19 Pizza Places in San Diego for a Legit Slice
From NY-style to Chicago deep dish and more.
Pizza is so ubiquitous that we often forget how much time and effort goes into producing a really great pie. So we turned to Chef Luca Zamboni of the Buona Forchetta empire, to answer the eternal question -- what makes a truly great pizza?
“A pizza recipe is very simple: flour, water, yeast, and salt,” Zamboni explains. “The way the dough is prepared, the ingredients need to be kneaded perfectly, the way the dough is handled, the timing and the temperature management are crucial. Leaving the dough rising for long times helps to release the tastes and scents of the flour.”
Hailing from a small town north of Rome called Tarquinia, Zamboni takes a holistic approach to pizza, drawing from his experience under the tutelage of legendary pizzaiolo Gabriele Bonci.
“Of course, the ingredients need to be top quality and the oven can make a difference,” he says. “Each style of pizza requires a specific type of oven. Sometimes the dough is not perfect, but if the pizzaiolo knows how to work with the oven, the quality of the pizza can still be excellent.”
With all that in mind, we’re never taking a great slice of pizza for granted again. We set out to find the most legit pizza joints in San Diego, from no-frills slice shops to tavern-style restaurants with perfect pie/pint pairings to fine dining establishments using the most luxurious ingredients. Here are the best places to eat pizza in San Diego.
The Privateer Coal Fired Pizza
Childhood friends Charlie Anderson and Jamey Stone grew up together in Oceanside and dreamed of one day opening a pizza joint in their hometown. Dreams do come true, and that includes dreams of chewy, crispy coal-fired crust, topped with fresh, local ingredients. The signature pie, The Privateer Pie, may raise an eyebrow with its chicken breast and walnut pesto topping, as does The Captain Fin Pie, slathered in clam chowder sauce, provolone, potatoes, bacon, and black pepper, but trust us, they work deliciously. Traditional combos like Brixton Pie, with tomato sauce, Grana Padano, ricotta, and pepperoni gets a tweak of fresh lemon zest, while Raen Pie combines white sauce, provolone, fior di latte, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, and black pepper. The extensive wine list is one of the largest in North County.
How to order: Indoor dining is on a first-come basis. Order online for pickup or delivery.
Emily Green created Sisters Pizza to honor the memory of her own late sister, Kate Green. Focusing on East Coast-style pizza, with an eye towards community service, she raises money for a different charity each month through her nonprofit, Kindness for Kate. Available by the slice or whole pie, choose from the pure simplicity of Uncle Jesse, with olive oil, ricotta, mozzarella, and fresh basil, to the piled-high Livin’ on the Veg with red sauce, mozzarella, Roma tomato, green pepper, Bermuda onion, black olive, mushroom, and broccoli. Can’t make up your mind? Ask if they can make a Frankenpie, a crowd-pleasing assembly of a variety of slices from the case, while supplies last.
How to order: Indoor and patio dining is available on a first-come basis.
Gelati & Peccati
The newest member of the Buona Forchetta family, Gelati & Peccati is reminiscent of the walk-up pizzerie and gelati shops common in Rome. Baked in sheet pans and sold al taglio, literally “by the cut”, the high-hydration dough ferments for 72 hours and produces a light, airy crumb and crispy bottom. Dozens of combinations rotate throughout the day, and while it’s difficult to pick favorites, standouts include simple marinara; cherry tomatoes, oregano, basil and garlic, or luxurious Lussuria with mozzarella, caciocavallo, guanciale, and fresh truffle. It goes without saying that you’ll want to save room for a scoop or two of gelato, which comes in 18 flavors, and includes vegan options as well as fruit sorbets.
How to order: Open for dine-in on a first-come, first-served basis and takeout.
Whether you’re in the mood for a fanciful gourmet pizza or a familiar favorite, Barbusa, the Busalacchi family’s popular Little Italy spot, has something on the menu to please everyone. Highlights include Patate con Prosciutto, featuring Magic Molly purple potatoes, Satina gold potatoes, prosciutto, and rosemary, or the California, topped with (what else?) avocado, plus arugula, lemon, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. They also have vegan and gluten-free options.
How to order: Make reservations for in-house dining via OpenTable.
