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Pizza Pilgrimage to Bay Area

Hi Chowhounds - We are pizza fanatics. My husband built a mud oven in the back yard so he could bake his pizzas at 800 degrees, and we plan our vacations around pizza. We're going to San Francisco for three nights to celebrate our fifth anniversay and we want to eat as much fantastic pizza as possible. I've been doing some research and it seems like places to hit are:
1) Tony's
2) Una Pizza Nepolitana
3) Flour + Water
4) Pizzaiolo
5) Little Star
6) Zero Zero

We have been to Delfina Pizzeria (loved it!), and my husband had his share of Zachary's when he want to Cal. So those are off our list.

I'm I missing any place? We have two dinners and two lunches. We have no particular criteria for our pizza. We love all types of crust and toppings, and appreciate both purists and innovators when it comes to pizza. We just want excellent, tasty pies. Oh, and we'll have a baby with us, so a long wait is less than ideal, but we'll wait as long as it takes for the perfect pie. GUIDE US PLEASE!

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Pizzaiolo
5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Delfina Restaurant
3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Zero Zero
826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

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  1. Gioia Berkeley, bring the stroller and eat on the bench in front.
    http://www.gioiapizzeria.com/

    1. Look's like you're set. I wouldn't change the order either.

      Can't wait to read about your experiences and favorites!

      1. Pauline's. Get at least a small pesto to try. Andouille and/or tasso chalkboard specials are usually great, though I'm dubious about tonight's tasso, Thai basil, blackberries, and chevre.

        I find Cotogna, Dopo, Delfina, Flour + Water, and Zero Zero generally similar, and like Cotogna the best of the bunch. More:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5257...

        -----
        Dopo
        4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

        Pauline's Pizza
        260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        Pizzeria Delfina
        3611 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Flour + Water
        2401 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

        Zero Zero
        826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

        Cotogna
        490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

        2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I always throw the dice and get the specials at Pauline's. It's part of the appeal for me.

          1. re: Leely2

            A friend introduced me to that as well. Just phone, order one of each special and the special salad. Best way to do to-go from Pauline's.

        2. Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley serves one flavor/topping a day, super thin crust, no traditional tomato sauce. Also experience the Berkeley vibe by enjoying the free live music or eating on the median!

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          The Cheese Board Collective
          1504 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

          5 Replies
          1. re: acetaminophen

            You can get pretty much the same kind of pizza they make at Cheese Board Pizza at Arizmendi in SF.

            -----
            Cheese Board Pizza
            1512 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

            Arizmendi Bakery
            1331 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

            Arizmendi
            1268 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

            1. re: acetaminophen

              Cheeseboard is my favorite bay area bakery, but I gave up on their pizza. The combinations are undependable, far too many goat products, and it's usually dripping grease.

              1. re: oldunc

                i have to agree - it's hit or miss. I now dont take my chances and look up the weekly menu online. I know which ingredients I dont like and avoid them.

                1. re: oldunc

                  I live in Berkeley, and I kind of agree about Cheeseboard. My favorite is their pizza that has corn on it, but everything else kind of tastes the same. It's definitely a once-in-awhile thing for me so it tastes great every time! They're closed until August 8th or so because they're on vacation.

                  1. re: oldunc

                    I like a slice of Cheese Board pizza once in a while, or used to—the lines have gotten so long that I don't think I've had one since they expanded—and their annual wild mushroom pie (bought half-baked and drizzled with "truffle" oil) is our standard Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving dinner, but their crust is so eccentric that I can't argue with the people who say it's not pizza.

                  1. I would add Gialina in SF and you could substitute Boot and Shoe Service (Pizzaiolo's more casual eatery).

                    -----
                    Gialina
                    2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                    Boot and Shoe Service
                    3308 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: TonyVelebil

                      I don't think that Boot or Shoe is any less casual than Pizzaiolo, and Pizzaiolo has the advantage of being able to get reservations, which is key if they have a baby with them.

                      -----
                      Pizzaiolo
                      5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                      1. re: JasmineG

                        I guess I do find it a bit more casual than Pizzaiolo. But correct on the reservations.

                        -----
                        Pizzaiolo
                        5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                        1. re: TonyVelebil

                          In my limited experience of going in and giving up because the wait was too long, Boot and Shoe is more casual in the sense that it feels more like a crowded bar than a restaurant.

