Best Pizza in San Francisco, According to Michael Bauer
Michael Bauer, food critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, recently named his six favorite pizzerias in the Bay Area. Bauer has been writing a weekly blog post about San Francisco pizza for nearly a year now, usually with accompanying videos, and I guess he feels he has surveyed the field thoroughly enough to weigh in with a definitive list. Or maybe he's finally sick of pizza.
There are some surprising names on the list, along with a few sure-to-be-controversial omissions. The omissions are sure to bring out a hornet's nest of protesters. They include Chicago-style Zachary's, the most popular Bay Area pizzeria; Tommaso's, the oldest pizzeria in San Francisco; Little Star, a newer Chicago-style pizzeria that has been reviewed favorably; Pizzetta 213, super-thin, super-crisp pizza in the Richmond district; Pizzeria Delfina, an offshoot of the very good Italian restaurant with the same name; and A-16, the Neapolitan restaurant and pizzeria which had very fine pizza when I ate there a few years ago researching Slice of Heaven.
Mind you, I agree with the inclusion of the pizzerias I've tried on Bauer's best-of list. I myself found Zachary's mediocre at best, Little Star better but still not great, Pizzetta 213 decent and heartfelt but not inspired, and Tommaso's to be more romantic than delicious. I haven't been to Pizzeria Delfina, though friends who know pizza think it's very good.
I emailed Michael Bauer asking. His response, after the jump.
"The reason is that there are only six spots," he wrote. "I almost included Delfina, but I wanted to get geographic diversity, too. I went back twice, and in the end I liked the wood-fired pizzas at Picco and Pizzaiolo better. I like Little Star, but not as much as the others; Zachary's pizza was like cardboard when I was there. Tomasso's is OK; I like Pizzetta 213, but, again, not as much as the others. I didn't do the cafe at Chez Panisse because the pizza is a minor player there."
My Take on Four of Bauer's Picks
Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, where chef-owner Bruce Hill bakes excellent super-light Neapolitan-inspired pies and organic soft-serve ice cream with olive oil for dessert. Thankfully, the ice cream does not find its way to the pizza. 320 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur CA 94939 (map); 415-945-8900; pizzeriapicco.com
Pauline's, where they serve what I call cornmeal dusted California-style hipster pizza with toppings that are sometimes but not always in their own garden. I ate there with Bauer a few years ago and liked but did not love it. Creativity has its place when it comes to pizza toppings, but I must admit my appreciation for such things doesn't extend to a pie topped with Meyer lemon purée, goat cheese, and greens. 260 Valencia Street, San Francisco CA 94103 (map); 415-552-2050; paulinespizza.com
Pizzaiolo: Charlie Halliwell is the closest thing San Francisco has to Chris Bianco (Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix) and Anthony Mangieri (Una Pizza Napoletana in New York). Excellent wood-fired pies made with great ingredients made by someone who really cares. 5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland CA 94609 (map); 510-652-4888; pizzaiolooakland.com
Gioia: New York–style slices with California influences. I liked it well enough when I tried quite a few slices here, but Gioia wouldn't be a top-six pick in New York. 1568 Hopkins Street, Berkeley CA; 510-528-4692; gioiapizzeria.com
Here are brief summaries of Bauer's take on the two pizzerias on his list I haven't been to, along with a couple of observations by me:
Rosso: John Franchetti, the pizza-maker at Tra Vigne, has, in Bauer's words "built a better pie at his own place in Santa Rosa." That may be, and I haven't been so I can't pass judgment, but when Bauer writes about Franchetti's Goomba pie, featuring spaghetti and meatballs as toppings, I gotta wonder. 53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa CA 95404 (map); 707-544-3221; rossopizzeria.com
Gialina: A chef-driven pizzeria run by Sharon Ardiana, who has apparently aroused the ire of Neapolitan purists by not using a wood-fired oven. I have not been. Sometimes, though, it's not as much about the heat source as it is the heat, as I found out first-hand at Apizza Scholls in Portland, Oregon. 2842 Diamond Street, San Francisco CA 94131 (map); 415-239-8500; gialina.com