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Is Chez Panisse pizza one of America's 10 best?

NBC did a feature on America's 10 best pizzas and put CP, along with Pizza Bianco in Phoenix and Mozza in LA in the same league as the east coast pizza axis heavies. The report, with a mouth watering slide show, is on-line at:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23484794/

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  1. It's very good, but I think there are at least half a dozen places with better pizza hereabouts. It's historically significant as the first place to make "California pizza." I don't think Alice Waters ever worked the pizza station.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I once, in the old days, had a calzone made by Fanny. A little uneven.

      1. re: wally

        I also had a Calzone there in June, 1986. I don't recall anything particularly memorable about it either. I think I was more impressed that the Cafe had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap even way back then. (I recall the date, though, because I took my daughter there for lunch on her HS graduation day...)

    2. Oh yeah, I'm a HUGE fan of Chez Panisse's pizza. I prefer non-red sauce pizzas that are thin-crust, light on toppings, and w/ abundant use of good olive oil. I'm not sure if their dough is similar to the recipe in Alice Waters' latest book, "The Art of Simple Food," but that recipe has become my gold standard for pizza dough these days. The key is a little rye flour, fair amount of EVOO, and proofing overnight. It is a dough of beauty and a dream to work with...

      Photo of CP zucchini pizza from Oct. '06 dinner:
      http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

      Photo of homemade pizza using Waters' dough recipe. Note that I made it heavier on toppings w/ red sauce to please the husband for Valentine's Day. :-) We decided it was the best result that I've had at making pizza at home in my regular oven.
      http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

      9 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover

        They may have different styles but is Chez Panisse even the best pizza on the block?

        1. re: wolfe

          Debatable. Cheese Board Pizza's crust is eccentric.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Do you mean, out of round or like Fanny's calzone a "a little uneven"? Wally how old was Fanny?

            1. re: wolfe

              Cheese Board Pizza's dough is eccentric. The crust is a bit cracker-like compared with traditional pizza.

              1. re: wolfe

                I think maybe 10 or 11, not sure. This was shortly after they rebuilt the oven and the calzone changed from a regular calzone to a kind of pizza with a lid (very thin). Alice was there talking to someone while Fanny made my calzone.

                1. re: wally

                  I remember a recipe-story on Waters' calzones in the L.A. Times food section 20 years ago. From the photographs, it was clear she'd never made one before.

                  That being said, the pizzettas are pretty delicious.

          2. re: Carb Lover

            That second pizza (sausage and rabe?) looks fantastic.

            Lucky husband. :-)

            1. re: hohokam

              Thanks, it was spicy sausage and sauteed baby winter greens from Blue Heron Farms. Those greens were simply amazing. I bought mine from the Aptos farmers market, but I believe they also sell at the Berkeley market.

              1. re: Carb Lover

                After re-reading my post, I realized that should have made clear that the 1st pizza looked pretty good too. ;-)

          3. I can't say if CP's pizza is one of the 10 best in America, but I do love the style and the freshness of the ingredients. On my last visit to CP Cafe, the pizza with clams was really amazing. I also had a pizza with clams at Pizzeria Mozza in LA but didn't like it at all.

            1. We had dinner there last week. We hit it off well with the waiter [we had some common ground] and while we were waiting for our main course, he came over and told us that the kitchen had made a "mistake" and would we like a pizza?

              Always the accomodating foodies, we said yes. It was a treat made with potatoes, fontina and rosemary. It was really tasty and we enjoyed it.

              While I am not sure it would beat our NY pizza that we grew up with and long for on an almost daily basis, it was delicious in its own way.

              Deb

              1 Reply
              1. re: DebitNM

                on another note.... I've been to Pizzaria Bianco in Phx twice in the last year. Did not live up to the hype... in my opinion. It was good, but my word, a 2 hour wait for pizza? Chez Panisse, Dopo, Cheese Board, Pizziola, even Antica had a better pie.

                Bianco was good.... but I wasn't blown away.

              2. The West Coast has some OK pizzas, but I have to mentally get past the chain which I affectionately call "California Pizza Atrocity". At least with CP they generally stick with basic, quality ingredients.

                Too many places aspire for art and creative merits while incapable of making a decent basic cheese pizza. If you can't make a good pad thai, you have no business running a Thai restaurant. If you can't make a decent cheese pizza, who cares how much peanut butter and jelly or abalone you put on it.

                8 Replies
                1. re: swag

                  California Pizza Kitchen was indirectly inspired by Chez Panisse.

                  Chez Panisse Cafe invented "California pizza" (in the sense of anything-goes toppings such as goat cheese and duck sausage) in 1980. Ed LaDou was at that time the pizza chef at Prego in San Franciso, and started doing the same sort of thing there. When Wolfgang Puck decided to create a Los Angeles knockoff of Chez Panisse Cafe, he hired LaDou to be the pizza chef at Spago. That led to LaDou's gig creating recipes for the Spago knockoff chain California Pizza Kitchen.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Well, I just lost all respect for Chez Panisse just now!

                    1. re: swag

                      You've lost respect for them because they partly inspired something someone else did that had nothing to do with the original restaurant apart from the notion that pizza could be something other than tomato sauce and cheese? Alright then.

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        Which of you is being sarcastic?

                        1. re: wolfe

                          It is a little confusing, but I figure swag must have been kidding about CPK somehow coloring his opinion of all West Coast/Cal pizza.

                          If not, that's OK tool. The thought of having to wait behind one less person in line at the Cheese Board suits me fine. :-)

                        2. re: ccbweb

                          Pizza in Italy has always been much more than tomato sauce and cheese. None of the above ideas is original in the least, except for that awful ham and pineapple, which imho should be outlawed!

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Actually, in Italy there tends to be a pretty hard line between high and low. You may be able to get various vegetables on pizza, a selection of cured meats, even the occasional sliced hot dog or potato, but the Spago idea of pizza-as-luxury-good with smoked salmon or grilled lamb or white truffles is quite foreign.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        LaDou just died in December, but you can still eat at his Caioti Pizza Cafe in North Hollywood.

                        http://www.caiotipizzacafe.com/

                        http://laist.com/2008/01/04/pizza_pio...

                    2. Are they the best? Not sure, but they sold me on eggplants on pizza, and I love their nettle pizza. They toss the leaves with olive oil, and they crisp up in the pizza oven. So lovely.