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Little Star Pizza Versus Zachary's: the Ongoing Debate

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Gerard Jun 1, 2006 01:34 AM

To make it short, Little Star Pizza is better than Zachary's Chicago Pizza.

Of course, it isn't that simple. For scientific purposes (tongue in cheek), we have to be clear on what is being compared.

First, both serve Chicago style pizza. The New York crown is a separate issue.

Second, I ordered a small at each place (9" at Little Star Pizza and 10" at Zachary's). This is an important consideration as the crust on the 14" at Zachary's is frequently undercooked.

Third, and most importantly, I'm comparing the sausage pizza served at each. If you go to Zachary's for the Spinach & Mushroom special as many of my friends do, nothing in my argument is going to persuade you--if it was ever going to.

CRUST

Little Star wins hands down. It's beautifully rich, like a pie crust. The way Chicago pizza is supposed to be. The crust provides a little sweet buttery undercurrent in every bite. On the other hand, it doesn't overdo it, like, say, Pizzeria Uno--the mediocre chain, not the fantastic original.

Zachary's crust is serviceable, nothing more. It's bread. It doesn't fall apart. It doesn't taste bad.

CHEESE

A push. The cheese at both places is good and ample, as it should be.

SAUCE

This is a tricky one. If you asked me who I thought had the fresher tomatoes, I'd say Zachary's without hesitation. But in this case I'm not sure that's a good thing. Zachary's tomatoes are very tomato-y, rather than pizza-y. Little Star's might lack some of the freshness of Zachary's, but they're still good quality and the folks there have done you the excellent favor of SAUCING them. So while Zachary's might have an advantage in the raw ingredient, the sauce that comes out of Little Star's Kitchen is right on--full of flavor, spiked with with a little parm, and a nice balance of herbs (not the pound of oregano you get some places).

A second point about the sauce. What the...heck, Zachary's? Why all the sauce? It's poured on to the point where it overwhelms the pie. Sauce is good, but there's got to be a balance.

SAUSAGE

My favorite--may not be relevant to you.

Little Star's is truly perfect. Savory, not too fennelly. Zachary's is good too, but a little on the bland side.

So that's my vote. What's yours?

If you're planning on going, I'd check the link. Little Star is closed Mondays and is only open for dinner.

G

Link: http://www.littlestarpizza.com

  1. Robert Lauriston Oct 3, 2006 04:41 PM

    Little Star has opened a second location in the Mission:

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

    1. a
      Andrew Jun 1, 2006 02:52 PM

      Thanks, but Little Star is in SF and I live down the street from Zacharys. Does Little Star deliver to Berkeley? Cause I am NOT driving across the Bay Bridge this weekend or probably anytime in the near future : (

      4 Replies
      1. re: Andrew
        g
        Gerard Jun 1, 2006 03:37 PM

        I also live in the East Bay. I don't find the drive difficult, but to each his own.

        G

        1. re: Gerard
          c
          ChowFun (derek) Jun 1, 2006 06:08 PM

          The bottom deck is being closed for construction..today I believe ...and other driving horrors will be coming soon after..I believe this was the gist of the previous posters reluctance to "Go West"...at least for the forseeable future...unfortunately BART goes nowhere near Little Star.....!

          1. re: ChowFun (derek)
            r
            Robert Lauriston Jun 1, 2006 06:25 PM

            The 5 McAllister bus goes from BART to Little Star.

            The bottom deck's only going to be closed from 11:59pm Saturday to 10am Monday but there are various onramp and offramp closures and changes.

            Link: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi...

            1. re: ChowFun (derek)
              g
              Gerard Jun 2, 2006 12:39 AM

              I take your point, but even with construction I rarely find the trip as bad as many people make it out. Of course, my schedule is rather flexible, so I can travel at opportune times.

              G

        2. n
          nja Jun 1, 2006 01:39 PM

          I agree with most of your points and that Little Star is better overall. I not usually a fan of pizza crusts with cornmeal, but I love the one at Little Star.

          I actually like lots of sauce on a Chicago pizza, so much so that I cannot see any of the other ingredients underneath. So I have to ask for extra sauce when I go to Little Star. I think my old roommate said it best regarding Zachary's: "(in an Australian accent) when I'm in the mood for stewed tomatoes, I'll go to Zachary's." My wife prefers the tomatoes and everything else at Zachary's, but lucky for me we live much closer to Little Star.

