Food & Drink

The Very Best Pizza in San Francisco

Daisy Barringer Published On 09/06/2013 Published On 09/06/2013
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Tony's Pizza Napoletana | Flickr/Jeffrey Chiang

The thing about pizza is that even when it’s bad, it’s still really, really good. I mean, it's PIZZA. But while the people of San Francisco had to pseudo-suffer many years of truly mediocre pizza, that is SO not the case anymore. Maybe no one thinks of SF as a pizza town, but we're actually home to a lot of pizza places that are totally dominating these days. All of the places that nabbed a spot on this list are dedicated to serving up some of the tastiest pies we’ve ever eaten... including in New York.

Capo's SF

Capo's

North Beach

Apparently Tony Gemignani felt the 13 pizza styles available at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana weren’t enough, because a few years ago he opened Capo’s, a nearby spot that specializes in authentic, Chicago-style pizza served on four types of crusts: deep dish, cast iron pan, stuffed, and cracker thin. Our favorite is the Italian Stallion (mozzarella, fontina, Italian beef, Chicago Italian sausage, horseradish cream sauce, chives, sweet peppers, and Romano), but we don’t know how to choose between the deep dish and cast iron pan versions, so please don’t make us. And while the pizza is enough to keep us coming back, it’s worth mentioning that the exposed brick walls, curved red vinyl booths (each of which pays tribute to a Chicago mobster), tin ceiling, and functioning (!) 1930s phone booth gives Capo’s a cool, old-school vibe that makes dining there a real experience. Oh, and one more thing you might be stoked on: there over 100 whiskies on the menu.

Aubrie Pick

Delarosa

Marina and Financial District

A second Delarosa opened up in the Financial District last October, so now you don’t have to trek all the way to Chestnut St to get your Roman-style pizza fix. The thin, crispy wood-fired pizza comes in the classic flavors you love (mmm, margherita with burrata), but the seasonal options are hard to resist. This is also the place to go for your late night pizza and cocktails fix: the downtown location is open ‘til midnight, and the one in the Marina stays open until 1am.

Del Popolo

Del Popolo

Lower Nob Hill

We first fell in love with Del Popolo’s 20ft, glass-enclosed shipping container truck that houses a wood-fired oven, and though that love will never fade, we’re pretty stoked that now we can get the Neapolitan-inspired pizza at the brick and mortar location almost any time we want (OK, anytime after 5:30pm). The wood-fired oven still takes center stage, and the pies -- with their blistered crust and creative toppings -- might even be better than what we first fell for. Our faves? The anchovy and the margherita never disappoint.

Flickr/lesleyk

Flour + Water

Mission

The fact that Flour + Water has been open since 2009 and it’s STILL impossible to get a reservation before 9:30pm pretty much says everything you need to know. This place serves up thin-crust pizzas that are wood-fired in under two minutes. The toppings are seasonal and change daily, but the funghi is one we go back to again and again.

Flickr/Jay Cross

Little Star

Western Addition and Mission

We weren’t sure about putting two deep dish spots on this list, but Little Star’s cornmeal crust is just so satisfying, there was no way we could omit this Bay Area favorite. Order the Brass Monkey even though it’s not on the menu: it’s the Little Star (spinach blended with ricotta and feta, mushrooms, onion, and garlic) with the addition of sausage. We’re also big fans of the thin crust pizza; it’s just hard to make ourselves order it when we know we could devour a deep dish pie instead.

Mozzeria

Mozzeria

Mission

The Neapolitan pizzas at Mozzeria are all cooked in a 5,000lb Stefano Ferrara oven in the center of the restaurant, so you can watch as your pies being prepared and cooked. There are traditional pizzas, but you want to go for one of the creative options instead: our current favorites are the Hosui Pear with pancetta and brie, and the Peking Duck. Oh, and NBD (actually huge deal), but Mozzeria is one of the only deaf-owned and operated restaurants in the country. No worries if you don’t know sign language; you place your order using pen and paper.

