Pizza My Heart
Multiple San Francisco Bay Area locations (Burlingame location visited for this review); pizzamyheart.com
Pizza style: New York-style with California-style toppings
Oven type: Gas
The skinny: This chain won top honors at the International Pizza Competition for its "traditional" pizza, but specializes in over-the-top toppings at its 20 Bay Area locations
Price: Slice, $3.25; Slice of the Day, $4; Large pies, $19.75 and up
I'm doing my best to envision myself writing this review in a gravelly, Janis Joplin voice. At least, I imagine it's a Joplin song* that provides the inspiration for the name, Pizza My Heart, a chain of pizzerias that dots Northern California. No matter the inspiration, this place caught our attention recently because it took home top honors at the International Pizza Competition for "Best Traditional Pizza." Does that mean we have the best pizza in the world, right here in the Bay Area?
Despite the name, the Pizza My Heart location we visited felt more surf-rock than blues-rock. The chain, which now has 20 locations, started out near the beach in Capitola, and they pay homage to these roots with surf boards and beach shots lining the walls. At the newish Burlingame location, there's a little bit of strip mall thrown in as well, with a newfangled Coke machine and a slightly glossy, box-store feel to the whole get-up.
It's odd to think that Pizza My Heart claimed its recent crown for turning out "traditional" pizza. The slices certainly meet New York-style specifications—they're large, thin-crust triangles that you fold to eat. And, yeah, you can order a pie with your standard slice shop fixings, but judging by the menu, the point of the place seems to be the long list of slightly loopy, let's-pile-it-on topping selections that fall well outside these bounds. Pepperoni, sausage, bacon, green onion, gorgonzola, garlic, and green apple slices all make it onto the same pizza at Pizza My Heart.
Their Big Sur has a lot of toppings too, but what stands out is the garlic. They boast that each pie gets 40 cloves of roasted garlic, but I think they may be selling themselves short, because we counted 9 cloves on our single slice. The salt in the pepperoni and sausage that also came on this pie boosted the sweet-pungent garlicky kick into the stratosphere. The pie also comes with portobello mushrooms, green onions, and red sauce, but who could tell?
As if the Big Sur hadn't prepared us for a post-pizza vampire-slaying mission, we also ordered its sister pie, the Little Sur. (It was their 'Slice of the Day' when we visited.) Though this single slice actually came with even more garlic—11 cloves!—the lack of salty meatstuffs meant it didn't pack quite the same punch. Instead, it had portobello mushrooms and green onions, red pepper, and tomato. The water that leaked off the halved cherry tomatoes likely explains why our reheated slice arrived somewhat mushy—just one of the reasons I usually despise chunks of raw tomato on pizza. But the veggies actually had some flavor, and made for fairly refreshing mouthfuls in comparison to the meatier confections we tried.
Rules for the International Pizza Competition limited Pizza My Heart to two toppings, and so their victorious pie featured only pepperoni and mushrooms. When we asked them to whip up this award-winning pie, it had mini discs of spicy pepperoni with crisp edges curling upward. The bites that lacked these tasty devils could be a little bland, so we applied liberal squirts of Shark Repellent—basically Pizza My Heart-branded hot sauce.
The Pizza My Heart website talks about giving its dough 36 hours of proofing time before they serve it, and their crust does have the flavor that comes from letting the yeast work a little bit. The very thin crust on our reheated slices also had some crispness and a bit of chew, but otherwise seemed to lack heft. Our fresh-made pie came out with a darker, almost crunchy end-crust.
When Janis Joplin finishes roaring her way through Piece of My Heart, she tells us, You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good. The stuff at Pizza My Heart doesn't have enough soul to set me to singing the way Joplin does, but choose the right topping combination and it will likely still make you feel good.