In the beach communities, 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 pizza, 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, San Diego Community Newspaper Group 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.
“Our 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’s 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
- If you are looking for a thin and crispy East Coast-style slice of pizza made with homemade dough, whole milk mozzarella and baked in fire-heated brick ovens, head to Surf Rider Pizza Co. in Ocean Beach.
“East Coast thin crust is the best because it's hand rolled, hand tossed and when made the Surf Rider way, it has a perfect crunch,” said Hilary Rossi, co-founder of Surf Rider Pizza Co. “We only use the freshest ingredients with all our home made recipes. It's all about being consistent and offering excellent customer service.”
What’s the most popular Surf Rider slice? “Aside from the almighty pepperoni,” Rossi said, “the signature Surf Rider pizza is one of a kind, especially in San Diego. It’s made with homemade roasted garlic, white sauce, gorgonzola cheese, Roma tomatoes and fresh basil.” And the best way to eat it? “Fold it, without a doubt,” she added.
Not that you need an excuse to eat more pizza, but to celebrate National Pizza Day on Feb. 9, Surf Rider is offering $2.50 slices. Go sample several slices of its unique East Coast-style pizza – and don’t forget to fold.
Surf Rider Pizza Co.
2163 Abbott St.
- Poma’s Italian Deli is a family run business located one block east of the Ocean Beach Pier. Founded by Leonard Poma in 1965, the deli is mostly known for its roast beef, torpedo, and meatball sandwiches. But don’t overlook their variety of pizzas.
“I think we have the most underrated pizza in Ocean Beach,” said owner Nick Poma. “Everyone who tries it can’t believe how good it is. They always come back for it.”
The most popular pizza is the Meat Trio with meatball, pepperoni, sausage, marinara sauce, and mozzarella. But Poma's Whitestone – with garlic, red onions, Capicolla, mozzarella, ricotta, and olive oil – is gaining in popularity.
“The Whitestone pizza is really taking off,” Poma said. “I think it’s one of the better pizzas around.”
Poma’s makes its own dough and marinara sauce every day, and uses fresh ingredients with quality cheeses for their pizzas, which are New York-style thin crust pies.
“People come for our sandwiches, but when they try our pizza, they love it,” Poma said.
Poma’s Italian Deli
1846 Bacon St.
- If you’re local, you already know about Pepe’s Italian. The small, neighborhood restaurant does a brisk business with Obecians who want a thin-crust quality pie.
“The crust is what makes our pizza so good,” said new owner Vanessa Perez. “It’s not super thin, but the bottom stays crispy.”
The most popular pies are the Bella and the Margherita. The Bella has marinara sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, mushrooms and sausage. The Margherita is made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, mozzarella and olive oil.
“We make our dough and marinara sauce here every day,” Perez said. “It’s always fresh.”
Pepe’s offers 8-inch personal pizzas, and has daily a special of $8 large pizzas from 3 to 5 p.m. They also have a bustling takeout business and utilize online order and delivery services.
“What makes this place so special is all the locals who keep coming back for our pizza and pasta,” Perez said. “Some nights, we know everyone at every table.”
1830 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
- The latest Mr. Moto Pizza House opened on Rosecrans Street about five months ago (another one is opening in Ocean Beach this summer). With dining inside and out and the pizzeria’s trademark mustache on the storefront’s door handle, Mr. Moto serves up New York-style pie.
Owner Gibran Fernandez cut his teeth with Pizza on Pearl in La Jolla before branching out on his own. Fernandez discussed what makes his pie memorable.
“We have the largest variety by the slice, with gourmet toppings like rosemary, burrata cheese and truffle oil,” he said. “We’re very creative and very crafty and unique coming up with things that are new. We present pizza in a very nicely lit-up display case, along with a very fun, unique and cozy warm design.”
Regarding his recipes, he said: “Our dough is what really makes our pie. Fundamentals is what separates us from our competition. We have a very fluffy, airy, crafty artisanal crust. At the same time, it’s crispy.”
Mr. Moto promises a “very unique experience when you walk in the store.”
Mr. Moto Pizza House
1180 Rosecrans St.
- Pummarò Pizzeria on Scott Street is the real deal if you favor Neapolitan pie from Naples, Italy. Naples is the birthplace of modern pizza, which was developed in that city when tomato and other topics were added to focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans, in the late 18th century.
