400 Valencia Street, San Francisco CA 94103 (map); (415) 551-7827; littlestarpizza.com
Pizza style: Deep dish
The skinny: Amazing Chicago-style, deep dish pizza in SF
Notes: Three locations in the bay area, two in SF, one in Albany
Price: $17-19 for a surprisingly filling 9" pizza, $22-24 for a 12" pizza
Little Star is known as the best place to get Chicago-style deep-dish pizza in San Francisco. The lines are notoriously long, and I was determined to find out if the pizza was worth the wait.
The pizzas come in two sizes: 9" and 12" for the deep dish, and 12" and 16" for the thin crust. The small pizzas run $17-19—not cheap for a 9" pie. But you won't go home hungry. Start with a Little Star, crowned with spinach blended with ricotta and feta, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and tomato sauce.
It's spectacular. The crust has a hint of sweet cornmeal flavor and the texture is punctuated with those little crispy cornmeal bits on the bottom. The crust held up firmly to the chunky, juicy stack of toppings on top. The contrast of moist toppings against the firmness of the crust was deeply satisfying.
The mix of sharp feta and smooth, sweet ricotta was luscious and bold, and it worked especially well against the funk of the mushrooms and onions. I found the tomato sauce a little too sweet, but the toppings helped to balance the flavors well.
We found the Mediterranean Chicken tasty, too, if slightly less impressive than the Little Star. The excellent crust was filled with artichoke hearts, chicken breast, red bell peppers, green olives, onions, and feta. The artichoke hearts were a little disappointing, and reminded me of the ones you can find in massive jars at Costco. The firm chicken breast added a welcome textural contrast, and though the red bell peppers weren't all that flavorful, the green olives, onions, and feta all made their presence known. It may not be traditional, but we still enjoyed it.
There's a reason Little Star is known for its deep dish. The thin crust pie is crispier, almost brittle, with a higher cheese-to-tomato ratio and a scattering of cornmeal on the bottom.
While I wouldn't go out of my way for Little Star's thin crust, the deep dish pies really sang, combining toppings harmoniously on a killer crust.
Deep dish is deceptively filling. The slices aren't that big and the wait times are long, so you may find yourself hungrily taking huge bites of a small pizza. Later it hits you: a significant amount of pizza has been ingested. And with Little Star, that's a good thing. The crowds aren't wrong, this place is a winner.