Patxi's Chicago Pizza
511 Hayes Street, San Francisco CA 94102 (map); 415-558-9991; patxispizza.com/
Pizza style: Stuffed
Oven type: Gas
The skinny: San Francisco's best Chicago style stuffed pizza
Price: 10" Chicago style pies start at $14.45, 12" starts at $18.65, 14" starts at $20.95
Recently, a diverse collection of pizza lovers in San Francisco judged the best local deep dish pizzas and compared them to a couple of pies shipped out from Chicago. Patxi's Chicago Pizza (pronounced "pah'-cheese") won their double-blind taste test (although I think it's unfair to judge fresh pizzas against frozen/shipped ones), and it wins mine too.
Unlike the other fine Chicago-style entrants in the San Francisco area, lines at Patxi's are pretty manageable; we didn't have to wait to be seated at 8:30 on a Thursday. This is key, since cooking times for deep dish pizza are significantly longer than for thinner crust varieties.
Patxi's menu includes four styles of pizza: stuffed, pan, thin crust, and extra thin crust, with estimated cook times helpfully provided. There is also an extensive topping selection: 21 veggies, nine meats, six "Zoe's Natural Meats" and even four kinds of cheese (regular mozzarella, low fat mozzarella, non-vegan soy cheese and Daiya vegan soy-free cheese). So much choice can be a little overwhelming.
Hot and steamy, the copious amount of mozzarella on each pie had a very intense "pull-factor". Just getting a slice from the pie to one's plate required discipline and patience. Patxi's definitely crammed in lots of nice, stringy cheese, which made the pizza seem luxurious.
The herby and slightly sweet sauce, was a little too sparse. When I think of Chicago style stuffed pizza, I think of a solid half-inch to an inch of sauce on top, with all toppings buried beneath the red wall. Patxi's pizzas didn't have quite enough sauce to balance out the thick crust and plentiful cheese. The waitress overheard my comments about the paucity of sauce, and offered more sauce on the side. The extra sauce, delivered in a steaming hot bowl, really evened out the pizza. When the pizza had enough of the zesty, slightly spicy sauce, it was ridiculously tasty.
Another downside of Patxi's was that the crust-cheese-sauce ratio was too heavily weighted in favor of the crust. Simply put, the crust was freakin' thick! The pie needed a fair bit of crust to balance the mass of toppings, cheese and sauce, but I found that the crust overwhelmed the rest of the pizza. Though the crust had decent flavor, it wasn't especially flaky or buttery.
The toppings were delicious, and easily made up for the crust dominance. The special pie with sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green peppers was a true representation of the classic Chicago style. All the toppings complemented each other nicely, and the sausage was a wonderful blend of spicy and sweet.
The spinach-pesto pizza was nicely garlicky and a little salty, but the spinach got lost in the rest of the flavors, and since its consistency was very similar to the tomato sauce, it was hard to taste it independently. Still, it's a smooth addition to the standard stuffed pizza.
The Greek pizza with artichoke hearts, feta, green olives, and red peppers offered a nice change of pace. The olives were large and seemed to be freshly sliced. The red peppers had a juicy crunch that offset the smoothness of everything else. And even though the feta remained hidden, periodic salty bursts announced its presence.
Patxi's makes a damn good pizza. My quibbles of too much crust and not enough sauce are pretty minor, and I intend to go back for more. Patxi's is a worthy specimen of Chicago-style pizza many miles from the Windy City.