Civico by the Park
Dario and Pietro Gallo bring two distinct styles of pizza to their new Bankers Hill digs -- Romana and Calabrian. Using high hydration and a 72-hour ferment, the Romana-style’s flour combines non-GMO rice, soy and wheat flours for an airy, almost puff pastry-like texture, while Calabrian-style employs a biga (similar to a sourdough starter) and a 48-hour ferment for added flavor and texture. Order either style with nduja, fior di latte, pistachio emulsion and mortadella, or parmigiana-style with San Marzano sauce, eggplant and smoked provolone.
How to order: Make reservations for in-house dining via OpenTable, or for pickup via Toast.
This neighborhood favorite, now with outposts across San Diego County, offers more than three dozen different pies ready to crush your carb and cheese cravings (all of which can be made gluten-free). You really can’t make a bad call, whether you go for something simple like the margherita or try something more unusual, like the Teepoo, which is loaded with prosciutto cotto, artichokes, mushrooms, ricotta, and mozzarella. Pro tip: Hold onto the olive oil and balsamic from bread service, as you’ll want a puddle of it to drag your crusts through.
How to order: Call your favorite location for dine-in reservations or takeout.
The pizza makers at this hopping Italian restaurant owned by the same team behind Bencotto invested some serious dedication into crafting the perfect pizza dough. Made with yeast and flour imported from Italy, it slowly ferments for four days before it’s stretched, topped, and baked in a brick-lined gas oven. The Monello pizza, with cheese sauce, spinach, roasted bell peppers, sausage, and raspadura, deserves a spot on your must-eat list.
How to order: Reserve a table for indoor dining online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available. Order online for pickup or delivery via Toast.
This beloved slice shop is known for classic, NY-style pies that clobber your hunger with the strength of a heavyweight. The Whitestone (a white pie with mozzarella, garlic, and dollops of creamy herbed ricotta cheese) is a must, but so are the calzones and house specialties like the triple-threat Porko pie (pepperoni, sausage, and meatballs), so it’ll probably take a few visits to find your favorite dish. Currently, they’re offering takeout only for whole pies, salads, and a limited selection of slices. Cash only.
How to order: Stop by or call (619) 291-3341 to order for takeout.
Regents Pizzeria deserves props for doing many things very well. There’s an excellent draft list, along with worthy appetizers like scorching hot wings, Buffalo cauliflower, and crispy Brussels sprouts, plus all manner of salads and sandwiches. But the pizza is where it really shines, of course. You can get a whole pie if you’re willing to wait, or head directly to the slice case for instant gratification. There are different varieties of NY-style and Chicago deep-dish pies here (a rarity!), so the only responsible thing is to get one of each. Hint: Whole pies can be ordered half-baked, and come with instructions for finishing the baking process at home.
How to order: Open for dine-in on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 858-550-0406 or order online for takeout or delivery within five miles.
When you want a nice night out but aren’t prepared to ignore your pizza craving, Cucina Urbana is the perfect compromise. The thin-crust pies baked in a 600-degree oven tend to be creative and chef-driven, but familiar flavors ensure they’re never too precious to eat. The date, guanciale, crescenza, balsamic onion, and radicchio pie is an excellent choice when you’re feeling adventurous, as is the summery combo of heirloom tomato, corn crema, sweet pepper escabeche, and torn herb. Want something more traditional? The pepperoni, sausage, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, tomato, garlic, and basil combines the best of a meat-lovers pizza, updated with lighter, fresher cheeses.
How to order: Reserve a table for indoor dining online. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.
Blind Lady Ale House
Thin-crust pies with crisp, blistered edges and an excellent selection of brews keep this Normal Heights pizzeria busy. It should come as no surprise that we wish there was another location (or locations) in the works. For now, we’re more than happy with the cheese-heaped quattro formaggi and meat lovers' pies topped with house-made sausage and chorizo.
How to order: Open for dine-in on a first-come basis. Order online for pickup via Square.
Sicilian Thing Pizza
Sicilian-style pizza is difficult to find in San Diego, but nobody does it better than this longstanding shop in North Park. Don’t be fooled by the modest digs: Aside from perfecting the namesake style, it also does a bang-up job on New York-style pies. Not sure what to order? The Sicilian-style Almost Lasagna is a great pick, featuring loads of meatballs, ricotta and savory red sauce. Daily specials like the $12.99 two slices-and-a-beer deal on Tuesdays encourage mid-week pizza consumption, while everyday prices are so reasonable that it makes sense to order one pie of each style and plan on lots of leftovers.
