In Pacific Beach and Mission Beach, there are a surprising number of quality pizzas to choose from – all distinguished in some way. From the popular New York-style thin crust, to the trendy white pizzas, to authentic Milan-style pies cooked in gas-fired ovens – you’re going to find a slice of love.
With National Pizza Day right around the corner on Feb. 9, the Beach & Bay Press decided to highlight some of the local pizzas that our readers may enjoy.
- In North Pacific Beach, Ambrogio 15 offers a unique Milan-style pizza experience. “Milan is the most innovative city in Italy,” said owner Giacomo Pizzigoni. “The city celebrates its past, but looks to the future.”
Ambrogio 15 takes a similar approach to gourmet pizza making. “We’ve taken the pizza of the past and elevated it into high gastronomy,” he said.
The restaurant uses high-quality ingredients from small-scale, organic, and sustainable farmers in Italy. And last summer, “dough master” Daniele Piazza joined the team from Northern Italy. His technique of using stone ground Petra flour and a long fermentation process for the dough (40 hours), leads to the light, paper-thin crust that stays crunchy and is easy to digest.
Their most popular pizza is Burrata e Prosciutto Crudo, which includes San Marzano tomato, mozzarella fiordilatte, imported burrata cheese from Puglia, and 20-month aged prosciutto crudo di Parma. “The combination of two elements that are opposites – salty cured prosciutto and the fresh creamy cheese – gives it a unique flavor profile that is satisfying,” Pizzigoni said.
The owner’s personal favorite pizza is Patate e Speck, which includes mozzarella fiordilatte, roasted potatoes, 24-month aged grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, white truffle oil, and speck (smoked prosciutto). “These flavors are popular in Northern Italy,” he said. “They are popular here as well. The people in North PB and La Jolla are passionate about food and have supported us.”
With all the Naples-style pizza places popping up all over San Diego lately, does Pizzigoni feel there’s a rivalry with the Southern Italy city’s pies? “Having more high-quality pizza around is a good thing, and, yes, I like the competition.”
Ambrogio 15 opened its second location in Little Italy last year and is planning their third restaurant for the Del Mar area.
926 Turquoise St.
- Woodstock’s Pizza has been a staple on Garnet Avenue since 2010. Founded in Oregon by Chuck Woodstock in 1977, the goal was to create a fun, student-oriented pizzeria that dished up amazing pies using his grandmother's marinara recipe. Woodstock’s focuses on fresh, hand-tossed dough and a unique folded-over crust with sauce inside. They also insist on adding more toppings than anyone, so you get a taste in each bite.
“We still have a lot of pepperoni lovers, so no doubt that is the most popular topping and pie,” said Laura Ambrose, co-owner. “I believe our most popular combination pizza is still the Classic, which has pepperoni, sausage, olives, onions and mushrooms on our custom zesty red sauce. A close second is the Boardwalk, which is the same except we substitute bell peppers for the olives.
“We have a very loyal following for our Grateful Veg, which we make in both a vegetarian and vegan combo. It's very popular on our wheat crust,” she added. “And our more adventurous guests are huge fans of our Kickin' Carnitas and Srirachacha pies.
Ambrose’s personal favorite is the Grateful Veg on wheat, although she’s also a big fan of the restaurant’s limited time Bikini Zucchini (a seasonal summer offering) and recent Banh Mizza (a pizza rendition of a Vietnamese sandwich).
1221 Garnet Ave.
- Nestled in the corner of the plaza at Grand Avenue and Cass Street, The Sandbox has a warm and inviting interior that becomes even more cozy when the pizza arrives at your booth. Sandbox uses unique dough that’s a hybrid between New York and Chicago styles. The crust is still crisp, but fluffy and light.
“It’s not traditional – we borrow from both styles,” said Thomas Yankle, director of public relations for The Sandbox and The Tipsy Crow. “It’s a little different.”
The most popular pie is the Tony Soprano, which is based on the same pizza – “Soprano Special” – that the police used to track down AJ Soprano after he vandalized his school’s pool in the episode titled “The Telltale Moozadell.” The pie is loaded with red sauce, sliced meatballs, salami, banana peppers, roasted red peppers, and topped with ricotta and mozzarella cheese.
The Hungry Surfer – with savory marinara, house mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, ham, salami and crispy bacon – and the Tree Hugger vegetarian – with basil pesto, house mozzarella, red onion, mushroom, fresh tomatoes, bell pepper, green olives, artisan pepper jack – are also top sellers.