          The first time I tried Little Star I got a spinach and mushroom, which is what I always end up getting at Zachary's. The spinach had a horrible metallic flavor, like the kind that results when it's sauteed in cast iron. I've avoided it since. Now my usual order is mushrooms and artichoke hearts.

          If you're eating in, Little Star has better beer and wine lists. Although all Zachary's really needs is Anchor Steam since it's such a perfect match with their pizza.

          Another thing I do like about Zachary's is their half-baked pies. I like being able to heat the pizza in my oven right before eating. I usually ask Little Star to not cut the pizza so I can do that. It usually takes a bit of explaining for them do understand, and a few times they've messed up and cut it anyway. To their credit, they offered to remake the pizza or give me a few bucks off the cut one. But I wish getting an uncut pizza was as effortless as it is at Zachary's.

          -Nick

          1 Reply
          1. re: nja
            g
            Gerard Jun 1, 2006 03:35 PM

            I agree about the half-baked pizzas.

            I actually like Zachary's on the whole. It was my favorite (for deep dish/stuffed) before my recent "discovery".

            G

          2. r
            Robert Lauriston Jun 1, 2006 12:01 PM

            Strictly speaking, Little Star serves deep-dish Chicago-style pizza and Zachary's serves stuffed-crust Chicago-style pizza. In the latter, the filling is topped with a thin layer of dough and some more tomato sauce.

            Little Chicago's spinach and mushroom is better than Zachary's.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              g
              Gerard Jun 1, 2006 03:32 PM

              Fair point about the deep dish/stuffed distinction.

              Did you mean to say "Little Star has a better spinach & mushroom"? If not, where is Little Chicago?

              Thanks,
              G

              1. re: Gerard
                r
                Robert Lauriston Jun 1, 2006 04:22 PM

                Little Chicago's a takeout-only place in Berkeley. Albatross Pub has their spinach by the slice.

                Link: http://www.lauriston.com/pizza.html

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  g
                  Gerard Jun 2, 2006 12:27 AM

                  Thanks for the info on Little Chicago.

                  And the link to your pizza page. Quite a few places there I haven't tried. Now that's my kind of homework.

                  Where I'm qualified to have an opinion, I agree with most of your picks, although I'm in the opposite camp on Gioia, which I think is great.

                  G

              2. re: Robert Lauriston
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                Peaches Enregalia Oct 3, 2006 08:57 AM

                Ummm, not to be too picky, but we Chicagoans don't refer to Zach's style as "stuffed crust---" I believe that that is some horrible moniker that Pizza Hut coined in its continual efforts to fatten up suburban children----we just call it "stuffed." (Stuffed pizza is basically like a pot-pie with the sauce on top.)
                I like Little Star, but it's not exactly Lou Malnati's---the ne plus ultra of Chicago pan pizza in my book---while Zachary's is exactly like great Chicago stuffed pizza. Zach's, therefore, wins. Never, however, eat their thin-crust.

                1. re: Peaches Enregalia
                  n
                  NoeMan Oct 3, 2006 03:28 PM

                  Another Chicagoan here. On another thread I pointed out that Nancy's invented stuffed pizza and is the gold standard for that and that what most non-Chicagoans call Chicago pizza is really just deep-dish pan pizza that was invented at Pizzeria Uno (with Lou Malnati doing the cooking). All the places out here are doing deep dish not stuffed (which is better than nothing). Nancy's is selling national franchises now and it would be killer to have one in the city.

                  1. re: NoeMan
                    ChowFun_derek Oct 3, 2006 03:34 PM

                    So, if Zachary's is NOT doing 'stuffed' pizza, how would you define it?
                    What exactly are they doing, as they are not doing deep dish as per a previous posters' definition...

                    1. re: NoeMan
                      Robert Lauriston Oct 3, 2006 04:39 PM

                      Zachary's and Patxi's make stuffed. Little Star and Little Chicago make deep-dish.

                    2. re: Peaches Enregalia
                      Robert Lauriston Oct 3, 2006 04:39 PM

                      Right you are, the Nancy's style is "stuffed" My bad.

                  2. a
                    Aaron Jun 1, 2006 11:39 AM

                    I literally could not agree more with every single assertion you made, especially about the sauce, nicely put.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Aaron
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                      Gerard Jun 1, 2006 03:38 PM

                      A likeminded soul. Thanks, bro.

                      G

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