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

Xiao Yang Mar 8, 2008 06:05 AM

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:



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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: Xiao Yang Mar 8, 2008 08:36 AM

    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
      wally RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 8, 2008 09:25 AM

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

      1. re: wally
        Xiao Yang RE: wally Mar 8, 2008 03:19 PM

        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. Carb Lover RE: Xiao Yang Mar 8, 2008 08:44 AM

      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:

      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.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover
        wolfe RE: Carb Lover Mar 8, 2008 09:16 AM

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

        1. re: wolfe
          Robert Lauriston RE: wolfe Mar 8, 2008 09:34 AM

          Debatable. Cheese Board Pizza's crust is eccentric.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            wolfe RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 8, 2008 02:57 PM

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

            1. re: wolfe
              Robert Lauriston RE: wolfe Mar 8, 2008 04:15 PM

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

              1. re: wolfe
                wally RE: wolfe Mar 8, 2008 09:11 PM

                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
                  condiment RE: wally Apr 1, 2008 12:57 PM

                  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
            hohokam RE: Carb Lover Mar 8, 2008 10:06 AM

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

            Lucky husband. :-)

            1. re: hohokam
              Carb Lover RE: hohokam Mar 8, 2008 11:43 AM

              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
                hohokam RE: Carb Lover Mar 8, 2008 01:53 PM

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

          3. f
            fdb RE: Xiao Yang Mar 9, 2008 09:31 PM

            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. DebitNM RE: Xiao Yang Mar 16, 2008 06:39 PM

              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.


              1 Reply
              1. re: DebitNM
                Johnny E RE: DebitNM Mar 17, 2008 04:45 PM

                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. swag RE: Xiao Yang Mar 18, 2008 12:33 PM

                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
                  Robert Lauriston RE: swag Mar 24, 2008 01:24 PM

                  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
                    swag RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 27, 2008 06:08 PM

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

                    1. re: swag
                      ccbweb RE: swag Mar 28, 2008 07:14 PM

                      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
                        wolfe RE: ccbweb Mar 28, 2008 08:37 PM

                        Which of you is being sarcastic?

                        1. re: wolfe
                          hohokam RE: wolfe Mar 29, 2008 08:23 AM

                          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
                          ChefJune RE: ccbweb Apr 1, 2008 07:04 AM

                          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
                            condiment RE: ChefJune Apr 1, 2008 01:06 PM

                            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
                        windsorknot RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2008 05:48 PM

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



                    2. Gooseberry RE: Xiao Yang Apr 3, 2008 11:59 AM

                      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.

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