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