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Best Pizza in the City

j
JohnnyP Oct 1, 2001 02:33 PM

I recently had wonderful, wood fired, thin crust pizza at Via Vai on Union.

Upon finishing the last piece, I was awfully tempted to say it was the best I'd ever had in SF.

I wonder, what are the SF Chowhound opinions ?

Where's the best pizza in SF????

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  1. d
    diligent Oct 1, 2001 02:51 PM

    Pizzeta 211 on 23rd (?) Ave. and California is awesome. Thin crust, seasonal toppings, total charm.

    9 Replies
    1. re: diligent
      j
      JohnnyP Oct 1, 2001 04:48 PM

      I think I've seen 'Pizzeta' discussed on this board.

      One of those neighborhood secrets folks are somewhat reluctant to divulge. Right?

      Well, thanks for sharing.

      :>)

      1. re: JohnnyP
        m
        Melanie Wong Oct 1, 2001 04:57 PM

        Here's a link to Rochelle's post.

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. re: Melanie Wong
          n
          Nicole Oct 1, 2001 11:47 PM

          I'm a tomato sauce fanatic when it comes to pizza....so I have to recommend Paradise Pizza which is on West Portal and 14th. I grew up on Eagle Pizza on Taraval....

          1. re: Nicole
            l
            Laiko Oct 2, 2001 12:15 AM

            I love Za's and Tomasso's. Had Tomasso's on Friday night--one of the best crusts around. But by far my favorite is L'OSTERIA on Columbus. Thin and crispy authentic Italian pizza--wonderful little place.

            1. re: Laiko
              m
              Melanie Wong Oct 2, 2001 03:34 AM

              Tomasso's has that taste of wood-fired ovens. Here's a link for board newcomers to the last time we talked about some of these places.

              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                k
                Ken Hoffman Oct 2, 2001 08:05 PM

                If you are in the area, "The House of Pizza" in downtown San Jose is, I think, the best pizza, hands down, that I have sampled in the Bay Area. A classic joint, utilitarian the the core, it serves up no apology pizzas laden with full fat mozzarella, chewy and spicy linguisa and a heavenly low oregano quotient tomato sauce. They do not make
                anything resembling a noveau pizza so don't expect any worm laden salads to cool off the sizzle of this pie.

                1. re: Ken Hoffman
                  j
                  JohnnyP Oct 2, 2001 08:53 PM

                  Wow, all that and no worms.

                  Sounds like a winning combination and, since the Grandfolks are in San Jose, I think you just gave me a good excuse to go visit!

                  By the way, have you ever been to Amatos in DT San Jose?

                  Supposed to have best cheesesteak & italian sausage sandwiches around.

                  1. re: JohnnyP
                    k
                    Ke Hoffman Oct 3, 2001 08:45 PM

                    Sadly, no I haven't.

                    1. re: Ke Hoffman
                      j
                      JohnnyP Oct 4, 2001 12:19 PM

                      AMATO'S

                      1162 Saratoga Avenue,
                      San Jose, CA
                      ph.(408)-246-4007

                      Haven't been yet myself, but my folks go frequently and claim it is quite good (Mom is a serious cook and chowhound... I wouldn't dismiss her opinion).

                      Following are a couple quotes about the place from
                      "The Best Philly Cheesesteaks" webpage...

                      "I would like to inform you about a restaurant in San Jose, California that serves cheesteaks almost better that Philly's. They also serve hoagies that taste so fresh and delicious. There are so many types of sandwiches it would take me a month to try them all. They also have a "Pizza Twist" also known as a pansiradie. The toppings for that is sausage, cheese, pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms, onions and meatballs(your choice). The name of the restaurant is "Amatos" which originated in Camden and Pennsauken. NJ. I think that the quality of the steaks, pizza, hoagies and fries are great and some of the best I have ever tried."

