Ask anyone about America’s elite pizza cities and you’ll likely get the same old names at the top of the list—New York and its huge foldable slices or Chicago and its monstrous deep dish. You won’t hear much about West Coast pizza though. And that is a damn shame. Often overshadowed by other (admittedly excellent) cuisines, pizza in San Francisco can compete with the country’s best. Here, 10 spots doing everything from coal-fired to deep dish right in the Bay Area.
Only 11 time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani could successfully run one of the most ambitious pizza shrines in the country. The massive menu boasts thirteen distinctively different styles, so there’s something for everyone. For example: the Detroit style is baked in a gas oven at 550 degrees, while the Napoletana is fired in a wood oven at 900 degrees. We recommend splitting a margherita—the World Pizza Cup Winner in Naples—as a starter, Gemignani only offers 73 each day, before diving into another pie
From late morning until late night, this divey spot, which opened in North Beach in 1978, churns out slabs of square-cut, thick-crust Sicilian pies – the clam and garlic is especially popular. The counter service is brisk and efficient if you’re in a grab-and-go mood, but if you’re up for washing down your chewy and pleasantly greasy slice with a cold beer (really, who isn’t?), order a pint and linger in the back bar.
Get yourself out of the city with a breezy drive to this Sonoma County spot headed up by one of the most disciplined pizza makers in the state. Chef Mark Hopper – previously fired and rehired by Thomas Keller– is so obsessed with perfecting his dough that he diligently documents the behavior of his sourdough starter in a notebook, and will shut down if it’s not up to his exacting standards. His manner of work is refreshingly transparent, too. Behind a glass counter in his airy, open restaurant, Hopper hand stretches every pie, then quickly bakes them in his wood-fired oven. The resulting practically faultless margaritas are humbling examples of how elegant pizza can be.
This shop in the Mission doesn’t offer much in terms of appearance: it’s tiny and beat-up. And the service can be, at times, spacey (though never rude). But if you’re craving a dependable, New York-style slice, then this is your place. Three dollars will score you a plain cheese slice that’s warm, foldable, and nicely balanced in terms of crust, sauce, and cheese. You can also customize your slice with reasonably-priced toppings like anchovies and fresh garlic, all of which cost no more than 75 cents. Don’t forget to bring cash, as no cards are accepted.
Sharon Ardiana runs this bustling Glen Park spot, and she is one of the most affable restaurant owners you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting. And the much talked about Amatriciana pizza has the makings of pizza perfection. All the components (pancetta, tomato, red onion, pecorino, and chile) of the classic Roman pasta dish, along with a runny egg, are heaped onto a crust, so every mouthful is packed with salt, tang, heat, and a hint of sweet.
It took over three and a half years for pizziaolo Jon Darksy and his wildly popular roving pizza truck to settle into a permanent home. Now in Nob Hill, you can sit back and relax with the Neapolitan-style pies at a table, comfortably shielded from the elements. While the menu has expanded with the addition of some new pizzas and small plates, the dedication with which the pies are prepared has not wavered one bit. The crusts are still famously (and properly) charred with leopard spots, and provide equal parts crisp and chew.
Despite its growth since opening in 2005 – there are now four locations – the quality and consistency of the pies remain unchanged. That is exactly why Delfina is still considered by critics and locals alike as among the Bay Area’s best. Delfina’s Panna, for example, gets tomato sauce is swirled on the dough before getting topped with parmesan shavings, basil and cream. It’s like enjoying all the nostalgic flavors of a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup (albeit, a wonderfully refined one) in a single slice.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s mind-blowing Chicago-style deep dish pizza in the Bay Area. And no one does it better than this low-key spot on Divisadero. Since 2004, Little Star has turned out their rich, belly-busting delights – the crust gets an extra-crunchy kick thanks to cornmeal – like their signature “Little Star,” a veggie pie stuffed with feta, ricotta, spinach, mushrooms, and onions.
Located in the Marina, A16 is the rare restaurant that strikes a fine balance between elegant and casual. To watch the neapolitan-style pies come to life in the crackling wood-fired oven, request a seat at the chef’s counter. And if you’re seeking something a little different from the tried-and-true margherita, try the marinara, dressed simply with crushed tomato, garlic and olive oil.
Yes, it’s only open 4 days a week. Yes the lines can outrageous. And no, you should not even think about requesting substitutions. But once you get past all this and actually order a pizza, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. Owner Anthony Mangieri is fiercely dedicated to his craft, and this dedication will cost you. The most affordable pie his the cheeseless marinara, and costs $25.