8 Pizzas That Will Make You Visit Oakland
By: Lauren Sloss
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Oakland has a lot going for it: a great art scene, a vibrant local community, and a totally enviable list of food and drink options. Also, pizza – really, really good pizza. From pies at sit-down date spots to slices to go, there’s a pizza for every mood there.
I rounded up eight standout pizza spots and took a group of discerning Oakland dwellers with me on an eating crawl. This is not an exhaustive list, in part because of the following limits I set for our quest: 1. The pizza must be IN Oakland and 2. The restaurant cannot also have a San Francisco location (see A16).
But without further ado, a guide to some stellar Oakland pizza.
Charlie Hallowell cut his culinary teeth at Chez Panisse and has turned his learnings into a stunner of a pizza destination. Purely local ingredients, a wood-burning oven, and a complex crust solidify Pizzaiolo’s place in the honor guard of California-style pies. Oh, it’s also a great neighborhood spot for those fortunate enough to live in Temescal.
Go if you like: “Cal-politan” pizza. Expect the tender, blistered crusts of great Neapolitan pies with California sensibilities straight from Chez Panisse.
Best for: Date night. With its warm and romantic atmosphere, you can take your time over your meal. And they take reservations!
Don’t miss: Produce, produce, produce. From a pizza piled with peppery wild nettles to farm-fresh antipasti, local ingredients are the name of the game here.
Pro tip: If Hallowell’s traditional Italian egg drop soup makes an appearance on the menu, get it. Rich with Pecorino and baby greens, the soup’s base is a rich chicken broth that he tends to meticulously.
Boot and Shoe Service
Can’t get enough of Charlie’s pies? You’re not alone! After the runaway success of Pizzaiolo, Hallowell opened Boot and Shoe Service over in Grand Lake. The Boot has the same philosophy and the same crust recipe, but it positions itself as the “rowdy little brother” of Pizzaiolo.
Go if you like: Pizzaiolo, but are looking to get a little louder.
Best for: Dinner (or brunch) and drinks with your best friends.
Don’t miss: The clam pie. The Boot’s menu rotates, but its clam pie is easily the best I’ve ever had. Hog Island Manila clams + wood-oven-smoked tomatoes + Calabrian chiles + fresh-made aioli = damn good.
Pro tip: Boot and Shoe Service’s flavorful, balanced, and very drinkable cocktails are a perfect match for its pies. I loved the Abeja, a warm-weather blend of tequila, lemon, mezcal, ginger, and honey.
Nick's Pizza, Made in Oakland
Nick Yapor-Cox is a North Oakland native and is aiming to make a true neighborhood spot. After stints as a pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park in New York and as the dedicated “pizza guy” at Arizmendi in Emeryville, he’s channeling his pizza obsession into fresh, flavor-packed pies, all on a fantastic, intensely sour crust.
Go if you like: Sourdough bread and classic pies done right.
Best for: Delivery. If I lived in its delivery range (North Oakland and South Berkeley), I’d order this pizza daily.
Don’t miss: Nick’s “Pick of the Week.” This rotating special hits all the right buzzwords – seasonal, local, fresh – and can be counted on to be great. We tried a killer pie with dino kale, Meyer lemon, mozzarella, pine nuts, currants, and parmesan.
Pro tip: The team at Nick’s also makes fresh bread and pastries in-house. Those pastries are not to be missed, particularly the chanterelle mushroom croissant.
Who didn’t love pizza parties as a kid? Relive the magic at Lanesplitter, a spacious, group-friendly pub with straight-to-the-point pies and beers available by the pitcher. Lanesplitter is family friendly, too, if your party includes little ones.
Go if you like: Drippy, toppings-heavy pizza.
Best for: A big, hungry, and thirsty group.
Don’t miss: It’s all about the toppings at Lanesplitter, so don’t be shy. I loved the, um, frighteningly named “Heartstopper” loaded with bacon, gorgonzola, spinach, and roasted garlic.
Pro tip: Take advantage of the great selection of California beer. A couple of pitchers of Calicraft Oaktown Brown went down nice and easy with our pies.
It’s all in the name at Slicer. Colin Etezadi, a Boot and Shoe Service alum, aims to make pies that are consistently high quality and are available by the slice. Etezadi notes that the shop has a number of native East Coast regulars who are “stoked” on Slicer’s pizza.
Go if you like: New York–style pizza and sampling multiple topping combos.
Best for: Pizza by the slice, of course.
Don’t miss: Anything with pancetta. We tried a slice that was topped with pancetta, radicchio, and a balsamic reduction – it was one of the most interesting and delicious combos of the day.
Pro tip: The toppings are all great, but get at least one cheese slice. It’s a textbook-perfect example of a plain slice done right.
Zachary's Chicago Pizza
In the Bay Area deep-dish pizza wars, I’ve often heard San Francisco offerings dismissed, especially when compared to Zachary’s. Its stuffed crust pizza, topped with an oregano-rich, chunky tomato sauce, even elicits praise from the pickiest of Chicagoans.
Go if you like: Stuffed-crust, deep-dish pizza.
Best for: A group with an appetite and takeout. This deep dish is great as leftovers.
Don’t miss: The Zachary’s Special. This is a classic Chicago combo done right – fennel-rich sausage, green peppers, and onions. You’re ordering it stuffed, of course; thin crust would be a waste of time and stomach space.
Pro tip: Speaking of stomach space, don’t go wasting it on other menu items. Save up for a second (or third!) slice of deep dish instead.
At the Forge it’s all about the location. OK, the pizza is pretty great, too, and makes use of a PizzaHacker-developed dough recipe. But the restaurant’s waterfront location, complete with outdoor seating and a fire pit, makes this a great place to spend an afternoon.
Go if you like: Neapolitan pizza with a view.
Best for: Starting at happy hour and staying through dinner.
Don’t miss: Any of the pies featuring its excellent tomato sauce. I loved the Fat Boy, topped with bacon, sausage, and pickled peppers.
Pro tip: Definitely go for a side of Calabrian peppers. Blended into a harissa-like paste, the peppers immediately improve any of the pizzas and are great when eaten straight too.
The Doughjo is the first brick-and-mortar location of the Fist of Flour, a mobile pizza oven that’s made the East Bay rounds since 2010. James Whitehead, the man behind the Fist, is looking to bring great pizza to the Laurel District, including classic pies and slices to go.
Go if you like: The pizza you remember as a kid, all grown up.
Best for: Takeout. You can get par-baked pies if you’re coming from a distant ’hood.
Don’t miss: The Classico. This was the first pie that Whitehead perfected and features Molinari pepperoni, crimini mushrooms, garlic, basil, and mozzarella.
Pro tip: Get the house-made spicy ranch dressing for dipping. This stuff puts Hidden Valley to shame.
Do It Yourself
Check out the great pizzas at Pizzaiolo, Boot and Shoe Service, Nick’s Pizza, Made in Oakland, Lanesplitter, Slicer, Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, Forge Pizza, and The Doughjo. Or tell us where you like to go in the comments.
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