                      Submitted by Adam R. G. (Add207@aol.com)

                      --------------------------------

                      "I would like to tell you about a location in San Jose, CA. that is truly the best in the WORLD. This guy has got it down. When you go into this place you can close your eyes and you would would think that you're in any good-- and I mean good-- steakshop on the eastcoast. This place I'm talking about is AMATO'S in San Jose ,CA. First when you ask them for a Philly steak they say they don't sell Philly steaks but if it's a cheesesteak you want well you might have found the right place. First he asked me if, I ever had a real cheesesteak? I told him YES. So he asked where? I said Philly- Geno's and Pat's-- you know the best. Well this guy is from Pennsauken,N.J. The rough type. He tells me "Good, at least you have something to judge it by." I asked him if he flies in the rolls and meat like everyone else. This guy Bill (the owner) looked me in the eye and said, SON meat is meat the cows here aren't any different then the cows on the east coast, youjust have to know what part to use. So I asked about the rolls, and I'm going to tell you,this roll is one of the best I have ever had, and I have had many. I have tried every roll in Phila. and South Jersey and they are the best around everyone has his or her own favorite. But this guy tells me, "I don't use day old bread or frozen, so if someone tell you they fly it in, that's the way you get it . There are great Italian bakeries right here you just got to find someone who takes pride in their work. And he must have found one because his rolls are great. Well I ordered a cheesesteak and I'm going to tell you it was the best I have ever had THE WORLDS GREATEST. So if you're ever in San Jose the place for the best is AMATO'S.

                      I'll give you the # so you can call: (408) 246-4007.
                      Submitted by (DIL1NOTUFU@aol.com)"


                      Link: http://www.mnsinc.com/johnruss/cheese...

    2. z
      Zach Georgopoulos Oct 1, 2001 04:38 PM

      I'm partial to the thin crusted pizzetas at Macaroni Express on Columbus (around Jackson, I think).

      1. c
        chowhoundX Oct 1, 2001 05:34 PM

        I like Za on Hyde St in Russian Hill. If I can't be living in Brooklyn, I'll settle for their thin crust and fresh sauces.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowhoundX
          f
          Fatemeh Oct 1, 2001 10:00 PM

          Ya, Za!

          There's a Za Spot on 11th @ Harrison, too. My favorite. I grew up in NY, so no "fru-fru" pizzas for me. But they make a MEAN mushroom pie.

        2. m
          mikeylikesit Oct 1, 2001 08:53 PM

          For those thick crust lovers, the deep dish pizza at "The Front Room" is the best. They have a location on California and Hyde and I think 9th and Judah.

          For thin crust, North Beach Pizza cant be beat.

          1. s
            srf1 Oct 2, 2001 01:28 PM

            Pizza is like a painting - one man's masterpiece is another's waste of canvas. I grew up in Chicago (Giordano's, Bacino's, Gino's, etc), so I love the huge stuffed pies. The only one that I can find out here that is decent is Zachary's (I like the one farther from Cal better). However, my wife was raised in New York and can't stand it. Actually, that's a little harsh - she likes it but says it's not real pizza, thus, she walks the bridge home. In SF, we've had good pizza at 211, Tommaso's, Pauline's, Giorgio's, but nothing has ever "blown me away". Not like Ray's in Chelsea (@ 17th) or St. Mark's Pizza. Tried North Beach and Vicolo - they're alright. Used to like the sauce at Pizza Pino on Lombard, but haven't been there for a couple of years. So it's a continuous search for "good za". Our current late night and delivery fave is Nizario's on Geary. The sauce and crust are excellent, just the right cheese, all in all, a good pizza. Add in the fact that delivery in our area (Lake st) is blisteringly fast and the low prices, and you have our choice. However, I have not tried a few places yet - Victor's on Polk, Golden Boy, Cheeseboard, Via Vai, so obviously this is my work in progress.

            P.S. Have tried the pizza at Arizmendi and IMO it has a good flavored crust, but has a greasy feeling that seems to linger a little too long - not my favorite, but tasty, nonetheless.

            2 Replies
            1. re: srf1
              m
              Mike W Oct 2, 2001 06:47 PM

              I like Nizario's also, especially after a night at the bars (I think they are open until 3:00 am).

              The crust is nothing like the New York style I prefer but the pizza is infinitely better than Bella's and a step above Giorgio's.

              1. re: Mike W
                s
                srf1 Oct 3, 2001 07:40 PM

                That's what I think as well. Not a gourmet pie by any means, just good and dependable.

