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Zachary's Pizza

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  • visitor Nov 12, 2004 08:37 AM
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Is it as good as I have heard, or is it one of those places that is really overrated?

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  1. I like it, but you should probably get more than just one opinion. I know I've never walked past the College Ave shop when it wasn't packed, lunch or dinner.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Louise

      I've found that people are deeply divided about Zak's.
      Personally I think their deep dish (stuffed) pizza is awesome.

      1. re: tedm

        I love the stuff, but I barely consider it pizza. It is really good when fesh, I love the thick tomato sauce and the crisp on the bottom-chewy inside dough, which is what traditionalists hate. But Zachary's is very much like a bread casserole in my opinion, and totally different from NY pizza or authentic Italian pizza. I haven't had a lot of pizza in Chicago, so better for someone else to make that comparison.

        But to me, it's a very unique Bay Area treat, and I miss it when I'm away for a while.

    2. I think their deep dish is pretty darned good, but I've never had one from Chicago.

      4 Replies
      1. re: SLRossi

        I think it's better than the stuffed pizza from Giordano's in Chicago, which is what Zachary's is based on. The hype and popularity are well deserved.

        -Nick

        1. re: nja

          Second that and I've had a lot of Giordano's pizza.

          1. re: nja

            i have to disagree. like other posters stated, the chunky tomato sauce is way too bitter and acidic imho and the crust has the texture of a piece of cardboard. giordano's on the otherhand is what zachary's aspires to be, no doubt. the crust is light and flakey and the sauce is a very zingy tomato sauce without all the wannabe fresh, acidic chunky tomato crap that zachary's uses. i'm not a big fan of zachary's, but i guess it's because i've had better chicago deep dish pies elsewhere.

            1. re: Peter Kim
              c
              ChowFun (derek)

              In my trips to Zachary's, I've never had overly acidic/tinny tomatoes, just nice tart/tasty ones...I ask for "well baked" and the crust (on the deep dish) has always been crunchy..almost "short" ....
              never been to Giordano's (would love to have a Chicago Pizza Chowdown....in Chicago!!! (not in winter however!))

        2. I honestly hate eating here, the crowds are way too much... but the chicken stuffed pizza is so so good...

          my rec is to buy a half-cooked and finish at home... do not buy a stuffed pizza cooked to go, it turns the crust to mush...

          1. r
            Robert Lauriston

            I've found Z's deep-dish pizza undercooked every time I've had one. I prefer Little Chicago's (takeout / delivery only).

            I like Zachary's thin-crust pizza. The crust is eccentric (kind of like Cheese Board's) but the toppings are great. My favorite is the South of the Border combo.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Ditto, I don't like the deep dish chiefly because the canned tomatoes seem undercooked/acidic, but their thin crust is really good -- bottom has corn meal.

              1. re: MargotB

                I second this thought on the deep dish.
                I can't for the life of me understand why people are so passionate about a pizza drowned under a tinful of raw, tinned, chopped, acidic tomatoes.

                1. re: Sixy beast
                  r
                  Reese in Rockridge

                  I've definitely had pies which suffer from this affliction, but then sometimes the sauce tastes great.

                  I would agree that the way to go is to buy them half-baked and finish at home -- this has usually led to better-tasting sauce too.

                  I have never eaten in the actual restaurant, but have taken them to go quite a few times.

                  If you like spinach, it's a must-have filling in the stuffed version. Without it, I find that I have little enthusiasm for Zach's.

                  1. re: Sixy beast

                    I find the tomatoes..."Tart"...not acidic at all...I always ordered it 'well done' and the crust was very good....that being said, I have never had pizza in Chicago, I do like Little Star in SF very much,(but it is such a ZOO! ) and would love to try Little Chicago's in the East Bay...also the Chicago pizza place on the main street of Petaluma was very good...but I haven't been there in many years...!

              2. I think this place is overrated. I think I had the sausage and mushroom deep dish last time. It was bland.

                1. It definitely deserves all the praise. The stuffed is what they do best (and unlike any pizza you've ever had), but their thin crust is really good, too. You'll probably only hear it from me (because they're known for other pies), but no one does pepperoni pizza like them. I miss it so since I moved!

                  1. Zachary's has a LOT of fans... and it is good. However, the stuff is so heavy and stays with you for hours, I find I can only it once or twice a year.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: anonymous
                      r
                      Reese in Rockridge

                      This is a good point. I enjoy it, but since I live in the neighborhood, I lack the passion that alot of people from the city have for it. And I have it every other month at the absolute most. Probably less.

                      Unlike most 'pizzas,' one slice with a salad makes a fulfilling dinner, that won't still be with you the next morning.

