KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Pizza Hunter
Bay Area Bites: culinary rants & raves from bay area foodies and professionals
Previous Posts
Glutton Pie
Food For Art's Sake
First tastes of New Zealand
Making Chocolate: From Beans to Bars
Bay Area Bites in the SF Chronicle!
The Picky Years: The Final Chapter
Jacques is Back!
Online wine
Steel-Cut My Oats
The Picky Years, Part the Second
BAB Guidelines

'Bay Area Bites' is part of KQED's Blog Authors Collaborative. Blog contributors and commentators are solely responsible for their content. If you're interested in writing or contributing to a blog on kqed.org, email us with your idea.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Pizza Hunter
My friends and colleagues don't really like to bring up the subject of pizza in front of me. I have quite strong opinions when it comes to the topic, and some people might even think that I have a tendency to go off the deep end. Okay, well, most people. But truly, what is better than a perfect pizza? To me, when it's perfect, it is the perfect food.

A perfect pizza comes fresh out of the blistering heat of a wood- or coal-fired oven (often around 800F!) and should be eaten as soon as possible (while avoiding the burn!). I am partial to the Margherita pizza because I think it shows off the best qualities of a pizza: a crisp chewy crust, fresh tomato sauce, just the right amount of top-quality mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Of course, housemade sausage, roasted peppers, and sometimes anchovies are all welcome on my pizza too, depending upon my mood.

Over a decade ago I discovered this perfect pizza on a trip to New York City. John's Pizza on Bleecker in the Village became my gold pizza standard. (It is how I have described the perfect pizza above, although covered with crispy-edged slices of meatballs.) Unfortunately I live on the west coast, where finding a good pizza, much less the perfect pizza, is painfully difficult. Yes, you can get a great thin-crust pizza at Oliveto and Chez Panisse, but I'm talking about the real deal pizza place. A pizzeria. (And I'm not talking about one of those by-the-slice places. As far as I'm concerned, only a place that sells whole pies, no slices, is serious about their pizza. More on that in another blog.)

When I first moved here, I started looking for pizza. This was back in 1994. The best pizza I found back then, and which I still love to this day (although it has been surpassed as my ultimate Bay Area pizza), was Tommaso's. Tommaso's is a family-run Italian restaurant in North Beach that has been around since 1935. It's a great, casual, old-school kind of place. In the last few years, 3 other fantastic restaurants have opened that offer pizza as the main draw: Pizzetta 211 (well-known by any pizza hunter worth their salt), A16 (true Napoli-style pizza at its finest), and Dopo (beautiful thin-crust Roman-style pizza). I could go on and on about each of these places, the different styles of their pizza, how I love all three but for very different reasons, but that's not what I'm getting at here. I still want a pizzeria. A real deal pizzeria, old-school pizzeria. Like you find in NY, New Haven, Rome, and Naples. Must I go to the east coast every time I want this experience? Fly to Italy?

Oh no. As I discovered last weekend, you can remain on this coast and still find fantastic NY-style pizza perfection. Unfortunately, it is not in the Bay Area. Nor is it in California. No, my friend, you do have to get on a plane and fly to Portland. I know, I had my serious doubts too, but when my brother's girlfriend Amy (sister pizza hunter) started raving about this place, and became a weekly regular, I knew I had to try it.

Apizza Scholls started life in a small town outside of Portland as Scholls Public House. Recently (in January), due to a variety of reasons, the pizzeria relocated to SE Portland. The owners and pizzaiolos of Apizza Scholls take their pizza very seriously, as it should be. They strive to make the best pizza, using the best-quality freshest ingredients, and make only as many pizzas as they have dough. They even have rules: only 3 ingredients on one pie, and only 1 meat per pie. No meat-lovers pizza here. I love this place. And when this much love and determination goes into a pizza, everybody wins.

We ordered one of their amazing Caesar salads, 2 Margherita pies, and 1 sausage. Both pies had the ideal balance of crisp-chewy, thin-but-not-too-thin crust; fresh tomato sauce; and a blend of high-quality cheese, all topped with basil or housemade sausage. The pies come directly from the blistering 650F-900F oven and are so hot you will hurt yourself if you try to eat it immediately. Not that that stopped us. It was so amazing that it was hard to get the picture of it (above) before everyone was digging in.

So, I've found my gold standard. I wish it was in the Bay Area. But until a pizzeria of this caliber comes to my town, I'll just have to start building up my frequent flyer miles.


Blogger James said...

although [Tommasso's] has been surpassed as my ultimate Bay Area pizza

Out of interest, by what? One of the other 3 restaurants you mention?

3/19/2005 7:32 PM

Anonymous Apizza Scholls said...

Dear Pizza Hunter,

Thank you for your kind words about our pizza. Since you are from the Bay Area and wish we were there, I just had to let you know that it is our plan to open up a pizzeria in SF in the future. No dates or timeline yet, but my wife and I hope to do this by 2010 if all works out.

Best Regards,
Brian Spangler
Apizza Scholls

3/20/2005 2:01 PM

Blogger Kim Goodfriend said...

YAY Brian! That is the best news I've had in...well, a long time. You would be so welcomed here in the Bay Area. But until that time (which seems so far away), I'll just have to continue to visit you in Portland.

James, in answer to your question, yes, I tend to visit A16, Dopo, and Pizzetta more often to get my pizza fix, although I still have a place in my heart for Tommaso's. Besides, all 4 places offer different styles of pizza and I appreciate all of them.

Happy hunting!

3/20/2005 4:17 PM

Blogger DeniseSLinc said...

Although I'm a huge fan of Dopo and go there regularly, I also occassionally go to Arizmendi, in Oakland on Lakeshore Avenue. Their pizza is baked in a bread oven (as Arizmendi is a bakery). Every day they offer a different vegetarian pizza. The toppings can be a bit untraditional, such as using lemon zest, and the crust is a little thick, but it's a consistently solid choice for pizza in the East Bay. If possible, have it baked there and either eat it on the spot or rush it home. They also offer half-baked pizzas that you can finish off in your own oven, but unless you have a pizza stone, it's better to eat it fresh from the Arizmendi bread oven.

3/21/2005 1:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think California pizza perhaps should be in another category, apart from the very excellent New York style pizza. Like for example, the Cheeseboard, or the place mentioned above, feature great crusty pizza with fancy schmancy ingredients, delicious in its own right, but perhaps not comparable to the east coast stuff.

3/23/2005 5:13 PM

Anonymous gianni w said...

My vote goes, after trying all the aforementioned pies, to the Cheese Board. Not Dopo thin, not Zachary's thick,but just right with great cheeses (what else would you expect from CB)and inventive toppings (wild mushroom pretty damn heavenly). So what if it's not a conventional NY pizza like Johns with the same choices year in year out. What the hell's wrong with a little variety.

3/24/2005 5:00 PM

Anonymous gimble said...

I too love the Cheese Board pizza. Another great non-traditional East Bay pizza place is Pizza Pazza on Piedmont Ave in Oaland. All organic ingredients. Try a combo of their pesto and tomato sauces.

I grew up in New York City without a whole lot of money, so I was never able to develop a belief that a place that sells only slices is no good. Slices of pizza and hot dogs from Gray's Papaya were what I lived off of for far too long. As a result, you would think they would turn me off, but they are instead the comfort foods of my youth.

Toward that end, the closest I have come to a walk-in, grab-a-slice, walk-down-the-street-like- John-Travolta, New York pizza experience is Arinell's... They have a pizza place on Valencia in the Mission and one in Berkeley. They must even get their water from New York, because their slices taste just like the very first pizza I had growing up. And the Sicilian pie is *exactly* as I remember New York pizza parlors serving it up.

Now if only they made zeppole and served orange soda, they would be perfect.

3/27/2005 1:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendations. Everyone should check out Gioia's Pizzeria at 1586 Hopkins Street in Berkeley. Great thin crust pizza.

4/15/2005 2:04 PM

Blogger Kim Goodfriend said...

I have to agree that for a really great slice, I would go to the Cheese Board or to Arinell's. They are both great for what they are, but it's still just not my ultimate gold standard. But everyone's tastes are different. Look how popular Zachary's is.

4/15/2005 3:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza...

NYPizza is a slice. It has to have cheese and tomato sauce (Neopolitan). That leaves out some of the mentioned places. Also, what is missing in the Bay Area is trying to get pizza at off days and hours. I've driven to Gioia twice only to find them closed. Also, standing on line and trying to find parking makes the effort frustating. So far, (26 years), my favorite is Arinelle's in Berkeley. Escape From NY (Portland only) is my west coast favorite - NY Times sitting all over the place, and the same people working there for years, not to mention feeling at ease with my still noticable accent.

6/05/2005 2:36 PM

Anonymous alison said...

Gioia's may be hard to find open, but is well worth it when it is. Perfect crust, sauce and toppings. Cheese Board pizza is also great (doesn't matter what the daily special is, it's all good), as is Arinell's.

6/25/2006 5:13 PM


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Locate CP Restaurants:
Check, Please! Google Map
KQED Food Sites
Check, Please! Bay Area
Jacques Pépin Celebrates!
Jacques Pépin:
Fast Food My Way
Jacques Pépin:
The Apprentice
Jacques Pépin:
The Complete Pépin
KQED Wine Club
KQED.org Cooking
Weir Cooking in the City
Tasty Food Sites
Chowhound SF
Eat Local Challenge
Edible San Francisco
Food Network
Food Talk
Group Recipes
Hungry Magazine
Leite's Culinaria
Mighty Foods
NPR: Food
Om Organics
Serious Eats
SFGate: Food
SFGate: Wine
SF Station: Restaurants
Slow Food SF
Top Chef
Wikimedia Commons: Food & Drink
Yahoo! Food
Yelp: Reviews
Tangy Food Blogs
101 Cookbooks
A Full Belly
Accidental Hedonist
An Obsession with Food
Anna's Cool Finds
Becks & Posh
Between Meals
Bunny Foot
Butter Pig
Cellar Rat
Chez Pim
Chocolate & Zucchini
Confessions of a
Restaurant Whore
Cooking For Engineers
Cooking with Amy
Cucina Testa Rossa
Culinary Muse
Denise's Kitchen
Eater SF
Feed & Supply
Food Blog S'cool
Food Musings
Food Porn Watch
I'm Mad and I Eat
In Praise of Sardines
Knife's Edge
Life Begins at 30
Love and Cooking
Mental Masala
Moveable Feast
Organic Day
Passionate Eater
San Francisco Gourmet
SF City Eats
Simply Recipes
The Amateur Gourmet
The Ethicurean
The Food Section
The Grub Report
The Petite Pig
The Wine Makers Wife
Vin Divine
Wandering Spoon
Well Fed Network
Word Eater
World on a Plate
Yummy Chow
Search BAB

Eye Candy: Food Photos
BAB on flickr.com
Join Flickr for free and share your photos with the Bay Area Bites and Beyond group pool.
Food Books
The Moosewood Cookbook
by Mollie Katzen
Baking: From My Home to Yours
by Dorie Greenspan
Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries
by Alain Ducasse, Frederic Robertmison
The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking and Entertaining
by Cheryl Alters Jamison, Bill Jamison
Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day
by Roy Finamore
Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way
by Lorna Sass
The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa
by Marcus Samuelsson
Michael Mina: The Cookbook
by Michael Mina, Photographer: Karl Petzktle
What to Eat
by Marion Nestle
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate
by John Scharffenberger, Robert Steinberg
Romancing the Vine: Life, Love, and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo
by Alan Tardi
What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea -- Even Water -- Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers
by Andrew Dornenburg, Karen Page, Michael Sofronski
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
by Matt Lee, Ted Lee
Bread Matters: The State of Modern Bread and a Definitive Guide to Baking Your Own
by Andrew Whitley
Coloring the Seasons: A Cook's Guide
by Allegra McEvedy
All-new Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
by Anne C. Cain
Modern Garde Manger
by Robert B. Garlough
The Spice and Herb Bible
by Ian Hemphill, Kate Hemphill
The Improvisational Cook
by Sally Schneider
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
by Ann Cooper, Lisa M. Holmes
Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia
by James Oseland
My Life in France
by Julia Child, Alex Prud'Homme
A Passion for Ice Cream: 95 Recipes for Fabulous Desserts
by Emily Luchett, Sheri Giblin (photographer)
Au Pied De Cochon -- The Album
by Martin Picard
Memories of Philippine Kitchens
by Amy Besa, Romy Dorotan
Simple Chinese Cooking
by Kylie Kwong
An Invitation to Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Hungry Planet
by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio
Sunday Suppers at Lucques : Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table
by Suzanne Goin, Teri Gelber
Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties
by Peggy Knickerbocker, Christopher Hirsheimer (Photographer)
The Cook's Book
by Jill Norman
Molto Italiano : 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home
by Mario Batali
Nobu Now
by Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
Cheese : A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best
by Max Mccalman, David Gibbons
Bones : Recipes, History, and Lore
by Jennifer McLagan
Whiskey : The Definitive World Guide
by Michael Jackson
The New American Cooking
by Joan Nathan
by Lisa Yockelson
Easy Entertaining: Everything You Need to Know About Having Parties at Home
by Darina Allen
Cooking at De Gustibus: Celebrating 25 Years of Culinary Innovation
by Arlene Feltman Sailhac
Dough: Simple Contemporary Breads
by Richard Bertinet
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor
by Michael Recchiuti, Fran Gage, Maren Caruso
The Food Substitutions Bible: More Than 5,000 Substitutions for Ingredients, Equipment And Techniques
by David Joachim
Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook
by Susan Spungen
Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health
by Nina Simonds
Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid
Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light
by Mort Rosenblum
Vegetable Love: A Book for Cooks
by Barbara Kafka, Christopher Styler
A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present
by Thomas Pinney
Fonda San Miguel: Thirty Years Of Food And Art
by Tom Gilliland, Miguel Ravago, Virginia B. Wood
Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South
by Marcie Cohen Ferris
Washoku: Recipes From The Japanese Home Kitchen
by Elizabeth Andoh, Leigh Beisch
Weir Cooking in the City: More than 125 Recipes and Inspiring Ideas for Relaxed Entertaining
by Joanne Weir
Rick Stein's Complete Seafood
by Rick Stein
The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
by Beatrice A. Ojakangas
Serena, Food & Stories: Feeding Friends Every Hour of the Day
by Serena Bass
John Ash: Cooking One on One: Private Lessons in Simple, Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher
by John Ash
The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health
by Donald Hensrud, M.D., Jennifer Nelson, R.D. & Mayo Clinic Staff
Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions
by Fernando and Marlene Divina
The Provence Cookbook
by Patricia Wells
Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World
by Gil Marks
Last Chance to Eat: The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World
by Gina Mallet
by Thomas Keller
A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking Around the World
by Maggie Glezer
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
by Molly Stevens
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
by Harold McGee
Entertaining: Inspired Menus For Cooking with Family and Friends
by George Dolese
The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore
by Grace Young, Alan Richardson
Cooking New American: How to Cook the Food You Love to Eat
by Fine Cooking Magazine
The Japanese Kitchen: A Book of Essential Ingredients with 200 Authentic Recipes
by Kimiko Barber
Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes
by Arthur Schwartz
Poet of the Appetites: The Lives and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher
by Joan Reardon
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes
by Jeffrey Hamelman
Everyday Dining with Wine
by Andrea Immer
Copyright © 2005-2008 KQED. All rights reserved.