            2. m
              Mike W Oct 2, 2001 01:38 PM

              Village Pizzeria on Arguello and Clement is probably my favorite. For the best experience go there and order a slice of the clam and garlic. Almost competes with east coast pizza.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Mike W
                k
                Ken R Oct 2, 2001 03:35 PM

                I'll second for Village, although I haven't been for awhile. Both the thin and thick crust remind me of the pizza I grew up on in Jersey and NYC.

              2. j
                JohnnyP Oct 2, 2001 01:39 PM

                Thanks for the opinions and ideas SF Chowhounds!

                I must confess that I live very close to 'Za' pizza and eat there frequently. I'm grateful to have a tasty, inexpensive bite nearby but, while I love the quality of their toppings, I find the sauce and crust slightly lacking.

                I don't really care for the flavor of oregano laden tomato paste, which is the standard for American pizzerias including 'Za'.

                Also, I prefer slices with a bit of a crunch, that can hold their own weight when hand-held.

                I actually prefer to order 'Za' by the slice because the second heating seems to make for a crisper crust.
                But, *you* try convincing my wife that a reheated slice is better than a fresh pie!!!

                Anyhow, 'Za' is great... but, it doesn't pass for an Italian-style pizza and, IMO, it falls a *little* short when compared to the average NY slice, despite superior toppings.

                Regarding your recs...

                I'm very eager to try Tomasso's pizza, which I've heard so much about and which seems to be an SF institution.

                I have also been eager to dine at L'Osteria del Forno for a long time, but not necessarily for the pizza. Now we'll have to add a pizza to our order when we go!

                'Cafe Macaroni' is actually a favorite of mine.
                Love the ambience and authentic feel.

                The owner and much of the crew come from Naples, a region famous for its pizza. Makes sense that those guys would find a way to make a tasty pie, particularly at the 'express' location.

                Must say, I'm a bit surprised by the lack of comments on the pizza at Via Vai. Has no one tried their pizza or am I simply alone with my sentiments about their pizza?

                The reason I decided to check it out was because of a website in Italian and for Italians about where to find good, authentic eats in SF.

                Via Vai was listed as *the* place to get a real Italian style pizza. And, I certainly agree.

                Thin, wood fired crust (northern italian style) with fresh tomato sauce (no paste) and quality toppings that one would find in an Italian pizzeria.

                Anyhow... thanks for all the comments.

                Gives me plenty of experimenting to do.

                Link: http://www.vitanativa.com/ristoranti.htm

                1 Reply
                1. re: JohnnyP
                  g
                  garçon Oct 5, 2001 04:13 PM

                  Thanks for the link Johnny. There are many bad local italian restaurants, and your link will help ferret out the good ones.

                  Grazie!

                2. s
                  srf1 Oct 2, 2001 01:42 PM

                  Pizza is like a painting - one man's masterpiece is another's waste of canvas. I grew up in Chicago (Giordano's, Bacino's, Gino's, etc), so I love the huge stuffed pies. The only one that I can find out here that is decent is Zachary's (I like the one farther from Cal better). However, my wife was raised in New York and can't stand it. Actually, that's a little harsh - she likes it but says it's not real pizza, thus, she walks the bridge home. In SF, we've had good pizza at 211, Tommaso's, Pauline's, Giorgio's, but nothing has ever "blown me away". Not like Ray's in Chelsea (@ 17th) or St. Mark's Pizza. Tried North Beach and Vicolo - they're alright. Used to like the sauce at Pizza Pino on Lombard, but haven't been there for a couple of years. So it's a continuous search for "good za". Our current late night and delivery fave is Nizario's on Geary. The sauce and crust are excellent, just the right cheese, all in all, a good pizza. Add in the fact that delivery in our area (Lake st) is blisteringly fast and the low prices, and you have our choice. However, I have not tried a few places yet - Victor's on Polk, Golden Boy, Cheeseboard, Via Vai, so obviously this is my work in progress.

                  P.S. Have tried the pizza at Arizmendi and IMO it has a good flavored crust, but has a greasy feeling that seems to linger a little too long - not my favorite, but tasty, nonetheless.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: srf1
                    m
                    Melanie Wong Oct 2, 2001 01:51 PM

                    Would you add Goat Hill to your list?

