San Francisco may not be as well-known as a pizza destination as its metropolitan brethren, but the city sure does deliver.
From smoky wood-fired pies to a New Haven, Connecticut institution marking its territory in the Bay Area, here are eight excellent pizza restaurants worth seeking out the next time you get a craving.
What Our Inspectors Say: Whether they’re rolling in from their offices at lunch or their condos at dinner, Redwood City locals are always up for a wood-fired pie at this stylish downtown pizzeria. With an airy, mosaic-filled dining room extending into a large front patio, it’s a relaxed, roomy space perfect for groups and families. The menu is divided into red and white pies, and they're equally delicious: zesty tomato sauce enlivens a combo of peppery soppressata, smoked mozzarella, and spinach, while a white version with crumbled French feta, fresh slices of garlic, cherry tomatoes, and chopped applewood-smoked bacon is irresistible. Get your greens in with the arugula salad, tossed with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, toasted hazelnuts, and a delicious apricot vinaigrette.
What Our Inspectors Say: If you’ve got eyes for killer pies, you’ll want to make a beeline to this chic and simple Italian hot spot. The open space is centered around a big, blazing oven, and crowds arrive early to score every last no-reservations seat. (The host is happy to text when yours is ready.) Del Popolo may have gotten its start as a food truck, but one bite of the wood-fired pizza and its clear how it earned its address. Chewy, blistered, and caramelized, the crusts arrive laden with toppings both traditional (mozzarella, tomato sauce, house-made sausage) and California cool (roasted winter squash, mascarpone, spring onions). Don't sleep on the antipasti, either—a smoked, cumin-infused sweet potato with pecan salsa verde and a poached egg is dizzyingly delicious.
What Our Inspectors Say: This little bungalow on the bay draws big crowds for the harbor views from its covered patio, complete with a namesake bocce court. Equipped with beachside benches for watching youngsters at play and toasty fire pits for warding off the late-afternoon fog, it’s often packed to the gills on weekend afternoons with locals lingering over a second (or fourth) glass of wine. Should the buzz get too strong, there's hearty Italian fare to set you right, including wood-fired pizzas topped with pesto, ricotta, and kale; tender meatballs in a rich San Marzano tomato sauce; and rib-sticking eggplant parmesan dolloped with burrata. Perk yourself up for the ride home with a vanilla gelato affogato, drowned in espresso and sprinkled with Heath bar crumble.
What Our Inspectors Say: This unassuming charmer in quaint Point Reyes Station is a perfect stop for day-trippers, who are sure to enjoy the many delicious dishes that emerge from its duo of wood-fired ovens. Pizza is the focus, with nine varieties ranging from a classic Margherita to more exotic combos of seasonal produce. But, there are also some delicious pies both savory (a spinach, egg, and cheese tortino with a salad of fresh greens) and sweet (a knockout berry version with a buttery crust). And every meal ends with a happy surprise—complimentary donut holes. Given its cooking method, it's no surprise that Cafe Reyes is stacked high with wood, both against the walls and under the counter. The big, spacious, barn-like dining room is rustic and unfussy, perfect for groups.
What Our Inspectors Say: Zero Zero may be named for the superlative flour used in its blistered pies, but it is so much more than a pizzeria. While the Castro topped with oozing mozzarella and spicy soppressata is delicious, this casual spot offers far more than just a good slice. Absolute knockouts include a beautifully composed panzanella accompanied by basil pesto; while gnocchi tossed in a hearty pork belly ragù and decked with dollops of ricotta is light and bright, despite the indulgent ingredients. A mix of families, hipsters, and business folk from the Moscone Center fill the warm, bi-level space. Group dining is ideal for sampling more of the menu, and the sizable bar will ensure that everyone's furnished with a terrific cocktail or pint of local draft root beer.
What Our Inspectors Say: New Haven transplants longing for the region’s signature chewy, charred apizza will find a taste of home at this San Carlos jewel, which churns out authentically blistered pies. Keep it traditional with red sauce topped with house-made fennel sausage and cremini mushrooms. Or go slightly Californian with the garlicky asparagus pie, draped with creamy crescenza cheese. Pazzo (Italian for "crazy") is anything but, thanks to a relaxed, family-friendly vibe. Kids of all ages will delight in the back counter, with a great view of the chef slipping pizzas into the cherry-red, wood-fired oven. And don't sleep through the house-made pastas: pillowy ricotta gnocchi, tucked into a lemony mascarpone and artichoke sauce, are good enough to steal the apizzas' show.
What Our Inspectors Say: This shoebox-sized pizzeria may reside in the far reaches of the Outer Richmond, but it’s easily identifiable by the crowds hovering on the sidewalk to score a table. Once inside, you’ll be greeted by pizzaiolos throwing pies in the tiny exhibition kitchen—ask for a counter seat to get a better view. The thin, chewy, blistered pizzettas each serve one, making it easy to share several varieties. Weekly specials utilize ingredients like seasonal produce, house-made sausage, and fresh farm eggs, while standbys include a pie topped with wild arugula, creamy mascarpone, and San Marzano tomato sauce. Whatever you do, arrive early: once the kitchen's out of dough, they close for the day, and the omnipresent lines mean the goods never last too long.
What Our Inspectors Say: Come to this San Mateo newbie for authentic Italian eats, where chef/co-owner Andrea Giuliani dishes up the cuisine of his native Veneto. Thanks to the modern space and late hours (by San Mateo standards, at least), it’s a big draw for the growing crowds of young tech types in town. The dining room has a view of the charcuterie aging room and those enticing cured meats like delicate, fennel-flecked finocchiona or exceptional pork ciccioli terrine. The wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas are equally strong-try the porchetta variation, topped with gorgonzola and radicchio. And of course, the pasta doesn't disappoint either: seafood is a specialty of Veneto, and their perciatelli with a tomato-flecked shrimp and octopus ragù is downright perfect.
Hero image courtesy of Pausa.