Written by Danielle Taylor | Photos courtesy of Pizza Palace Plus
If you had to guess where you could find the best pizza in America, you might not think of Emporium, Pennsylvania. However, the popular Pizza Palace Plus restaurant at the corner of Fourth and Wood Streets has beaten out the rest of the nation — twice.
David and Marlene Smith bought Pizza Palace Plus from its former owners in 2001 — “It was my midlife crisis,” David says — and began tweaking the restaurant’s existing recipes. Given their location in rural Cameron County, they decided to go for some more unusual marketing techniques to get the word out about their delicious menu. David began entering competitions for different aspects of pizza making — culinary composition, speed, acrobatics, largest stretch — and his talents soon began to attract the attention of the rest of the pizza industry.
In 2007, David entered his Cajun Chicken Pizza in the American Pizza Championship competition and won top prize. In 2010, his Meat Eater Pizza won the gourmet division championship at the North America Pizza and Ice Cream Show. He joined the U.S. Pizza Team, a group of American pizza makers and pizza acrobats who compete in national and international competitions, and in 2011, he coached them to a first-place win in Team Freestyle Acrobatics at the 20th World Championship of Pizza and 2nd Olimpizza in Italy. His professional adventures have also led him to judge a pizza contest in Shanghai, China, and show off his dough-tossing skills in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
About eight years ago, David began keeping bees as a side project, and he soon began to incorporate the honey he collected in his restaurant’s recipes. Today, Palace Apiaries operates 28 bee yards in three counties, and David has replaced all sugar in his recipes with honey. This year, the Good Food Awards named Palace Apiaries one of the top three co-winners for the East region’s Honey category, and the International Black Jar Honey Contest placed the apiaries as a finalist in the U.S. Northeast region.
With the prestige of these awards, pizza aficionados come to the small town of Emporium from hours away and almost always report that the pizza is worth the drive to this peaceful slice of Pennsylvania. For David, that means more than the prizes.
“We just want you to come in so we can fill your bellies and you can enjoy our atmosphere,” he says. “We’ll even do the dishes for you.”
Find other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to VisitPAGO.com or calling (814) 849-5197.