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      s
                      srf1 Oct 3, 2001 07:39 PM

                      Haven't met a pizza I wouldn't try yet. ;^)

                  2. r
                    RedRob Oct 2, 2001 02:45 PM

                    As a native of the New Haven area of Connecticut, I'm a real snob when it comes to pizza. The closest thing I've had to real New Haven/NY style pizza is at Arienell's (or something like that-- for some reason I can never remember the exact name) on Valencia at 16th. It's a good thin crust that's cooked in a really hot oven (though not wood or coal fired, unfortunately) with a tasty sauce. At about a $1.50 a slice for cheese, it's also really cheap.

                    I'll have to check out Via Vai, though.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: RedRob
                      d
                      dixieday@aol.com Oct 2, 2001 02:57 PM

                      Yes, as a NY/NJ girl, I love a good slice, and Arinell's is the closest I've come to a typical NY corner pizza joint. But what's with their hours? They have totally erratic and random opening/closing hours. Plus, they only seem to have one pizza out at a time, so if some hungry dude and his buddies come in right before you, you'll be waiting another half-hour til they make a new pie. Oh, well....it's worth it not having to suffer through another doughy, soggy slice from some of the other local spots.

                      1. re: dixieday@aol.com
                        j
                        JohnnyP Oct 2, 2001 04:45 PM

                        Short answer: they're stoned.

                        ;>)

                      2. re: RedRob
                        j
                        JohnnyP Oct 2, 2001 04:08 PM

                        Been to Arnell's on Valencia.

                        I like it.

                        IMO, it belongs in a Chowhound's 'hole in the wall' category... with a dependable, tasty NYC style slice of pizza for cheap.

                        If you're turned off by dinginess, lack of carbonation in the fountain drinks, or unenthusiastic (read: stoned) service... best stay away.

                        But, sometimes you just gotta have a genuine slice and none of the rest really matters.

                        Anyhow, thanks for the reminder!

                        1. re: RedRob
                          v
                          Vespaloon Dec 9, 2001 03:50 PM

                          I wholeheartedly agree with the comments. Arinell pizza is the best thin crust, "NY-style" pizza in town. And you can't beat the value... cheap, cheap, cheap. You shouldn't order any toppings on it, though, as a plain cheese pie is the way to go. It's very much like Mulberry Street Pizza in SoCal. I used to frequent that place a lot when I lived in LA, and hadn't found a similar pie until now. BTW, other favorite local pizza places of mine (when I'm NOT in the mood for the thin-style), are Golden Boy, Marcello's, and Extreme Pizza. Yumm!

                          1. re: Vespaloon
                            v
                            Vespaloon Dec 9, 2001 03:52 PM

                            Oh, and for East Bay afficionados, Cheeseboard pizza rules. Never had a pizza I didn't love there, and since they only make one kind a day, that's saying a lot...

                        2. j
                          JohnnyP Oct 2, 2001 05:42 PM

                          A lot of suggestions!

                          I guess Steven is right when he says, "pizza is like a painting - one man's masterpiece is another's waste of canvas.

                          Since I'm partial to thin crust pizza, the following suggestions top my list of places to try...

                          Tommaso's
                          Pizzetta 211
                          L'Osteria
                          Village Pizzeria

                          (already been to Za', Arnell's, and Macaroni)

                          Considering California's reputation for lousy pizza, I did not expect this many suggestions. But, I definitely look forward to finding & trying...

                          Thanks !!!

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: JohnnyP
                            m
                            Melanie Wong Oct 2, 2001 05:52 PM

                            Thanks, JohnnyP, for pointing me to Via Vai. Had the special for lunch, pizza bresaola e rucola. Thin crust with good yeasty flavor, not as brown-blistered on the edge as I'd like, and somewhat underdone and soggy in the middle. But the outside rim was fine. The best part is the sauce, fresh and vivid tasting with some pieces of tomato still apparent. Good proportions lending a fine harmony of tastes. The one difficult thing is that this pie seems to start out life as a plain cheese pizza, sliced after baking, then the paper-thin slices of bresaola and the pile of tender arugula added. This made it difficult to pull apart since the cut lines were underneath the toppings. A light dusting of parmesan completes the picture.