Pizzeria Delfina

Pizzeria Delfina

Lower Pac Heights and Mission

There’s always a crowd waiting for a table at both locations, but that’s because this Neapolitan-inspired pizza is some of the best in SF. We’re obsessed with the Clam Pie (yeah, that’s right, CLAM on pizza), so we like to get that and a Napoletana (tomato, anchovies, capers, hot peppers, olives, oregano) to share... and a cannoli (not to share) for dessert.

Flickr/Buzz Andersen

Pizzetta 211

Outer Richmond

There are only four tables at this tiny pizza spot, so try going there for lunch or at off-peak hours to get your crispy, thin-crust pizza fix. If you must eat when the masses do, you’ll be offered blankets and drinks though, so the wait’s really not that bad. The tomato, mozzarella, basil, and pepperoni pizza is consistently delicious, but we’re really crazy about the rotating specials. Most recently, we had a pizza with farm egg, English peas, shiitake mushrooms, and truffled pecorino. That particular pie might not be available, but rest assured, everything that comes out of the kitchen is drool-worthy.

Courtesy of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

North Beach

Tony’s is home of the 12-time World Pizza Champion, Tony Gemignani, which is probably all you really need to know. But since you made it this far, we’ll also let you in on the fact that many of the ingredients are imported from Napoli, and there are seven different ovens because there are THIRTEEN types of pizzas: Neapolitan, Californian, Classic American, Classic Italian, Coal-Fired, New York, Sicilian, Roman, Detroit, St. Louis, Stout-Infused, Grandma, and, yes, even Gluten-Free, since that’s a thing so many people are into these days. Obviously, you need to make it your life mission to eat every single type, but we suggest starting with the Coal Fired New Yorker (mozzarella, hand crushed tomato sauce, natural casing pepperoni, sliced Italian fennel sausage, Calabrese sausage, ricotta, chopped garlic, and oregano) and go from there.

Una Pizza Napoletana

Una Pizza Napoletana

SoMa

Una Pizza Napoletana is very San Francisco in a way that can annoy a lot of people. You can’t make reservations. The hours are limited (Wednesday through Saturday only). When the dough is gone, the restaurant closes. And the only thing on the menu is pizza. No appetizers. No desserts. Just pizza. Not only do they only serve pizza, they only serve five kinds of pizza (unless it’s Saturday, when they offer up the famous Apollonia, consisting of fresh eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, salami, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, fresh garlic, sea salt, and black pepper. And at $25 a pop, the prices are sky-high. Yet even with all that, this is still the pizza we find ourselves craving over and over. And over. If only that wait weren’t so damn long...

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Daisy Barringer is a writer from San Francisco; her elementary school cafeteria served slices from Village Pizzeria every Tuesday, which totally made up for the bagel and cream cheese they called "lunch" on Mondays. Follow her on Twitter @daisy.

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1. Capo's 641 Vallejo St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (Chinatown)

San Francisco pizza legend Tony Gemignani (the same Tony of Tony's Pizza Napoletana) is behind this North Beach pizzeria dedicated to Chicago-style pies. Capo's specializes in four kinds of crust popular in the Windy City: deep-dish, cast iron pan, stuffed, and cracker thin. The restaurant pays tribute to the mobsters of 1930s Chicago and feels like an old-school speakeasy with red vinyl booths. As for drinks, there are more than 100 whiskies on the menu plus whiskey flights, and if you're more of a cocktail person, there's a make-your-own Old Fashioned option.

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2. Delarosa 37 Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Financial District)

A part of excellent local restaurateur Adriano Paganini’s restaurant group, Delarosa is a Roman-style pizzeria serving up accessible takes on Italian classics in the bustling Financial District. Get down with reasonably priced kick-ass cocktails like the pisco and roasted pepper-based Redwood and a traditional margherita pizza.