                      1. re: anonymous
                        r
                        Robert Lauriston

                        Zachary's thin-crust pizza is not much heavier than anybody else's.

                      2. Love it love it love it love it.

                        Spinach and Mushrrom stuffed.

                        Pesto stuffed.

                        Heaven on Earth.

                        1. I have only had it once and that was about 5 yrs. ago, but based on responses, sounds like they haven't changed that much. I had their classic stuffed spinach and remember getting stuffed myself from one piece. It was good, spinach was fresh, lived up to my expectations; however, I have no desire to return since I don't live close by and now favor an Italian-style pizza margherita. To me, it's a place that's definitely worth going to once to try yourself and say you've been, etc. You will like it and possibly even love it; the possibility of hating it or feeling too cheated is slim IMO.

                          1. I like it for slices at lunch. Not the best pizza in the whole wide world, but definitely one of the best around here.

                            Also, the half-baked stuffed pizzas are the fastest "dinner out" in the bay area. Get one and a salad--you're in and out the door in about 60 seconds, and on the way home to dinner. Just make sure to cook the thing enough (we cover it in foil for the first 15 min) in your oven.

                            1. I'm always wavering between Zachary's and the cheese board/arizmendi on which I prefer. Definately the two best pizzas around here in my book. I can't see how pizza hut stays in business....

                              The stuffed crust in interesting..seems to be more of a flaky crust with baking soda or something, rather than a yeast dough. It is good, but I usually get the thin crust.

                              1. If you are seeking a Chicago style pizza in this area, Zachary's is the place to go. If you are looking for any kind of pizza, then I would not say the same. Since my in-laws live in Chicago, I have tried a lot of places (Giodano's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Connies, Nancy's, just to name a few that I can think of right now) in the past 10 years and Zachary's does a good job of re-creating a tasty, deep dish pizza that is far sperior than say, Pizzaria Uno, for example.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Yuko
                                  r
                                  Robert Lauriston

                                  Have you tried Little Chicago?

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                    c
                                    ChowFun (derek)

                                    Where is it located?
                                    I've tried Smartpages, Superpages and Sherlock, and none of them found it.
                                    Petaluma also has a good Chicago Pizza restaurant.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      No, I have not been to Little Chicago. Where is it located?

                                      1. re: Yuko
                                        r
                                        Robert Lauriston

                                        Little Chicago is pickup / delivery only. Shares a kitchen with West Coast Pizza. You can get slices of their spinach & mushroom special at The Albatross.

                                        Link: http://www.littlechicago.net/

                                  2. I can't help but feel that all the people posting that say: "I can't have more than one slice"; or: :it's too much; I'm full" are PIZZA WIMPS!?!?! I moved here from NYC (NOO YAWK CITY!!!)and Zachary's pizza stands with THE GREATS! Give me 2, 3 or 4 slices, or give me DEATH!!!
                                    signed, Wife of ChewChewChew: so swallow, already! >;-)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ChewChewChew

                                      Only one person mentioned how filling it is.

                                      However many slices you think makes a meal, Little Star's is still much better than Zachary's.

                                    2. If you're looking for deep dish, give Little Star Pizza a try. Their toppings are more inventive, their ingredients are better, and the crust is much tastier. I have a friend for whom Zachary's used to be religion, but he risked heresy to switch to Little Star.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: deez01

                                        Yes yes yes to Little Star in SF!!!! I lived 2 blocks from Zachary's and ate there weekly for years. I now live 6 blocks from Little Star and go there weekly. The crust is much better at Little Star (slight cornmeal). Also, the atmosphere and people at Little Star are second to none. Bonus: Little Star's juke box is da bomb...

                                        www.littlestarpizza.com

                                      2. This thread's a year old. Here's a topic on Chicago-style pizza in the Bay Area from earlier this month, which includes the new contender Patxi's in SF:

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

                                        1. Thanks for pointing out the age of this conversation. I am a Patxi's fan (lonely though I may be in that regard), but am very much looking forward to Little Star opening on Valencia. If it happens next week as reported, I will be there and post here.

                                          1. I don't like the deep dish so much in the restaurant, but I like ordering half-baked pies and taking them home and cooking them a little longer than they suggest.

                                            1. 35 Replies Later....

                                              OK, all. You asked for it..:) To begin, I haven't tried Zachary's 2 dimensional (NY style) pizzas. I spent years in NYC and if they couldn't make a pie that I liked, why bother?

                                              I was raised outside of Chicago and know the glories of deep-dish. Spare me histrionics about "Deep dish isn't pizza, it's a casserole". It's round, it cuts into wedges and the key ingredient is a rich tomato sauce. That’s pizza enough for me. Zachary’s has taken this Chicago classic and infused it with California biases towards fresh ingredients and aggressive spicing.

