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Restaurants & Bars

Myth Busted: Dallas’ Best Pizzas Are Not More Expensive When You Account for Size

Yes, your nice local neighborhood pizza shop probably charges a couple more dollars than Domino’s. That’s because it makes a bigger pie.
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A couple of 12-inch pies at Neony Pizza Works. Elizabeth Lavin

Dallas pizzerias are besieged by a myth. This myth, propagated in social media chats, suggests that our best “artisanal” pizzas are unjustifiably expensive compared to the big national chains. I first saw the backlash in comments on my newest neighborhood spot, Cenzo’s Pizza & Deli, which serves up very good and humongous pizzas for $20 to $25. Then, last week, an angry Redditor started a 800-comment discussion with the opening salvo, “I am not paying 25 dollars for an ‘artisan’ pizza. This leaves me your typical pizza chains like papa johns… and Zalat? …I don’t think im picky, but I just cant find that staple pizza place for me that runs around 15 bucks for a nice pie.”

Many of the replies pointed out good affordable staples around town. But the basic argument still bothered me, so I built a spreadsheet of 70 Dallas-area pizzas from 17 businesses. After crunching the numbers, I learned that if a Dallas pizza is $25, it’s not because it’s “artisan.” It’s because it’s huge.

To create my data set, I pulled prices for three kinds of pizza (pepperoni, cheese, and the equivalent of meat lover’s) from 17 pizzerias, in all the available sizes. I chose dine-in or takeout options to avoid delivery fees, skipped third-party apps with their own pricing, and omitted Neapolitan pizza. For the record, none of Cane Rosso, Partenope, or Pizzeria Testa have a single pizza for more than $20, except Testa’s meter-long party pies.

My data disprove the notion that higher quality, or local ownership, necessarily equates to higher prices. Many of our best local pizzerias are more expensive not because they’re fancy, but because they make bigger pizzas. Cenzo’s, Eno’s, Goodbye Horses, SauceBros, Vector Brewing, and Wriggly Tin all make their smallest pizza at least the size of a Domino’s large. Goodbye Horses’ smallest size is bigger than Domino’s biggest.

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The clear correlation of pizza surface area to size shows that, although there is certainly individual variation, most $20 pepperoni pizzas cost that much because they are really big, not because they are high-falutin' fancy chefs. Note that the dot closest to bottom right—and therefore least cost-effective—is from a business, Wriggly Tin, that does not accept tips, so you will save 15 to 20 percent on your bill. Brian Reinhart

Using our good old schoolmate, A = π r², I measured value by the cost per square inch of pizza. The surface area of a pizza grows significantly with every added inch. A 16-inch pie is 78 percent bigger than a 12-inch; an 18-incher is 125 percent bigger than a 12-inch.

In terms of cost per square inch, the basic rule is clear: you should order bigger pizza. It’ll be more expensive, but the cost increase will not match the increase in size. The best example I found is at Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, where upgrading your 12-inch Mucho Meato to a 16-inch version costs just $3 and gets you almost twice the surface area. That small pie is the most cost-ineffective in my data set ($0.20 per square inch), while the larger version costs the same per square inch as a large Domino’s Meatzilla.

Speaking of Domino’s, the national chain is only a little cheaper than the Dallas average. Yes, Domino’s offers loads of coupons, but if you want the best bang for your buck—and a better pizza—you’re much better off at Bona Pizza on Lovers Lane or Bay 34th Street Pizzeria in Farmers Branch. An extra-large cheese pie from Bay 34th offers the best value in my survey: just $0.06 per square inch.

Even comparing like to like, Vector’s 14-inch cheese is $0.49 cheaper than Domino’s 14-inch cheese. The Cenzo’s supreme is a 16-inch monster that looks expensive at $26.50. But when I custom-built a same-sized pie from Domino’s with all the same toppings, the big chain came in higher: $26.99. Neony’s 12-inch meat pizza is just $0.84 more than the chain’s version, and they make their own incredible 72-hour-fermented dough.

Not surprisingly, the worst bargain in pizza is a small meat lover’s-style pie from anywhere. If you’re in the market for a 12-inch meat pizza, you should pay more for a bigger size and enjoy the leftovers, since almost every small version comes out to about $0.15 per square inch. Compare that to the 19-inch Waylon’s Special at Bryan Street Tavern, which is $25 for more than double the surface area, or $0.09 per square inch.

We could get further into the weeds—shoutout to Wriggly Tin, where the price per square inch is above average but service is included and tips are not accepted—but I think my point is made clearly enough. Even if you want to be frugal in your pizza-ordering habits, you can buy locally made, delicious pizza. Every spot I’ve mentioned is somewhere in D’s best pizza guide (which sprawls across three pages), except Cenzo’s, which is too new, and Domino’s, which is Domino’s.

And for that specific guy who wants a staple pizza for about $15, I recommend Bona Pizza. Their 16-inch pepperoni is $14. That’s a steal, and the data proves it.

The Most Cost-Effective (Good) Pizzas in Dallas

Cheese:

  1. 18-inch, Bay 34th Street Pizzeria ($14.95)
  2. 16-inch, Bona Pizza ($13)
  3. 18-inch, ZaLat Pizza ($17.99)
  4. 18-inch, Goodbye Horses ($20)
  5. 14-inch, Vector Brewing ($12.50)

Pepperoni:

  1. 18-inch, Bay 34th Street Pizzeria ($16.95)
  2. 16-inch, Bona Pizza ($14)
  3. 18-inch, ZaLat Pizza ($20)
  4. 18-inch, Goodbye Horses ($22)
  5. 18-inch, Fortunate Son ($24)

Lots of meat:

  1. 18-inch, Bay 34th Street Pizzeria ($18.95)
  2. 19-inch, Bryan Street Tavern ($25)
  3. 18-inch, ZaLat ($23.99)
  4. 16-inch, Bryan Street Tavern ($21)
  5. 16-inch, Greenville Avenue Pizza Co. ($26)

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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