When I moved here from the East Coast (with a stop for college in the Midwest) in the 1990s, it seemed like I couldn't get a decent pizza anywhere. Sure, I'd get wasted at Dalva and order Mr. Pizza Man, like, once a week, but it wasn't the legit great pizza I remembered from home. Now it seems like there's fantastic pizza to be found all over SF! Have my standards just dropped after decades here, or has the pizza scene changed? I'd love to hear your San Francisco pizza history.
Sorry In Advance About The Commenters For This One
Dear Sorry in Advance,
First, thank you for the apologies, but I am sure commenters are going to be totally reasonable and realize what I am writing is merely opinion, and not worth fighting about. Plus, I know they'll have plenty of great suggestions of their own to share.
But you did ask for my personal San Francisco pizza history, so let me start by saying, I know not from authentic New York-style or Chicago-style pizza. I've never been to Chicago, and the one time I went to New York I had Chinese food and a street hot dog, (both were delicious). But I do like pizza, I know what I like, and those likes have come after experiencing many a crappy pizza in my lifetime.
When I was a youngster having sleepovers, back in the dark ages before you could get basically any kind of pizza you want without ever having to speak to a human to order it, my choice was limited to places close by, like Papa Potrero's Pizza (now closed) on Potrero Avenue. It wasn't great, but it was delivered quickly, and I preferred it to the other local pizza joint, Goat Hill Pizza, because I'm not a big fan of sourdough crust.
In fact, I'll come right out and say pizza crust is my least favorite part of pizza. It's just a delivery system to get cheese, sauce, and toppings into my face. I'm one of those people that leaves the end crusts (or pizza bones, as one waiter once called them) behind after the good parts are gone.
Since the 1980's, when a friend of my father's took us there to try their famed clam and garlic pizza, my go-to joint has been Village Pizzeria. They once had several restaurants throughout the city, but now have only two, one on Van Ness and one on Clement. Their clam and garlic remains the clammiest (I guess that doesn't sound that great) and most garlicky I've ever had. They serve both Sicilian and Neapolitan-style, but like I said, the less crust the better, so I stick with the thin Neapolitan, either with clam and garlic, or basic mushrooms and sausage.
Other pizzas I have loved include the Victor's Special at Victor's Pizza on Polk Street; the Spicoli at The Pizza Place on Noriega; and the Classic at Little Star. (As much as I love cheese, deep dish just doesn't satisfy my pizza cravings as much as a giant floppy slice of thin crust does, so I don't tend to go for deep dish if given a choice).
Of course, it has been said that pizza is like sex: Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. I know I still have fond memories of the frozen pizza they used to heat up in toaster ovens at the ice skating rink out on 48th Avenue. I couldn't ice skate to save my life, but would welcome any opportunity to go there and eat that crappy pizza, with meatballs the size of peas that I'm pretty sure weren't that far removed from actual dog food, all of us packed into steamy wood-paneled room, sitting at the counter, watching the skaters go by. It wasn't artisan crust sprinkled with truffle oil and imported cheese, but it didn't matter; we loved it.
Of course, having choices is always better. San Francisco is, indeed, no longer the pizza desert it once was, and I'm not going to fault any city for having plenty of places offering fancy-ass pizzas covered in arugula and freshly-laid eggs — as long as I can still get my greasy, sloppy slices whenever I want them!
So, lest the comments be filled with "But have you tried so and so?!!!" let me end with a list of the other local pizza places I have, indeed, tried. Doesn't mean I didn't like them; doesn't mean I'd never eat them again. Just means none of them are my first choice, should the pizza urge arise.
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
North Beach Pizza
Escape From New York
The Front Room
Mr. Pizza Man
(OK, those last two I can promise I will never, ever, order from again. Even if it's 2 a.m. and I'm drunk, and all I want is pizza, I now know I can either do better, or better yet, do without until a more sober choice can be made.)
Related: Ask A San Francisco Native: What's Your Favorite Place To Get A Burrito?
The 35 Best Pizza Spots In The Inner Bay Area
Rain Jokinen was born and raised in San Francisco and, miraculously, still calls the city home. Her future plans include becoming a millionaire, buying a condo complex, and then tearing it down to replace it with a dive bar. You can ask this native San Franciscan your questions here.