                    2. One more great pie definitely worth the effort is Emilia's in Berkeley. If you phone ahead (required) and time it well, you could eat one of these as an appetizer on your way to another, more sit-down style, east bay destination.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: foodeye

                        Second on Emelia's. You have to call and they'll give you a time for picking up your pizza (you could call at 6 and reserve your pizza for 8, for example), and it's cash only. Really really good.

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            Best to put your order in at 4:00 to get it at a certain time. You could call at 6 and they'll tell you you can't have one until 9, or they might be sold out. It's not quite takeout only, but they have only two tables. No beer.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              How does the seating situation work? Is it first come first serve to snag one of the two tables? Or can we call at 4:00 pm and say "I'd like a sausage onion pizza to eat in at around 8:30" ? We want to experience this pizza at it's hottest. So assuming we can't snag one of the tables, is there somewhere to sit nearby? A bench? Some steps? I suppose we could also sit on the curb... We will be staying in SF and I fear the pizza will be cold by the time we get back to our hotel room.

                              1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

                                You can "reserve" a table for when your pizza is scheduled to be ready. It is definitely best right out of the oven. See all the details you could ever need here: http://emiliaspizzeria.com/ It does take some effort but is really worth it! The style is pretty light on the cheese, so I think you could eat one and then go to Pizzaiolo and have drinks and salad and more pizza, even if uhockey's inspirational pizza pilgrimage in Brooklyn is not replicable by mere mortals!
                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com/2011/03/d...

                                -----
                                Pizzaiolo
                                5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

                                  First come, first served for the tables.

                                  My advice is to skip it. The pizzas are good, especially considering that they're coming out of a tiny hole in the wall that always had crap pizza before, but wouldn't make my top 10 list. I had a few of their pizzas and a few of Lanesplitter's at a party and most people preferred the latter.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    When you call you can ask for first available pick-up time or first available table time to save a table for you.

                                    Even if a table is empty when you arrive, you may not get it if there is a reservation coming up soon.

                                    The website used to have more FAQ's around calling in and scheduling your pie. Now it just says "It is a good idea to phone your order in, as wait times frequently exceed 2 hours."

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Have you had a chance to try it right out of the oven yet? I think Lanesplitter's thicker crust and copious toppings hold up better when reheated, but out of the oven, there's no comparison for me. I have a Lanesplitter's within 1 minute walking distance of my house and I pretty much stopped going there after Emilia's opened, 15 minutes away (by car).

                                      1. re: daveena

                                        I had a slice fresh out of Emilia's oven when they first opened:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6525...

                                        I guess I just like a crisper crust. If East End were in Emelia's location, I'd get it all the time.

                                    2. re: Ingrid Ingrid

                                      Will you be driving? Because if so, you could definitely go to Emilia's, eat there or in the car early, and then go on to Pizzaiolo afterward (probably a 7-10 minute drive). But if you aren't, and since you only have two lunches and two dinners, and you're staying in SF (and will have a baby in tow) I'd probably put it down on the priority list.

                                      -----
                                      Pizzaiolo
                                      5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                  2. re: JasmineG

                                    I usually call between 5 and 6 and order a pizza to eat-in around 8 - I only go during the week, but I've never had to settle for a pizza later than 8:15. The pizza's really good even as take out, but eaten there, it's magic. Lately, my go-to has been sausage with Calabrian chili.

                                2. Modest thought.
                                  Zuni has a great oven. I've tried the pizza there. I like it.

                                  -----
                                  Zuni Cafe
                                  1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                  1. East End in Alameda is maybe the best thin more-or-less Roman-style pizza in the area. Ideale in North Beach does a pretty good one as well (chef grew up around his family's pizzeria in Rome).

                                    -----
                                    Ideale
                                    1315 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                    East End Pizza
                                    1650 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      We've gotta try East End. Heard very good things about it from someone else too.

                                      1. re: TonyVelebil

                                        Oh geez, I was just thinking of walking over there for pizza when I read this thread. Now I'm out the door.

                                    2. I would pick a point in time and then chart the evolution of SF pizza. Go in the order in which the places opened. Now, the start time is up to you, but you've selected places that have opened within the past decade (most are much newer), so I suspect you're interested in the recent generation; and pizza has generally gotten a lot better during that time.

                                      Seems like a decent list. I'm not a fan of deep dish, and see you have LIttle Star as a representative of that type.

                                      Most glaring omission is Pizzetta 211 which may have instigated the entire recent trend in thin crust, quirky SF pizza places. Similarly, I'd include Piccino as a good example of that sort. Pauline's is the best example of an earlier style of California pizza (worth a visit). Gialina has plenty of followers, but it's not at the top of my list.

                                      From your list, I do like Zero Zero (but it's very loud there). Tony's is trying to be all things to everyone. It's good and they are serious, but it's hard to pin down what they do best. I've had some pizza there that I like a lot and some misses.

                                      -----
                                      Gialina
                                      2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                      Pizzetta 211
                                      211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                      Piccino Restaurant & Coffee Bar
                                      1001 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                      Zero Zero
                                      826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: jman1

                                        Finally got around to trying Piccino's pizza. It is like Pizzetta 211's. Those are the only two places I've ever seen crust that thin. Even in Rome they make it a little thicker. Good flavor, too.

                                        -----
                                        Pizzetta 211
                                        211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                        Piccino Restaurant & Coffee Bar
                                        1001 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          My understanding is that the woman who started Piccino previously worked at Pizzetta 211. I do think that she took the thin crust with minimalist (but flavorful) toppings a step further at Piccino. Both are good (and at opposite ends of the city). Piccino has obviously grown into a larger operation (funny, given the name).

                                          Appears that the OP won't have time to include either.

                                          -----
                                          Pizzetta 211
                                          211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                          Piccino Restaurant & Coffee Bar
                                          1001 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                      2. i like a16 substantially more than delfina, but substantially less than una pizza napolitano, so it might be worth a visit. definitely try pizzetta 211.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Dustin_E

                                          A16 and Una Pizza Napoletana are both trying to follow the Naples model as closely as possible. The latter goes to greater lengths.

                                          Pizzeria Delfina does something in between Naples and New York, which is kind of the most popular style among upscale pizza places here these days.

                                          I haven't been to Pizzetta 211 since it changed hands, but it made the thinnest crusts I've ever had, even thinner than in Rome.

                                          -----
                                          A16
                                          2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                                          Pizzeria Delfina
                                          3611 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                          Pizzetta 211
                                          211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                          Una Pizza Napoletana
                                          200 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            interesting. thanks for the insight. how would you characterize the pizza at ristobar?

                                            1. re: Dustin_E

                                              I haven't been to Ristobar, but that's a pretty interesting high-tech oven they use:

                                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FcBhu...

                                        2. It seems like everybody else has good advice about procedure, but just wanted to add another vote for Emilia's in Berkeley. To us, it is the best pie in the Bay Area, always prepared and cooked perfectly. It's a one man operation, from the east coast, who absolutely knows what he's doing, as good as any back east.

                                          1. A16 is really unique. Authentic to the region it represents, but may not be what you have in mind. Personally, my favorite pizza in town is L'Osteria del Forno. The (white) Porcini pizza is sublime, as is the basic salami. Cash only, no reservations. Pizza is thin crust but not hard crust.

                                            -----
                                            A16
                                            2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                                            L'Osteria del Forno
                                            519 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                            1. Thinking more about your pizza tour, I recommend the following to get a wide selection of the Bay Area's best pizzas:

                                              1. Una Pizza Napoletana. Wood oven. Probably the best traditional Neapolitan-style pie in the area, maybe the best in the world outside of Naples. If you can't handle the wait, A16 (takes reservations) or Tony's (go early, maybe for lunch, to be sure to get one of the 73 special Margherita pies).

                                              2. Tony's. Sort of a living pizza museum. At last count, they have five different ovens and around a dozen different kinds of dough.

                                              Margherita Napoletana: wood oven, San Felice flour, hand-mixed dough, medium crust
                                              other Napoletanas: wood oven, Caputo flour, medium crust
                                              Classic American: NY flat-top gas brick oven, medium crust
                                              Classic American: NY flat-top gas brick oven, thin crust
                                              Classic Italian: Italian electric brick oven, medium crust (thin on request?)
                                              Romana: Italian electric brick oven, long thin crust
                                              Sicilian: Italian electric brick oven, thick crust
                                              Classic Italian: domed gas brick oven, medium crust
                                              Futura: organic 12-grain flour
                                              gluten-free
                                              coal-fired (thin? not specified)
                                              calzone, baked
                                              calzone, deep-fried
                                              Detroit

                                              http://www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com/i...

