SF Bay Area pizza scene, 2016 to 2018

Starting a new topic rather than going off on a tangent in the ramen thread.

Here’s my response to Eater’s list (which was clearly not written by someone who cares enough about the subject), including some additional places:

A16: whole pies only, straight-up Neapolitan style, really good Italian restaurant with full menu

Arinell (Mission & Berkeley): has slices, standard NY-style street slice a la Ray’s, junk food for homesick New Yorkers

Arizmendi (multiple locations): has slices, clone of Berkeley’s Cheese Board, cracker-like crust, single vegetarian pie per day, some people complain it’s not pizza at all

BaoNecci: whole pies only, Roman-style thin crust (thinner than NY), I heard the pizza went downhill recently but have not been back to verify that

Buma’s (Oakland): has slices, still trying to decide if it beats Rotten City for best slice in the East Bay

Cheese Board Pizza (Berkeley): see Arizmendi

Cotogna: whole pies only, my favorite of the Delfina / F+W / Zero Zero school, also the best Cal-Italian restaurant in SF

Del Popolo: now has a restaurant in addition to the truck (haven’t tried myself)

Emilia’s (Berkeley): whole pies only, this is in my neighborhood, I would not call this New York-style (not that thin or crisp), good enough that I’m happy to eat it if someone else gets one but not my favorite

Flour + Water: whole pies only, very long waits, pizza is similar to Cotogna (which I think is the best at that popular local style) and Zero Zero (which is easier to get into than either

Gioia (Berkeley): has slices, NY-style thin crust, good ingredients but the crust seems tasteless to me, I prefer Nizza la Bella or Lanesplitter

Golden Boy: has slices, thick, soft focaccia squares with toppings, great cheap drunk food, arguably not pizza

Ideale: whole pies only, Roman-style thin crust (thinner than NY-style), before BaoNecci this was my favorite for that style, full menu with lots of other Roman specialties

La Ciccia: tied with Perbacco for best Italian restaurant in SF but skip the pizza

Lanesplitter (multiple locations in the East Bay): has slices, NY-style thin crust, the whole pies are second only to Nizza for this style but I prefer Buma’s or Rotten City for slices

Little Star (Divisadero branch): best Chicago-style in the area, Divisadero might still be great but the branches owned by the former partner have gone downhill since the business split

L’Osteria dal Forno: if you’re doing a pizza crawl in North Beach, try a slice of the porcini

Nick’s (Oakland): has slices, in my neighborhood, good, I get slices there but it doesn’t seem like a destination to me

Nizza la Bella: whole pies only, NY-style thin crust, to my taste the best in the area for that style (my favorite is the San Gennaro)

Oliveto Cafe (Oakland): whole pies only, one of the best in the East Bay

Piccino: whole pies only, very neighborhood (Dogpatch) crowd, good Italian restaurant with full menu, pizzas are good in the Delfina / F+W / Cotogna / Zero Zero vein

Pizzahacker: mea maxima culpa, have not tried yet

Pizzaiolo: whole pies only, sui generis (except for its sibling Boot & Shoe Service), lots of other things on the menu, very Oakland scene, can be painfully noisy

Pizzeria Delfina: whole pies only, started the popular local style, still one of the best, great salads

Pizzetta 211: whole (very small) pies only, sui generis, thinnest pizza I’ve ever seen, creative toppings

Rotten City Pizza (Emeryville): has slices, NY-style thin crust, contender for best of that style

Tommaso’s: whole (large) pies only, medium-thick crust, old-school atmosphere and service, oldest pizzeria on the West Coast

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana: whole pies only in the restaurant, slices to go next door, very long waits, try to do too many styles and fall down on consistency

Una Pizza Napoletana: whole pies only, long wait, must try if you’re into Neapolitan pizza, otherwise kind of fun for the eccentric style

Zachary’s: Chicago-style “stuffed” deep-dish are soggy disgusting glop overflowing with undercooked canned tomatoes, thin crust (sometimes available by the slice) is decent but not worth a detour

Zante: if you’re in the area try an Indian slice, I like the one with spinach and chicken

Zero Zero: whole pies only, maybe the easiest to get into of the Delfina school


To shorten my list a little bit, what’s reasonable from Nob Hill?

“Lower Nob Hill” = the Tenderloin. Zero Zero’s the only first-rate pizza I can think of that’s halfway close.

about a mile from my hotel.

interesting that the north eastern edge of the tenderloin is teeming with high quality hotels.

Guess this is kind of OT, but what are the things to order at Perbacco (other than the agnolotti dal plin)?