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3. Del Popolo 855 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94108

For three and a half years, Del Popolo put most food trucks to shame, roaming city streets with a massive wood-fire oven. Finally, the beloved ‘za found a permanent home in Nob Hill, where you can enjoy your pizza seated inside with a glass of wine. The 50-seat space offers an expanded menu that includes antipasti like frisee and sunchoke salad and fried green tomatoes. But don't worry, the truck is still available for private parties and catered events.

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4. Flour + Water 2401 Harrison St, San Francisco, CA 94110 (The Mission)

The pizza and pasta at Thomas McNaughton's Mission gem has consistently attracted a full house since opening in 2009. The Neapolitan-style pies are nothing short of excellent, and though the flavors change daily, you can expect a classic Margherita and meatier pizzas like salumi with Mangalitsa pancetta, stracciatella, broccoli rabe & Calabrian chili. And then there's the pasta. In a perfect world, you'd try each one on the menu and luckily, Flour + Water has a pasta tasting menu.

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5. Little Star Pizza 400 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (The Mission)

The Mission's Little Star (with other locations in Western Addition and Albany) serves up Chicago-style deep-dish and thin-crust pizzas in a laid-back tavern space. Both pizza styles are available in personal and larger sizes. The house speciality is by far the eponymous Little Star deep-dish, made with spinach, ricotta, feta, mushrooms, onions, and of course, garlic. Little Star serves local drafts on tap and house wine, and if you're into something a little fancier, there's a $10 corkage fee for BYO.

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6. Mozzeria 3228 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 (Mission Bay)

All of the pizzas at this Mission spot are cooked in a 5,000-pound Stefano Ferrara wood-burning oven. Offering all of the Italian classics (margherita, marina, quattro formaggi), as well as some Asian-leaning pies (Peking duck, for example), Mozzeria's got any and all of your pizza cravings covered. It's run by a deaf couple, which makes it the first deaf-owned restaurant to get pie certification from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). If you don't know sign language, you just place your order using pen and paper.

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7. Pizzeria Delfina 2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Pacific Heights)

Just as popular as the Mission original, Pizzeria Delfina in Pac Heights doles out serious, line-inducing pizza in a larger space (the Mission restaurant is 600 sqft). The menu includes antipasti, veggie small plates, and a few pasta dishes, but you're really there for the Neapolitan pizza. You can't go wrong with any of the pies, but the clam and prosciutto are some crowd favorites. Be prepared to wait for a table, especially on weekend afternoons and nights.

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8. Pizzetta 211 211 23rd Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121 (The Richmond)

This tiny pizzeria in Outer Richmond is a true neighborhood gem. The simple menu features tomato, mozzarella, basil, and pepperoni personal pizzas plus a rotating selection of special pies that change weekly based on what's in season. The cozy bistro space only has four tables, so chances are you'll have to wait in line if you come at peak meal times (ex. 7pm).

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9. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana 1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133 (North Beach)

This North Beach pizzeria makes authentic Neapolitan pizza. In 2007, owner Tony Gemignani became the first American ever to win the World Pizza Cup in Naples, and if that's not enough of an accolade, he's also the US Ambassador of Neapolitan Pizza, as awarded by Naples. So yeah, his pizza is legit. The ingredients are shipped direct from Naples, and the pies are made in a 900-degree wood-fired oven. Aside from traditional Neapolitan pies, Tony's nails New York and Detroit styles too.

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10. Una Pizza Napoletana 210 11th St., San Francisco, CA 94103 (Soma)

The first thing you need to know about Una Pizza Napoletana is that it only sells pizza. Pizzamaker Anthony Mangieri set up this SOMA power-house after conquering New York and New Jersey, and his 12-inch personal pies consistently rank on San Francisco's top pizza lists. The Apollonia, named after his daughter, is topped with eggs, parmigiano reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, salami, basil, garlic, sea salt, and black pepper. It's downright amazing, but it's only available on Saturdays.

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