Around the turn of the century, lots of Italian immigrants came to San Francisco and brought pizza with them. That heritage, combined with lots of fresh local ingredients and artisanal food purveyors, gives San Francisco some of the best pizza restaurants on the West Coast.
Whether you like a crispy, Neapolitan pie, a traditional Italian pizza, or a gourmet special with unusual pizza toppings, you can find it here. There are terrific pizza restaurants all over the Bay Area. In fact, some of the best are a little out of the way.
If you love Naples-style pizza, drive out to Glen Park to Gialina. The chef here, Sharon Ardiana, cooked in several hot restaurants in the Bay Area before deciding that pizza was her true vocation. Her pizzas are topped with fantastic toppings like all-natural, Niman Ranch pork belly. The crust is surprisingly authentic considering that she doesn't use a wood-fired oven. Save room for the Nutella dessert pizza.
Little Star Pizza has two branches, one on Divisadero and one in the Mission District. You can get a thin-crust or Chicago-style, deep-dish pie here. Try one with ricotta cheese, spinach, feta, and mushrooms. You can start your meal with the yummy chicken wings.
Gioia Pizzeria is a tiny, little place on Hopkins Street. The counter is usually packed with UC Berkeley students looking for a bargain lunch. If there's no room at the counter, there are a few benches outside, or you can get your pie to go. The owner, Will Gioia, couldn't find an authentic New York pizza when he moved here, so he opened this place in 2004. Five special pizzas change frequently. Lots for interesting toppings including butternut squash, radicchio, and asparagus.
Delfina's restaurant is a popular Italian eatery, and their Pizzeria next door serves killer pizzas. They're baked in a gas oven that cooks them at 770 degrees. Each night, they serve two specials and six Neapolitan pies with a thin, crispy crust. Try cherrystone clams with hot peppers, fennel sausage, or broccoli rabe. The wine list includes some affordable Italian selections, and the desserts are good too.
Pizzaioli was created by Charlie Hallowell, best known for his years at Chez Panisse. It's located in the Temescal district of Oakland, but it's worth the drive. If there's a long wait, try to find at seat at the wine bar, where service is pretty speedy. Pizzailoi serves pasta, salads and traditional trattoria dishes in addition to Naples-style pizza. The pies here are baked in a wood-fired oven and they have the requisite charring and bubbly edges. The toppings include novelties like squid and potatoes.
Way out in Larkspur, Pizzeria Pico has been called the best pizzeria in the country by Mario Batali. Virtually everything from the mozzarella to the sausage is made in house. And they top their pies with locally grown ingredients like nettles and prawns. You can have a spicy arugula salad on top of your pizza for a refreshing change of pace. There's a good wine list too.
Nobody's more serious about pizza than Tony Gemignani, who owns Tony's Pizza Napoletana. Tony has four different pizzas oven that he uses to produce perfect pies. In fact, his Pizza Margherita won the Naples World Cup in 2007. Every day, he makes 73 pizzas for eager patrons. That's it.
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