                                              3. Little Star. Maybe the best Chicago-style deep-dish in the world. Get the Classic.

                                              4. Cotogna. Wood oven. My current favorite of the contemporary local style influenced by both Italy and the East Coast. Takes reservations, though not at peak dinner hours. Others more or less in the same vein include Dopo (gas), Delfina (gas), Flour + Water (wood), Zero Zero (wood), and the original, Chez Panisse Café (wood). I guess Pizzaiolo is sort of in there as well, but they're more toward the Naples end of the spectrum, crust is softer and has less crunch. Good interview with Zero Zero's Bruce Hill: http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2010...

                                              5. Pauline's (gas). A modern take on the old school of California pizza, thicker crust, four sizes of pies, best pesto pizza in the world, have their own farm, make their own wine, source tasso from some guy in Owens Valley, fabulous desserts. More or less in the same vein is Tommaso's in North Beach (wood oven), the oldest pizzeria west of the Mississippi, in business since 1935.

                                              -----
                                              Pizzaiolo
                                              5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                              Dopo
                                              4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                                              A16
                                              2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                                              Pauline's Pizza
                                              260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                              Una Pizza Napoletana
                                              200 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                              Zero Zero
                                              826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                              Cotogna
                                              490 Pacific Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Wow, that's very comprehensive. I certainly haven't tried all those pizzas.

                                                Still, I would suggest adding one more category, the more modern SF/California, very thin crust, minimalist toppings yet creative local ingredients. Either Pizzetta 211 (even though it changed owners) or Piccino (started by an ex-Pizzetta employee). Or, another in this style.

                                                -----
                                                Pizzetta 211
                                                211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                Piccino Restaurant & Coffee Bar
                                                1001 Minnesota St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                1. re: jman1

                                                  I think East End Pizza in Alameda is tops for that style.

                                                  That's not really comprehensive, there are other styles including Indian slices, NY "Ray's-style" slices, Sicilian, NY coal-oven, Roman, Chicago stuffed, and maybe another local category for the more tender crust of Pizzaiolo, Gialina, and Picco. Plus there are sui generis places such as Golden Boy.

                                                  -----
                                                  East End Pizza
                                                  1650 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    I'm far from a pizza fanatic, though I do like to make my own; however, based on one visit each--not enough I admit--we greatly preferred Ragazza to Gialina.

                                                    -----
                                                    Gialina
                                                    2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                                                    Ragazza
                                                    311 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                                    1. re: Fine

                                                      They have different ovens, Ragazza's is hotter and faster.

                                                2. A hearty thanks to all who responded with such thoughtful comments. You SF Chowhounds sure do love your pizza. There were so many choices that we ended up adding a day to our trip so that we can eat as much pizza as possible. Here's our itinerary. It's ambitious, but we're good eaters and will walk as much in between meals, since the baby is happiest when being strolled. We won't have a car, but plan to cab when necessary.

                                                  Thursday: Lunch at Little Star; Dinner at Oliveto (for Annual Heirloom Tomato Dinner!)
                                                  Friday: Early lunch at Tony's (to be sure to get the Margherita); Early Dinner at Flour + Water; Late night dash to Pauline's Pizza (small pesto to go)
                                                  Saturday: Lunch at Cotagna; Early Dinner at Pizzaiolo; Walk to Emilias to pick up a pizza for late night.
                                                  Sunday: Lunch at Zero Zero; fly home fat and happy!

                                                  The glaring omission is Una Pizza Nepolitana. Just couldn't fit it in, and from what I've read, I'm worried that waiting for a table, and then waiting for the pizza, might be too much with a baby. We'll have to catch this place next time we are in town. Also, somehow we have to manage trips to Bi-Rite and Humphrey Slocombe. Not sure when, but we'll try!

                                                  Will report on our pilgrimage when I return. Thanks again!!

                                                  -----
                                                  Pizzaiolo
                                                  5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                  Pauline's Pizza
                                                  260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                  Oliveto Cafe
                                                  5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                                  Zero Zero
                                                  826 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Ingrid Ingrid

                                                    Thursday, note that only the Valencia and Albany locations of Little Star serve lunch.

                                                    Friday, you'd be better off the other way around, early dinner at Pauline's (more baby- / stroller-friendly place) and get a pie to go from Flour + Water (vibe is closer to bar than restaurant, especially later in evening).

                                                    Saturday, I live between Pizzaiolo and Emilia's, after dark I suggest you take a bus.

                                                    If you got to Una Pizza Napoletana a little before 5, you probably wouldn't have to wait for a table or wait long for your pizza.

                                                    -----
                                                    Pizzaiolo
                                                    5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                    Una Pizza Napoletana
                                                    200 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103