Photo by Sarah Bennett.

After rocking the Los Angeles culinary scene last year when Zagat named Michael’s Pizzeria the best pizza in SoCal, the Long Beach-based, Michael Dene-owned joint now holds a new honor: the Best Pizzeria in the United States, ousting longtime crown-holder Tony’s Pizza Napoletana of San Francisco.

Michael’s Pizzeria—which now boasts three locations, two of which are in Long Beach—was also automatically named the Best Pizzeria in Los Angeles for the second year running. And Dene, though humbled, ultimately feels like his restaurants “fill a culinary void.”

“It’s very humbling,” Dene said in a press release. “We were born out of necessity: I wanted real Italian pizza, not the take-out, cardboard variety we’re accustomed to eating in the United States.”

The wholly democratic approach to Zagat’s ratings—having patrons rate restaurants on a scale of 0-30 based on food quality, presentation, and cost, and eschewing wordy reviews a la Yelp!—is one that is taken seriously among even the most finicky of foodies. Scores are aggregated by Google, owner of Zagat, and then placed into rankings.

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