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Zachary's Chicago Pizza - yay or nay? [Berkeley]

Hi all...

Headed to SF in a couple of weeks, staying at the Intercontinental near the convention center, no car. Is a trip over to Zachary's in Berkeley worth it? Way back in college a couple of buddies were raving about this place, to the point where they had their pizza's shipped down to LA - since then, I've been curious to try it and since I'm going to be in SF, figure that I might as well, but since its out of the way from the rest of my itinerary, I wonder if its worth bothering? Are there any other Chicago style pizza places that would be comparable / as good and closer to my hotel / easier to reach without a car?

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    1. re: abstractpoet

      Second on that. Zachary's is usually a soggy mess of undercooked dough and too much wet tomato glop. Little Star is world-class.

      The Little Star in the Mission is easy to reach on public transportation.


      1. re: abstractpoet

        Agreed. I never much liked Zachary's. It got a lot of hype back in the day because it was the only game in town. Not any more.
        Paxti's and Little Star seems to be the choice of my friends who have relocated here from Chicago as well.

      2. I personally don't like deep dish pizza, but some think Paxti's is quite good. There is one within easy cabbing distance in Hayes Valley for you. Zachary's uses canned tomatoes that are way too acidic for my taste--it's all I can taste when I eat their DD, ugh.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rubadubgdub

          Little Star is quite different than Zachary's. That said, I go to Little Star every few months. I go to Zachary's, on average, once every 5 years.

          Way back in college, your buddies were probably high. I'm sure the pizza was delicious.

        2. A resounding nay. Never had good pizza at Zaccharies. As has been mentioned the sauce uses canned tomatoes. Not necessarily a bad thing except the sauce had a dreadful metallic aftertaste to me. The pizza really is dreadful in my opinion but the place allways looks packed. Little star is an order of magnitude better.

          1. All of the prior post-ers are right.

            My kids--and husband, who should definitely know better--have always liked Zachary's; and all locations are typically packed. So we're not just talking Cal students w/ the munchies.

            But I think Zachary's may have the worst crust I've ever tasted on a pizza--tough, tasteless, and soggy all at once--and the seasoning on the tomato glop is sharp and...just lousy.

            I second Little Star in the Mission, if you're wanting pizza that's an easy BART/Muni ride from your hotel. I don't know what other hounds think of Pauline's--also in the Mission--I like their pesto pizza and salads, but I esp. like the not-trendy old-SF vibe.

            For a fun evening in North Beach (easy to get to), Tony's make a satisfying, Italian-style pie.

            Finally, if you're talking pizza distinctive to the Bay Area, there are the so-called California wood-fired pizzas--I dream about pizzas w/ nettles or other greens @ Chez Panisse Cafe (North Berkeley BART + a short cab ride--y-- a pizza and salad and wine make a not-pricey and beyond delicious meal) and places it's spawned (eg. Pizzaiola--Temescal--Macarthur BART + a short cab ride)

            8 Replies
            1. re: sundeck sue

              Agree on the nettle pizza at Chez Panisse Café. I still dream about it.

              I don't jones for pizza but I've had several really outstanding pies on our trips to the Bay Area. I totally get the nostalgia thing but there are so many unique pizza options that are really quite outstanding in the Bay Area if you can let go of the Chicago-style hankering :-).

              1. re: grayelf

                One thing is that I'm from LA and so I don't have a shortage of California-style pizza that I can get pretty easily. Unless there's a night and day improvement in California style pizza in SF vs. LA, I'd probably pass on it this trip.

                As for thin vs. thick / NY vs. Chicago style, I like both, though I prefer Chicago style but in LA we don't have a lot of good Chicago style around, especially places that are easy to reach from the central parts of LA. My go-to thick crust pizza in LA is, sadly, Numero Uno, because its the only thing that's easy to get to that's remotely like what I'm after. So that's why I'm looking to take advantage of my time in SF if possible to get some better thick crust pizza than what I can get at home.

                1. re: Marvin

                  If Pizzeria Mozza is as good as Cal-Italian pizza gets in LA, yes, the difference is night and day.

                  Little Star's deep-dish is several orders of magnitude better than the modern chain Uno's.

              2. re: sundeck sue

                I also like Pauline's, sundecksue, for the reasons you list. I always get the special pizzas, which can be hit or miss, but I like to try them.

                And yes, I prefer Little Star to Zachary's, but I'll admit I don't generally care for deep dish pizza.

                1. re: sundeck sue

                  @ sundecksue, Wow, you think Tony's Pizza Napoletana makes a satisfying, Italian-style pie? Tony's amazingly makes just about every style of pizza known to man...but the Neapolitan styles, the coal fired,NY style pies next door are about as good as it gets!

                  1. re: lapizzamaven

                    >next door<

                    Meaning not at Tony's? If so, where?

                    1. re: lapizzamaven

                      I've found Tony's inconsistent. I think they're trying to do more things than they can handle.

                  2. The original Zachary's in Oakland is a lot easier to get to via BART.

                    About one block from the Oakland Rockridge station.

