When I first saw Vine Pairs' list of the most popular regional pizza chains, I claimed B.S. Then, when I read the associated article, I changed my mind... kind of.

Vine Pair
Vine Pair

Looking at the map, I thought it was way off because it didn't reflect my experience living in Texas, Missouri, or even different parts of Illinois.

Aurelio's is Illinoi's most popular regional pizza place. Look, Aurelio's is one of my favorite pizza joints. Yet, we never had Aurelio's growing up in the Chicago suburbs. I mean, no one talked about it. I attended one of my friend's birthdays at Aurelio's in the mid-80s. Then, I forgot about them until my future wife took me to her family's favorite pizza joint in Joliet, Aurelio's. I won't get into the fact that, arguably, Aurelio's could be a regional Chicago pizza joint but doesn't have an Illinois location south of Kankakee.

Imo's is another. Imo's is always part of the conversation when discussing pizza in Missouri. Yet, when I polled Townsquare Media Sedalia employees, none of them had tried Imo's Pizza. I have always associated Imo's with St. Louis; however, they have locations in Columbia, Jefferson City, Kansas City, and Overland Park. So it's not inconceivable they may be a regional favorite.

Is Pizza Patron the best regional pizza place in Texas? Not in Lubbock, where I lived. Dion's, New Mexico's most popular, was the regional pizza I was familiar with in Lubbock. They had a great lunch special that was affordable. Then again, I get that because I've always said while Lubbock is Texas, that part of Texas has some things more in common with New Mexico than Dallas or Houston.

They nailed Iowa, by the way. I lived in the Quad Cities. While many Quad Citizens seem to love the style of pizza named for the area, Quad Cities pizza, I couldn't stand it. Cardboard would be more tasty. Yet, thank goodness for Happy Joe's. Happy Joe's claim to fame is creating the taco pizza. While taco pizza's not my thing, Happy Joe's was a solid place to get an excellent, tasty, thin-crust pizza that wasn't Quad Cities cardboard-tasting pizza.

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Reading the article associated with the map, I realized what Vine Pair is trying to do, and the list made more sense. They write, "While calling out some of the most popular regional pizza chains, it was important to consider how large the chain has grown since its founding. If an establishment is mainly focused in a single region but has opened over a dozen locations in more than 10 states, VinePair considers the chain to be semi-national."

It made sense to me in this context. They're judging regional pizza chains by their size, not whether or not everyone in a given state can get the pizza. Also, if a chain becomes fairly large throughout multiple states, it doesn't meet the criteria to be a regional chain. In that case, I get why they list Aurelio's and Imo's as Illinois and Missouri's most popular regional pizza joints, respectively.

So, what do I think of the pizza joints I'm familiar with:

Aurelio's Pizza is not a bad thin-crust pizza; they do it well. While there may be more authentic tavern pizzas in Chicago, it's really good pizza, and I wouldn't shy away from getting one.

Dion's Pizza has a great lunch special that's affordable. It's more New York-style pizza than Chicago—big slices, thin crust, tasty. In Lubbock, where I lived, there were some great local New York-style pizza joints, so I tended to order from other places if we were getting a pizza for dinner. Yet it was my go-to craving a slice for lunch joint.

Happy Joe's became my go-to pizza joint in the Quad Cities. It's a tasty pizza; the only thing that made me pause sometimes was the cost. It wasn't cheap.

Imo's, I don't know, you tell me. Should I make the trip to Columbia or Kansas City to try it? I keep seeing the frozen ones in the freezer at the store and resist getting one because I believe you have to try the one from the pizza joint before passing judgment on the frozen equivalent.

Happy eating! Get a slice for me, too!

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