Also, it’s a bit unclear, but which would you recommend currently for Roman pizza, BaoNecci or Ideale?

BaoNecci’s pizza was better than half the pizzas I had in Rome in October.

I can’t find the reports about it going downhill, or any recent reports on the new Chowhound. I see some recent raves on Yelp, for what that’s worth.

I’ll post about Perbacco in that topic.

A couple of additions in Berkeley:

Bobby G’s, Shattuck and University. I’d put it closer to a NY Ray’s than Arinell, because they pile on the cheese–Arinell is more like a local independent NY pizza joint. Decent sauce and crust.

PIQ, Shattuck and Center. Pizza al metro, Roman style, but also the not-exactly-pizza flatbreads with tomato slices and toppings like prosciutto and fresh moz.

Bette’s To-Go, Fourth Street complex. Oddball toppings, ok for what it is.

Berkeley Bowl West has a wood-fired oven and the pies look good, but I haven’t tried them.

Whole Foods on Gilman, better than I expected for a supermarket, but the sauce is too tomato-pasty. A potato-pesto slice was pretty good.

In the city, Escape from New York, various locations, and Marcello’s in the Castro, put out decent enough NY style slices.

PIQ’s pizza is similar to Roman pizza a taglio, crunchy focaccia with toppings. Good stuff. I’ve never heard “pizza al metro.”

Bette’s is OK for a slice if you’re there and hungry but Lanesplitter and Rotten City are nearby if you’re driving.

Escape from New York tends to be soggy.

I’ve heard al taglio as well, but there’s an entry in the Italian Wikipedia for Pizza al metro, and the photo looks like what PIQ serves.

Ah, one of the seemingly infinite number of regional terms. In Rome the bakeries that make that just call it pizza.

Also, PIQ themselves call it “al metro” in their online menu.

Now I want some, but parking is expensive down there.

They aren’t bad, and extremely convenient. Now that whole pies are in the $30 range at Lanesplitter, sometimes WF is “ok enough” for an occasional take out.

RL, no comment on CP Cafe? It has probably been a year since I’ve had a pizza there, but they’ve always been very good.

I’ve had some great pizza over the years at l’Osteria del Forno.

The pizza at Chez Panisse Cafe is good, but I’m not sure it would make my Berkeley-Oakland top 10 list. I usually order other things.

It’s of historical significance, of course, since it invented the California style of you-can-top-it-with-anything pizza and raised the bar for the quality of the ingredients.

  • 1980: Chez Panisse Cafe opens and is an overnight success
  • 1981: Prego in SF knocks off the idea
  • 1982: Wolfgang Puck hires Ed LaDou away from Prego to be the opening pizza chef at Spago
  • 1985: LaDou develops the original menu for California Pizza Kitchen

My top 10, in alphabetical order:

A16 - best Neapolitan (i.e. not crunchy)
BaoNecci - best Roman-style thin-crust
Cotogna - my favorite of the Delfina, Flour + Water, Zero Zero, etc. school
Dopo - sui generis, thinner and crisper than Cotogna
Little Star (Divisadero) - Chicago-style deep dish
L’Osteria del Forno - porcini slice
Nizza la Bella - best NY-style whole pie, my favorite is the “San Gennaro”
Rotten City - best NY-style slice
Tommaso’s - old school, West Coast-style thicker crust, great atmosphere
Zante - best Indian pizza (kind of junk-foodish)

Del Popolo, on Bush near Taylor.

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I have my eye on Baonecci . Maybe it will take me back to Pizzeria Da Remo . I hitting that one up first on your list . Thanks

I tried the Berkeley Bowl pizza. Blech. It’s one of the worst I’ve had, with a crust as thick as Dominos’, and another tomato-paste-heavy sauce.

I like Gialina in Glen Park if one is on the south side of SF.

I have never been to BaoNecci but it sounds very good.

I wish SF had a good Roman-style pizza al taglio place (like Pizzarium – http://luckypeach.com/inside-romes-pizzarium/), but I am pretty sure it does not exist. It is not just about the way in which the pizza is sold, but the whole way it is prepared.

The way PIQ and Bonci (formerly Pizzarium) make pizza is generally the same. The big difference is that PIQ is an average sort of place and Bonci is probably the best in the world.

SF has whole-pie places where they’re as obsessed with the dough and as seasonal and creative with the toppings as Gabriele Bonci.

By La Ciccia, do you mean La Nebbia? I admit I haven’t been yet, but it’s near my house and I’ve heard nothing but positive things from people I trust.