                    "Nobody goes to Zachary's any more because its too crowded"

                    1. I have not eaten at Zachary's in a couple of decades – liked it when it first opened in '83, gave up on it when Cheeseboard Pizza came along a few years later (though probably had my last one in the early '90s). I had lunch at Little Star on Valencia recently and it was decent, as good as I've had in Chicago, though I am not crazy about deep-dish pizza. There is more interesting thin-crust pizza in town (e.g. Pizzeria Delfina), you don't have to go to the East Bay for either type, and there are many more interesting things to eat in SF besides pizza (though if that is your aim, you will do well here).

                      Sometimes people continue to patronize restaurants because they like familiarity or because of good memories, not because the restaurants continue to deliver on early promises.

                      1. Thanks all for the replies so far. From the sounds of it, I am going to give Zachary's a pass, but Little Star sounds pretty good so I'm going to try and give that a go.

                        1. its not that great, its OK, GIOIA pizza is not far away and far far better,

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: captainmike

                            Gioia has a lot of fans but it's more or less NY-style thin crust.

                          2. I like Zachary's - the spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza has always been good. I don't really get the hate for it. That being said, if you're already in San Francisco and want Chicago style pizza, Little Star is probably a better choice, or even Patxi's, which is similar to Zachary's crust-wise, and is also stuffed like Zachary's.

                            One thing to note about travel - the College Ave. Zachary's in Oakland is very close to the Rockridge BART station, only about a block away.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Mr_Happy

                              It isn't "hate" for me, it is more "meh" and there are better options.

                              1. re: lmnopm

                                I'm sorry but I really do hate the pizza! I think it's really really bad. But that's just my opinion and I tend to be very picky and vocal in my opinions (some might say opinionated).

                              2. re: Mr_Happy

                                If I had to go to Zachary's again I would order the spinach and mushroom. I think it's not as soggy since it has less tomato sauce than the other combinations.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  To be fair I have never tried the spinach mushroom.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    ditto re fairness (never tried spinach mushroom)

                                    1. re: sundeck sue

                                      Count me in on the side of "meh", bordering on strong dislike. And that includes the spinach and mushroom. I've not been in five years or more and have no desire to return. LIttle Star on the other hand I quite enjoy.

                                  2. re: Mr_Happy

                                    I think Patxi's is okay, but their stuffed is definitely a pale imitation of, say, a Giordano's stuffed.

                                    1. re: dunstable

                                      How do you think it pales? I think Patxi's and Giordano's stuffed spinach & onion are basically interchangeable.

                                      1. re: Frosty Melon

                                        To be fair, it's been more than a year since I've had either, but I just didn't think the Patxi version worked well. It was more like something I'd get from a chain Uno's -- lots of gloopy cheese, bland crust, and so on.

                                  3. I haven't had a zach's pie in over 10 years, but I used to really like it. My order would be a pepperoni and spinach. The sauce was always tangy, the crust was never soggy (you could eat their very, very thick pie with one hand, crisp almost to a fault), and made with a series of layers and a salty buttery taste that I found very pleasant.
                                    I would almost call it a more industrial pizza - thick, hearty, comforting.

                                    I generally like Little Star a little more, but a recent Pie from MV Blue Line was really short on toppings and too long on crust. Paxti's deep dish is OK, I really don't like their thin crust.

                                    These days, when I get up to Oaktown there's a thousand better things to eat, and places like Pizzaolio, but I'm sure if I was living in the area again I'd get a Zach's pie every once in a while (unless it's gone way down hill)

                                    In all the pies I used to eat I never tasted any form of metallic aftertaste.

                                    And you have to like deep dish. Zach's is a deeper dish than Little Star, according to all my memories.

                                    I would certainly not call it a destination or special event place, which certainly echos the general opinion here.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      Zachary's is deeper than Little Star's because it's stuffed a la Giordano's and Nancy's while Little Star follows the original Uno's deep-dish model.

                                      I liked Zachary's until Little Chicago (which evolved into Little Star) opened. The soggy part of the crust is not the bottom, which is always crisp enough that you could pick it up, but the top, which simmers in tomato sauce instead of baking.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Yeah, I like that effect, both comforting and soggy at the top of the crust, and also crisp at the bottom. Stuffed, not deep, got it.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Is the pizza at Little Star the same at their Valencia and Divisadero locations?

                                          1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                            All three locations seem the same to me as far as the food goes.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Thanks. The last great deep-dish Chicago pizza I had was at long-gone Gatsby's in Sausalito, originally taken there a long time ago by a Chicago native. I look forward to having one at Little Star.

                                        1. take it for what it is, but my friends and I recently did a head to head to head competition of Zachary's vs Little Star vs Paxti's and surprisingly, amongst the 10 of us comparing the 3, we all came to the conclusion that Zachary's was the favorite. I think the main thing is that we took it to go, and I believe that's the key. Zachary's seems to hold up better on the go, whereas I think the other too would be superior if eaten right out of the oven at location.

                                          4 Replies
                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Spinach Mushroom for both Zachary's and Little star, Paxti's Fennel Sausage. Not an equal comparison...but still.

                                              1. re: nicedragonboy

                                                I think Zachary's has a better chance to win that one than it would Zachary's Special vs. Little Star Classic.

                                            2. re: nicedragonboy

                                              Interesting. When I used to eat Zach's, it was almost always to go.

                                              What were some of the comments on each?

                                            3. I agree with rubadubgdub. If you want deep dish go with Patxis. It is much fresher and has a great crust.