south, you were no doubt introduced to pizza through Godfather's, the Hut, or maybe pizza named after a small Roman leader. If that's what you're used to than understandably it's hard to make the switch. But with more and more northerners, including New Yorkers, folks from Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New England, as well as the mid-west (Ohio, Michigan) moving and or retiring in the low country, they might find it hard to give up on a style of pizza they grew up on.
Real pizza is not complicated, it's great dough, great cheese, and great sauce. If you're pizza order comes with Buffalo chicken drizzled with barbecue sauce, or has the word margarita in the title, than you're ordering a gourmet pizza, or what I call a designer pizza pot pie, but you sure the hell aren't getting a NY style pizza found on every street corner in Manhattan. Of course the Charleston area pizzerias make and have gourmet pizzas on their menu, just to cater to those not from the north or have a foo-foo palate!
New York style pizza is discretionary even to northerners. Some prefer a slightly thicker crust, more or less cheese, while some seek the right blend of sauce. Overall there is a uniqueness that bonds true NY style pizzerias and those that love their pizza together.
With the tri-county area growing as fast as it is, maybe more pizzerias will pop up. We can only hope. Until such time the list of pizzerias in this article comes in handy. Search and enjoy. There are a few others but the ten mentioned here are as close or spot on for New York style pizza. Mangia!