Since 1935, when Tommasso’s Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach installed the first wood-fired pizza oven on the West Coast, California pizza was born. The evolution of the San Francisco Bay Area’s pizza scene, led by Chez Panisse, now gives us deep dish and thin crust, hole-in-the-wall and upscale, old school and new kid on the block options. However, for more meaty pizza-by-the-slice places (hurray for Tony’s), we must still look over our shoulder at NYC and Chicago.
Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
1570 Stockton St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
In the heart of North Beach, Tony’s award winning brand gives you a couple of wood-fired pizza oven options. Both typically involve a wait that’s worth it. Put your name down and take a buzzer to wait for a table or a seat at the bar where multiple styles include gold medal winners served by the pie. Or, go next door to join the line that goes out the door at the take out counter serving pizza by the slice. Grab some napkins and get the pepperoni — it appears in tasty small circles with crispy edges and a delicious little pool of oil in floating in its meaty center — and sit outside in the sun.
Little Star Pizza
846 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
If you’ve lived in Chicago, you already know about San Francisco’s best deep dish pizza, served at this small, casual spot on the Divis corridor (just follow the aroma) and on Valencia Street in the Mission. A thick edge of crumbly cornbread crust gives way to a Chicago-style interior, both of which earn rave reviews. Pack in some protein on your pizza. Classic comes with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green bell peppers. Mediterranean Chicken comes with chicken breast, artichoke hearts, red bells, green olives, onions and feta cheese. Open until 10 p.m., an hour later on weekends, delivery is available for when you need Little Star pizza in your pajamas.
5801 College Ave.
In June, Oakland Magazine and East Bay Times both awarded Zachary’s as “best pizza” in their 2016 readers’ choice awards. This employee-owned business has now expanded from Rockridge to three more locations in Berkeley, Pleasant Hill and San Ramon. With 30 years of Chicago-style deep dish under their belts (some say it’s better than anywhere in the Windy City), Zachary’s has won more than 175 pizza prizes. Consider the meatball appetizer. Meat lovers should order the classic combination: Italian sausage, green pepper, onion, mushroom and mozzarella.
651 Emerson St.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Peninsula people who know the Stolls’ well-loved mainstays in the Mission and Fillmore districts are delighted that Delfina has added Burlingame and Palo Alto locations to their lineup. And, meat lovers know that Delfina’s spicy housemade fennel sausage accompanies tomato, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella on the Salsiccia pizza. In fact, you can order the sausage as an addition to any Delfina pizza on the menu. That signature crispy, yet chewy, thin crust is the same as you’ll find in the SF locations. See what happens when a native New Yorker, San Francisco fan, and Italian food lover applies his James Beard Best Chef in the West skills to the pizza oven.
826 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
This is a good-looking date night restaurant that serves cocktails and great pizza, not a pizza place. Enhanced by two bars and a grand staircase, the 2010 addition to the city’s pizza scene is named for its specialty flour. Cousin to Bix, Fog City, Picco, and Larkspur’s Pizzeria Picco, Zero Zero has been voted “best pizza in San Francisco” by readers of 7×7 Magazine. Meat lovers can drive past popular veggie-inspired menu selections such as Fillmore and Geary to park at the pizza called Castro featuring housemade sausage with sopressata, tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil.