A Forbes contributor who claims to know pizza has just declared that Tony's Pizza Napoletana in North Beach is the best pizzeria in the nation, because of its impressive array of pizza styles. While many might agree with this assessment, Tony's has not been on top of everyone's list of the best pizza in S.F., with that title bouncing around between Una Pizza Napoletana, Little Star, Pizzeria Delfina, Gialina, and various other neighborhood favorites. So, for the sake of argument, I've got some opinions about what Tony's does especially well, and what other S.F. spots you should check out for various other pizza types because, for the first time in the Bay Area's history, there are a lot of great pizzas to choose from, everywhere.
Writer Larry Olmsted says, by way of his qualifications, "I'm no newcomer to the pizza game, and for the past few years I have covered America's finest and widely varied pizzas for my USAToday.com Great American Bites column." And coming to S.F. he was directed to Tony's, where, it's true, the pizza menu is impressive. Tony's now offers 12 different types of pizza, cooked in different ovens according to type, including wood-fired and proper Neapolitan, coal-oven New York-style, St. Louis-style cracker-thin, rectangular Roman-style pizza-by-the-meter, New Jersey-style with crushed tomato sauce, and traditional thick-crust Sicilian. (Chicago-style is covered around the corner at Tony's spinoff, Capo's.)
Olmsted is careful to say "there is a big difference between a pizzeria and a pizza," and while you may insist that your favorite spot makes the best version of x-type of pizza, his point is that no other pizzeria in the U.S. serves as a regional pizza encyclopedia the way Tony's does, and I would agree that you probably can't point to any other pizza spots that does so many different things so well.
I'm not unqualified to judge this either, as far at the Bay Area is concerned. I wrote for Grub Street SF for four years, in addition to this site, and did this 50-pizza ranking in 2013. I stand by something I said then, with regard to Tony's and pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani: "Where Una Pizza Napoletana's Anthony Mangieri is the ascetic monk in the church of pizza, Gemignani is its exuberant, Universalist high priest, welcoming in all faiths."
Below is my unsolicited opinion about what Tony's excels at, and what other pizzerias you should be aware of, if you aren't already, for whatever pizza type or restaurant experience you're looking for. I'll stop short of declaring what is "best" overall, because pizza really is a subjective thing.
Best Survey Course In Pizza: Tony's Pizza Napoletana
Best Wood-Fired Neapolitan Pizza: Una Pizza Napoletana
Best Wood-Fired Neapolitan Pizza From a Truck: Del Popolo
Best St. Louis/Midwest-Style Cracker-Thin Pizza: Tie: Tony's & Capo's (especially check out the thin options at Capo's)
Best Coal-Fired New York-Style: Tony's (and its adjacent Slice House)
Best Basic New York-Style Slice: Arinell
Best Oddball/Non-Traditional Pizza: Tony's (don't miss the Sausage & Stout pie, or the Honey Pie)
Best Sit-Down Pizza Meal (With Cocktails) For a Group: Zero Zero
Best Sit-Down Pizza Meal With Great Sides But Inevitable 30-Minute Wait: Pizzeria Delfina
Best California-Style Pizza: Tie: Pauline's (which is arguably SF-style) and Tony's
Best Amatriciana Pizza: Gialina
Best Chicago-Style Deep-Dish: Little Star
Best Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Without Cornmeal Crust, With Lard: Capo's
Best New Haven/NY-style Clam Pie: Tony's
Best Pizzeria Still Open After Last Call: Marcello's
Best All-You-Can-Eat Pizza Feast: Mondays at Goat Hill Pizza in Potrero
Best Pizza in the Avenues: Pizzetta 211
Best Pizza in the Outer Mission/Bernal: Pizza Hacker
Best Pizza in Oakland: The Forge
Best Pizza in Berkeley: Emilia's (be sure to note their erratic hours)
Best Pizza in Marin: Pizzeria Picco
Best Pizza in Napa: Oenotri
Best Pizza in Sonoma: Pizzando (Healdsburg)
Best Pizza in the South Bay: Pizzeria Delfina (Palo Alto)