Top Five Pizza Places in Indianapolis

Indiana has a rich and diverse pizza history. Papa John's and Noble Roman's were founded in Indiana, and there are two regional chains headquartered in Indiana (Arni's and Pizza King). Indianapolis is a pizza lover's paradise; it's ground zero for the war between St. Louis-style, New York-style, and Chicago-style. This battle has led to the creation of Indianapolis-style pizza, which is the love child of St. Louis-style and New York-style. In an Indy-style pizza, the crust is thin but not crispy (you can still fold it), cheese and toppings go all the way to the edge of the pie, the cheese is mozzarella or a mozzarella mix (not Provel), toppings are usually finely ground and sprinkled generously all over the pie, and the pie is cut into squares.

There are many excellent pizza places in Indianapolis, both national chains and local mom-and-pop shops, but here are the top five.

5) Pizza King
If you ever want to start a heated argument in Indianapolis, ask a group of locals for their opinions on Pizza King. There is no in-between—people either violently love it or hate it with a passion. Yes, it's a chain, but it's a Hoosier chain, complete with Indy-style pizza. This is a party pizza, best enjoyed around a kitchen table with friends with a cold mug or three of beer (some say the better the beer, the better the pizza, but it's strangely addictive even without beer).

Each Pizza King has its own unique attractions. For example, the one in Avon has a railroad theme (your drinks are even delivered on a model train), while the one in Zionsville has video games available at the table. Regardless of where you are, the Pepperoni Feast is a popular selection, featuring a borderline blasphemous amount of diced pepperoni.

4) Arni's
Another Indiana-based chain, this one is still family owned and operated by the founder's sons. Like Pizza King, it serves Indianapolis-style pizza but is a few steps up from the fast casual chain. Arni's claims to be the home of the original Indianapolis-style pizza. The chain's slogan is "Meet You at Arni's," and the restaurants are offbeat (the one in Indianapolis has a bar with a seat painted like Norm from Cheers) places suitable for friends and family. Think a sports-meets-pop culture theme; the one in Indianapolis has a large multi-seated bicycle with several local and national celebrities.

Arni's is the official pizza of the minor league baseball team Indianapolis Indians. Popular specialty pizzas include Aiden's Amazin' Meatball (meatballs, onions, pepperoni, pizza sauce and extra cheese drizzled with marinara sauce), Tyler's Chicken Bacon Ranch (chicken, hickory smoked bacon, red onion and seasoned diced tomatoes topped with mozzarella cheese and drizzled with ranch dressing—people in Indianapolis take ranch dressing seriously), and the Big Daddy Meat Cravers (sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and ham).

3) South of Chicago
Local alternative weekly newspaper Nuvo calls their stone oven-fired pizza "the best deep dish south of Soldier Field", and they're right--this place serves authentic Chicago-style pizza (deep dish with the sauce on top). The Fountain Square location has a sports bar theme, mostly Chicago teams but a few Indianapolis teams (like the hugely popular Indy Eleven soccer team that sold out of season tickets its first year). This is a restaurant you have to hit at the right time unless you want to wait an hour or more for your pizza--but it's worth the wait. The sauce is sweet, the cheese rich and stringy, and the crust crispy but not cracker-level. The dough is made fresh daily, the mozzarella is pure whole milk cheese, and the tomato sauce has little in it besides tomatoes. There are also locations in Fishers and Noblesville, but they don't have the stone oven. It makes a difference.

Pepperoni-sausage is the most common pie here, but another specialty is Italian beef and giardiniera (an Italian spicy pepper mix). A buffet is available during the lunch hours, but you probably won't be able to eat more than two pieces—they're that filling. This pizza is best reheated (you will have leftovers unless you have a large party) at 450 degrees for five to six minutes, depending on your oven. Local beer is available at the restaurant, and the Fountain Square location is within walking distance of New Day Meadery and Fountain Square Brewery.

2) Jockamo's Upper Crust
Jockamo's Upper Crust, located in Irvington, Greenwood, and Lawrence, is where the professional out-of-state food critics go to eat quality pizza--it has been named best pizza in Indiana (yes, the whole state) more than once. A relative newcomer to the scene (it was founded in 2007), Jockamo's vibe is eclectic with a wry sense of humor (salad dressings are described as "all homemade except for the lite options, because we don't know how to make anything with fewer calories than God intended").

The Slaughterhouse Five, named after local author Kurt Vonnegut's book, is a popular seller--it is topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, and sliced steak. The Creole contains etouffee sauce and Cajun spice mix from Eastside favorite Papa Roux's (a Hurricane Katrina transplant) and has a pleasant kick. Then there's the "Hangover Pizzas" available on weekends—the Denver (housemade chorizo gravy, scrambled eggs, ham, red onion, green pepper and cheddar), the Farmhouse (chorizo gravy, scrambled eggs, chicken, cheddar and bacon), and the Huevos Rancheros (housemade salsa, scrambled eggs, chorizo, tomato, banana peppers and cheddar). If you're a hair of the dog person, local beers are available; selection varies by location.

1) Bazbeaux's
Bazbeaux's, located in Carmel, on Mass Ave, and in Broad Ripple, is where the locals go to eat quality pizza. A consistent winner of Indianapolis Monthly's and Nuvo's "Best Pizza" award, the restaurant uses mostly local ingredients (the seafood being an obvious exception). The restaurant was originally opened in a decrepit house belonging to a gravedigger, and named after King Louis XI's court jester. According to the restaurant's web page, Bazbeaux fled France after the cruel and incompetent Louis XI's death and joined the court of Lorenzo de Medici, where he created new and exciting dishes for the Florentine prince. After Lorenzo's death, he traveled to the New World with Amerigo Vespucci, where he disappeared. True to its namesake, Bazbeaux's strives to always be original, entertaining, and intriguing.

The Quattro Formaggio is a must-try for cheese lovers, but a popular option is the Create a Pie. Bazbeaux's has 17 traditional toppings, 33 exotic toppings (including house-made chorizo), and 12 premium toppings (including two locally smoked meats from Goose the Market — the joke is locals eat every meal and between-meal snack at Goose because it's just that good), so you have a lot of options. Bazbeaux's also offers a wide selection of local beer.

Becky Oberg is a professional writer who has lived in Indianapolis on and off for almost thirty years. Her hobbies include acting, cooking, singing, writing, and playing video games. You can also find Becky Oberg on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.