                            You can be sure that the greens are organic...there was a tiny green worm inching its way across my pie. Yet, I still enjoyed this for $13, including tax and tip, and would go back to try other versions. Think I'll ask them to brown it more next time.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              j
                              JohnnyP Oct 2, 2001 07:07 PM

                              Hey, you gotta eat the worm!
                              Great hallucinations.
                              In fact, maybe that's why you couldn't find the cut lines dividing your slices!
                              ha,ha,ha just kidding.

                              Glad you liked the pizza.
                              I agree about the sauce. light, fresh, and flavorful.
                              Also, during my visit there was no sogginess in the crust. I'd be a little annoyed by that too.

                              As for the overlapping toppings.
                              Again, I agree that it is a little difficult to navigate. But, I can tell you with certainty, that's the way it is done in Italy.

                              Difference is, in Italy there are no slices on such a pizza... each person gets his or her own whole pizza to slice and/or fold as he/she sees fit.

                              Seems 'Via Vai' is slicing for the Americans and topping for their 'paesans'...

                              By the way, I like your order, bresaola & arugula...
                              yum.

                              But, of course, hold the worm!

                              1. re: JohnnyP
                                m
                                Melanie Wong Oct 2, 2001 07:18 PM

                                The pizza was about 12" across a little too much for one person, for me at least. the arugula was outstanding quality, pale green and very tender. A big mass of it on top, like a salad.

                                I sat out on the patio which was all-weather equipped with clear plastic panels and overhead heaters. Lovely setting, and nice to have a real linens for an inexpensive lunch. The choice of music was a little odd, Hawaiian slack-key guitar CD. I love this kind of music but don't expect it at the pizzeria.

                                Also noticed some very good looking marinated cipollini in the antipasti case when I departed.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  j
                                  JohnnyP Oct 2, 2001 08:48 PM

                                  Wow, my sentiments exactly!

                                  Even down to the cipollini in the antipasto case.

                                  This place really reminds me of italy, except perhaps for the Hawaiian music (yep, we got it too!).

                                  Wife and I went with in-laws, who are not really chowhounds. When our italian waiter put down a pizza in front of mil, with unfamiliar looking toppings, she said, 'oh, what is this?' to which he cleverly replied, "it's a pizza... you eat it!"

                                  Gotta love those "charming" italian waiters too!!! ;>)

                                  Anyhow, this place is within walking distance from my apartment, so I'll surely go back in the near future. Next time, I'll be sure to get the cipollini and I'll be sure to report back as well.

                                  1. re: JohnnyP
                                    m
                                    Melanie Wong Oct 4, 2001 10:07 PM

                                    It's only a couple blocks from me too, so let's keep exchanging notes.

                                    Thanks again for the find.

                              2. re: Melanie Wong
                                w
                                Wendy Lai Oct 3, 2001 01:51 PM

                                So you didn't point out the worm to them? I wonder what's the proper etiquette in this type of situations. I guess you can expect there might be worms if it's organic, but somehow I think if I'm paying for the food then they should be responsible for ferreting out the "guests" before serving it to me :)

                                1. re: Wendy Lai
                                  m
                                  Melanie Wong Oct 4, 2001 10:11 PM

                                  I did point it out to the busboy and my waiter and asked them to inform the kitchen. This was one of those situations where it was easy for them to retreat into lack of English language skills to avoid the problem. I was more amused than upset.

                                  By that time I'd already eaten half my pizza, as much as I could, so it didn't change my enjoyment of the lunch. Should have paid more attention when some of the arugula seemed a bit sandy in the mouth, unwashed. I do wonder how much extra protein I may have ingested, but they didn't charge me extra. (g)

                                2. re: Melanie Wong
                                  s
                                  srf1 Oct 3, 2001 07:45 PM

                                  Did they charge for the worm as an extra topping??

                                  1. re: srf1
                                    m
                                    Melanie Wong Oct 4, 2001 10:04 PM

                                    Nope, it was on the house. (g)

                              3. l
                                Limster Oct 3, 2001 01:34 AM

                                I haven't eaten that many pizzas in the city but I frequent Arizmendi because it's cheap and close by. The one pizza they served that really struck me was topped with paper thin lemon slices and parsley. I loved the perfume from the lemon and the bitterness of the thin rinds and the citrus tang and the way the parsley keep things somewhat familiar and grounded. However, everybody else I know who has encountered that pizza hated it. Maybe it's a personal whim.

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