                                              I have experimented some with various configurations but for the last several years have rarely strayed from IMHO the clear winner: spinach and mushroom, deep dish, half baked. Half-baked insures that when you get home (with the oven thoughtfully pre-heated, I hope) you’ll eat the pizza the way the chef wants you to; piping hot, with a crisp crust.

                                              The Zackary’s deep dish is to a regular pizza what a focaccia is to a wheat thin. Zachary’s uses a corn-based flour to build up a flakey substantive crust that is plenty crisp if the pizza is reheated on a rack, or better yet, a pre-warmed pizza stone (http://entertaining.about.com/cs/kitc...).

                                              The filling is nearly two inches of rich tomato sauce (with chunks of tomatoes still present), infused with mushrooms and spinach. The spinach isn’t really prevalent in the sauce, but it makes is richer and holds it together. The cheese is rich and acts as a creamy balance to the tomato’s acidity. The tomatoes used in the sauce taste fresh and sweet. I’ve never felt the need to add anything (oregano, pepper flakes, grated parmesan, etc.) to enhance the flavor. The small will feed two people handily and a medium will serve four.

                                              The scene inside the joint itself reminds me of a frat party at a popular house. People are lined-up out the door for tables, the long counter is 4 deep with patrons waiting for tables, customers waiting to pick up pizza’s to go, or dazed people who look like they wandered in wondering what all the fuss is about.

                                              The staff are mostly college kids who remind me of recruits being led by a particularly apt drill sergeant. I don’t think you’d be able to get older people to work this hard! The open kitchen is like an ant colony, with raw ingredients coming into the hive on one end and pizza’s flowing from the other.

                                              When you finally reach the counter, you had better have called in an order and know what to say. The staff is nice enough, but you still get the feeling that if you don’t get your order and get out quickly, you’ll be trampled underfoot and never seen again. It’s a cash business, so don’t even think of brandishing plastic.

                                              I have no idea why you’d want to get a table there. The seating areas, though tight, are pleasant enough, but the service is slow, it takes forever to get a table in the first place and it’s so loud that conversation is problematic.

                                              The tally:
                                              Food: 9.5 (best pizza I have ever had
                                              )Service: 6 (they try, but it’s a madhouse)
                                              Price: 8 ($20.95 for a medium deep dish)
                                              Ambiance: 3 (loud, crowded, dumpster smell in hallway leading to the restrooms)

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: ChewChewChew

                                                The 9.5 rating is for a half-baked finished at home, right? How would you rate the undercooked ones that inspired you to stop eating in the restaurant?

                                                Have you tried Little Chicago's spinach pie?

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  Yep, 1/2 baked at home. I don't eat at the restaurant because it's an uncomfortable mob-scene. The one time I did eat there, the pie was fine.

                                                  I haven't tried Little Chicago's pie, but I want to go there and especially to Little Star. If it's better, then I'm going to need to up my cholesterol medicine again!

                                                2. re: ChewChewChew

                                                  ChewChewChew...howabout coming into the city and we can try Little Star, and do a comparison...Happy Birthday Mrs. ChewChewChew!

                                                  1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                    I fully intend to!

                                                  2. re: ChewChewChew

                                                    UPDATE: Since my enthusiastic, but qualified, review...

                                                    I've been there three times since I wrote this, and I have to say they have LOST it. All the original negatives are there: expensive, cash only, cramped tables, slow service, a zoo at the counter for pick-up.

                                                    These used to be the eccentricities that were sort of cute. Now they are the annoying attributes of a place I once loved (cue the music). The problem is that the Zachary's deep-dish pizza is no good anymore. The tomatoes are way too acidic to be fresh, the cheese now turns into spackle if less than piping-hot, and the spicing is bland. Instead of a symphony of taste, it’s just a cacophony of empty calories.

                                                    By the way, I tried the Solano store this last time to see if it was location specific, but no joy.

                                                    ChewChewChew says noNoNO to the restaurant that was once my favorite vice.

                                                    1. re: ChewChewChew

                                                      That sounds exactly like the deep-dish pizzas I've had from Zachary's over the years. I don't think they've changed a thing.

                                                  3. Ironically, I think I prefer their thin crust to the deep dish.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                                      Same here.

                                                      1. re: Foodrat

                                                        I do too, but the dough is eccentric--very crunchy. The chorizo special is good.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          Agreed -- it's the cornstarch. Reminds me of a place we have in NYC called Two Boots. No traditional pizza but still quite tasty.