Best pizza in the East Bay
- Robert Lauriston Mar 29, 2014 12:26 PM
No recent comprehensive topic so let's reboot.
Some of these make styles of pizza I'm not the biggest fan of but I think they're all arguably best of breed for the styles they make.
Cheeseboard / Arizmendi
Little Star (deep-dish)
Nizza la Bella
Pizzaiolo / Boot & Shoe
I liked Zachary's when it was the only deep-dish pizza in the area. When Brian Sadigursky started Little Chicago (pop-up precursor of Little Star) it made me realize how bad Zachary's was.
Little Star makes regular deep-dish a la the original Uno's pie rather than stuffed a la Nancy's and Giordano's.
My current favorite is Dopo. The housemade sausage, spring onion, and sheep cheese pie I had there last night was the best of many great ones I've had there. I think they're going a little thinner than before. Perfect balance of crunch and chew, exactly the right amount of each ingredient.
Emilia's for hybrid New York/Neopolitan
Pizzaiolo/Boot&Shoe for Californian
I also really enjoy East End, A16, and Nizza la Bella. We've been looking for a place that will replicate the style prevalent in southern France (thick layer of 4 cheeses, often gruyere/mozzerella/roquefort/parm, with sauce) and haven't quite found it, although Nizza la Bella came closest after we asked them to add some blue and sauce to their Bianca con Formaggio i Funghi (ricotta, mozz, gruyere, parm). East End was less accommodating - their Mousetrap (fontina, mozz, provolone, blue) hit the flavor pretty closely, but they weren't willing to double the amount, per my husband's request.
I had Slicer for the first time this week and thought they got the NYC street slice flavor down, but the crust was super tough. One of our friends who'd had it before thought it was anomalous batch.
we've had about six takeout pies from Slicer in recent months, and inconsistent crust is their principal shortcoming, considering the $25. tag. one or two were borderline overdone, and one was tough to the point it would have been sent back if that were practical.
we tried three or four pies from Emilia's, and inconsistent crust was also his main shortcoming. for that quasi-NY style, our current favorite is Gioia's, a level better than Slicer in about every aspect for the same price, but we've only tried them once so the verdict is pending.
My favorite NY-style is Nizza.
I like Lanesplitter, it's not in the same league but it's consistent, so long as you eat there and order a whole 16" pie. Slices are tasty but overcooked from reheating.
I've had Gioia slices and pies a few times and find their crust tasteless. I think they don't use enough salt.
My top list - note that im no longer in the bay area, so i havent tried any relatively new places.
Cheeseboard - It really depends on the toppings, simple as that. everything else is pretty consistent (e.g. crust, quality of toppings, etc.) If you're going to go and you're not local, look at their website - they have a schedule that shows you what pizzas they have for that day. I hate anything they do with pesto, not a fan of their roma tomato pies. They try different topics depending on the season (e.g. peaches in the summer) - it what makes this place unique.
Emilia - I agree with moto above. When he makes a good pie, it's one of the best. but sometimes, I get a pie where the crust really brings it down.
Gioia - As close to an east coast pie as it gets in the East Bay. Pretty consistent too. I'm not a fan of their slices - but, when i get a whole pie, it's been pretty consistently good from pie to pie.
Boot and Shoe - If I wanted to take someone new to the area out and not go to SF to try a "California" stye pizza, I would take them here.
Little Star - I go back and forth between Little Star and Zach's. Little Star does have a unique crust, which gives it that "crunch" and hold that Zach's somewhat buttery crust lacks. Both have their fans - I like Little Star's sausage and Zach's mushroom.
Forge - Only tried this once, really liked it.
East End - Tried a slice, tried a pie - didnt like either. the crust didnt hold, was sagging midway through the meal.
Lo Coco's - This place was near where I lived, so I went here often - so, proximity and familiarity play a role. I think they make a good pie - consistent. A bit expensive, but worth a try if you're in the area.
After having 3 half over-scorched, half undercooked pies, I gave Forge another shot a few months back and found evenly cooked crust with nice consistent char, and went back a few more times with the same result.
Then last weekend I went back, sat at the bar adjacent to the oven, and saw pie after pie come out half-scorched, half pale and wan. Had a cocktail and left.
I think getting the right guy working the oven is crucial here; it's a Valoriani, which are notoriously unbalanced.
Little Star in Albany doesn't have slices for lunch anymore, but they do offer personal-sized pies, any of the special combos for $8.95, cheese only for $6.95, deep dish or thin crust. They're not on the menu, for some reason. The deep dish "Mediterranean chicken" was great when I tried it yesterday.