“Are specialty pies are not the usual kinds you find at other places,” Yankle said. “We research the combos and encourage creativity. We will also make half-and-half specialty pies.”
The restaurant does a thriving pizza business in house and with delivery. “I’m amazed at how many pizzas we sell,” Yankle said. “We put ourselves on the pizza map of PB.”
1014 Grand Ave
- Everybody knows Abraham Zahir, owner of Capri Pizza & Grill on Mission Boulevard. An Afghani native and an East Coast transplant, Abraham’s been in the pizza business for 29 years, several in Mission Beach at his current location.
The pizzeria owner said the supreme and greek pizzas are two of his most popular selections. Other popular toppings include Hawaiian, Amazon veggie, margherita and buffalo chicken.
The menu also features calzone, subs, salads, pastas and a host of appetizers including chicken wings, Philly cheese fries, fried mushrooms, garlic bread, fried calamari and cheese fries.
Zahir owns a companion business a few doors down, South Mission Beach Grill, located inside The Pennant Bar. You can order pizza at Capri, and have hummus, falafel and other faire delivered from South Mission Beach Grill.
What distinguishes a Capri pizza?
“I make my own dough and sauce – it’s homemade,” answered Zahir. “I use only quality cheese.”
Capri’s hand-tossed, thin-crust New York-style pie melts in your mouth. Pies range in size from a 12-inch medium to 20-inch extra jumbo.
Everyone from families to construction workers come in daily to feast on Abraham’s pies, subs and sandwiches. Capri has dining space inside and out.
Zahir talked about what’s made him successful. “Whatever I make, I make from my heart, for my customers,” he said.
Capri Pizza & Grill
2909 Mission Blvd.
Luigi’s At The Beach, which has been operating since 1985 at 3210 Mission Blvd. in Mission Beach, is perhaps best known for its giant slices from a 30-inch pizza. But owner Nima Ibrahim pointed out, “We do have both options, giant slices and regular pizzas.”
What distinguishes family owned Luigi’s pies?
“A topping is a topping, a mushroom is a mushroom,” answered Ibrahim. “But what really sets us apart is our actual recipes for the dough itself and the sauce. We mix in a lot of seasonings. It’s not just a can of tomato paste. There is a lot of flavor in the sauce.’
And don’t forget the crust.
“Similarly, our crust is so good, you don’t have to have cheese on the inside or garlic on top,” Ibrahim said. “Our crust is a really good artisanal bread. Between the crust and the sauce, literally and figuratively, both are the foundation of a pizza. That is what makes our (recipe) special, and pops when you take a bite of it.”
A giant slice equivalent to about three regular slices is $6.60. “From there we have four actual sizes — medium, large, extra-large and 30-inch party,” said Ibrahim noting his party pie can feed as many as 10 to 12 people.
Best of all Luigi’s pizzas are baked the old-fashioned way, hand tossed in a stone oven.
Luigi’s also carries a wide assortment of calzones, pastas, salads, burgers and sandwiches, as well as having a children’s menu. There are also 28 beers on tap, 24 of which are locally brewed.
Luigi’s At The Beach
3210 Mission Blvd.
- Fresh is the operative word for ZoZo Pizza on Ventura Place. Located across the street from Belmont Park and the roller coaster, ZoZo’s features a basic beachfront counter serving NYC-style, thin-crust pies and giant slices.
“We always use 100 percent mozzarella cheese, and we make our sauces and dough fresh daily,” boasts the pizzeria’s website. “We welcome you to dine in, order for takeout, or get delivery (limited delivery areas), whichever works best for you.”
In operation since January 2009, Zo-Zo’s New York style pizza is considered one of the true authentic New York-style pizzerias in Mission Beach. ZoZo’s offers up to 20 different kinds of pizza slices, as well as specializing in making custom, crowd-pleasing pies.
“Our pizza is cooked the old-fashion way from scratch, and made with the highest-quality cheeses and ingredients,” states the company’s website. “Our dough and bread are made daily and sometimes three times a day.”
Noting Belmont Park has been a prime center of activity for almost a century, and that “multitudinous food establishments have come and gone over the years,” ZoZo’s points out, “No single food item is more loved and sought after than a delicious slice of authentic New York-style pizza. When you park your car and walk to the beach you can't help but smell the delicious aroma permeating from ZoZo Pizza.
728 Ventura Place