How to order: Open for dine-in and outdoor seating on a first-come, first-served basis, order online for pickup or delivery within five miles.
BIGA gets top marks for offering quality pizza, made with fresh local and imported Italian ingredients, in a light-filled space you’ll want to linger in. Two 850-degree ovens crank out carefully charred crusts in just 90 seconds. You really can’t go wrong here, but Camila, a Napoli pizza with sopressata, house-made Italian sausage, guanciale, rosemary, and house-made fior di latte is pretty much perfection.
How to order: Open for dine-in on a first-come basis.
Launched in 2016 by a bonafide pizza nerd, this cozy neighborhood spot situated in a former post office pays homage to beloved pies from pizzerias across the nation, like Roberta’s in Brooklyn, Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, and the food court in Costco (no joke!). Owner Matt Lyons finely tuned every detail of the operation to turn out the best possible pizza, including sourcing a specific brand of flour, splurging on a 1,500-pound wood-fired Renato oven, and installing a reverse osmosis system to make the water just right.
How to order: Reserve a table for indoor dining online. Walk-ins will be accepted if seating is available. Order online for pickup via Toast.
Using old-school methods established by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, Caffe Calabria’s puffy, charred and uber-thin crisp crust is baked for 60-90 seconds in a 905-degree, oak wood-fired oven. There’s no wrong choice here, but the Salsiccia is an absolute knockout, made with organic San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, Grana Padano, and house-made fennel sausage, under a scattering of fresh basil leaves. Just remember that pizza's only served Wednesday through Sunday, and plan accordingly.
How to order: Indoor dining is available on a first-come basis.
Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizza
For more than ten years, Wade and Kristi Hageman have been turning out impossibly thin, beautifully charred pizzas, made from dough that’s been fermented for three days and baked a few minutes longer than traditional Neapolitan pizza, giving it a crackling crisp crust and soft crumb. Simple, high-quality embellishments range from the brightly flavored Signature pizza topped with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, lemon zest, red onion, basil, and extra virgin olive oil; to the Staff Favorite with house tomato sauce, sausage, basil, Parmigiano Reggiano, and a drizzle of heavy cream. If you can, save room for their signature dessert, a creamy, delectable butterscotch pudding.
How to order: Make reservations for indoor dining via Yelp. Walk-ins will be accepted if seating is available.
Pizza Bella Italian Bistro
Old Town isn’t the first neighborhood that springs to mind when you’re craving a slice, but Pizza Bella has been serving its award-winning pies there for nearly 50 years. Hand-tossed and stone-baked, these are medium-thick, chewy slices that can stand up to a load of hearty toppings, with pies ranging in size from the personal to the gigantic. Build your own custom creation, or opt for a house combination like the Sigma-Chi: mixed sauces (red and pesto), Italian sausage, bacon, pepperoni, and primavera vegetables.
How to order: In-house dining is available on a first-come, first served basis, or call 619-493-3658 for pickup or delivery.
Pairing Petra flour imported from the Veneto region of Italy with a 48-hour rising process, Ambrogio15’s paper-thin, Milanese-style pizza can be ordered with a custom crust made from white, whole wheat, or gluten free flour. You can’t miss with the classic margherita, or the indulgent Hannibal Lecter (with San Marzano tomato DOP, mozzarella fior di latte, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, spicy salame Calabrese, Italian sausage, porchetta, imported prosciutto cotto, and organic grilled red bell pepper). Pair your pie of choice with a bottle of vino sourced from a consortium of small-scale biodynamic winemakers in Italy.
How to order: Reservations for in-house dining, pickup, and delivery can be made from your favorite location online.
Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria
with other non-pizza hometown favorites like Italian beef sandwiches and classic Chicago hot dogs. Toppings range from veggie-laden to big and meaty, with just about every combo between. Call ahead if you’re choosing the stuffed pizza option, as they take an hour to fully bake.
How to order: Order from your preferred location online.
Erin Jackson is a San Diego-based writer and photographer who lives to eat (see above). If you like food tips and cat photos, definitely follow her on Twitter at @erinjax.