Asked what distinguishes Pummaro’s pies from American-style offerings, chef Alberto Berin from Naples answered: “Most of the pizzerias in the U.S. use a gas oven. We use a wood-fired oven that cooks it really fast, in about two minutes.”
Discussing what else makes Neapolitan pizza special, Berin noted the natural yeast mixed in with sourdough used to make the pie’s crust takes up to three days to prepare. “It gives a lot of flavor and quality,” he added.
Pummarò Pizzeria uses fresh, local ingredients with mostly organic produce. The restaurant uses Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella, prosciutto, mortadella and other authentic Italian products imported fresh from Italy.
1101 Scott St.
- Leucadia Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant on Voltaire Street “isn’t just your average pizza,” said general manager Debby Deason, noting the independent company isn’t part of a chain. “We have pizzas you would never ever think of being a pizza.”
The list of custom pies includes bbq chicken, rosemary potato, Thai chicken, roasted garlic, candied walnuts, goat cheese and Hawaiian.
“The two that really stand out to me are our margherita and pear-gorgonzola-arugula,” said Deason. “The specialty pizzas that Leucadia offers are just that – special.”
Leucadia makes pizzas to order, as well as having an extensive catering menu. Presently, pizza is not sold by the slice. Seven-inch, one-person mini pies are also sold. “We deliver. We’re fast and friendly,” said Deason.
Leucadia Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant
4161 Voltaire St.
Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza & Grill
Pears, barbecue chicken, and smoked gouda are just a few of the many delicious local, organic ingredients that can be found on one of Sammy’s 13 woodfired pizzas. And it’s the quality of what goes into those pies as corporate executive chef Alfie Szeprethy says makes them so delectable.
“We make our dough in-house every day,” he said. “My personal favorite is the goat cheese and spinach.”
While Szeprethy has his favorite pizza, Sammy’s customers have their own. He said their best-selling pizzas are the New York Style – made with mushrooms, all-natural pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, and house-made tomato sauce – and the LaDou’s Barbecue Chicken – a combination of smoked gouda, barbecue sauce, red onion and cilantro.
With incredible ingredients baked to perfection inside their 800-degree oven, it’s no wonder Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and Grill has made itself a La Jolla staple.
702 Pearl St.
If you’re having a pizza meal at Napizza at the UTC Westfield Mall, feel free to indulge yourself, according to supervisor Bela Gonzalez.
“We let our dough rise for 72 hours before starting the pizza-making process,” she said. “So it’s really light and fluffy.”
With a light and fluffy base, the pizza possibilities are endless. Whether it’s a mix of porcini mushrooms, homemade bolognese sauce or besciamella, the pizzas at Napizza are reminiscent of the three owners, who were all raised in Rome.
“The pizza is Roman-style because it’s close to home for them,” Gonzalez said.
Fan favorites at Napizza include the Veggy Festa – packed with “yummy and nutritionally packed veggies like seasonal ripened tomatoes and parsley and drizzled with tahini sauce – and the La Lasagna – fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano, homemade besciamella, and bolognese sauce.
4301 La Jolla Village Drive,
Piatti Italian Restaurant
With seasonally-dictated ingredients, Piatti combines unique players like pancetta, and gorgonzola dolce with the pizza classics like mozzarella, house-made Italian sausage and caramelized onions to create delicious, Italian-inspired pizzas.
While customers love the traditional pizzas like the Margherita – crushed tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil – the menu also includes untraditional options like Dried Mission Figs – pancetta, mozzarella, gorgonzola dolce and balsamic essence – and Grilled Eggplant – roasted garlic, tomato, basil, caramelized onion, crimini mushrooms, and vegan cheese.
2182 Avenida De La Playa
Wheat & Water
Located on scenic La Jolla Boulevard, Wheat & Water is known for cozy outdoor seating and Instagram-worthy charcuterie boards, but their personal 12-inch pies are not to be forgotten.
Taking the aged dough and mixing it with their own blend of importing organic flour, the pizza is hand rolled and baked inside a white oak-fueled fire at a piping 700 degrees.
With combinations like Mushroom Duxelles – béchamel sauce with mozzarella with finely chopped cremini and portabella mushrooms in cream, oregano, rosemary and garlic – and the newly-debuted House-Smoked Black Pepper Bacon – goat cheese, delicata squash, arugula, caramelized onions, and balsamic glaze – your taste buds are sure to be satisfied.
But even with all the options, owner Ted Cochrane still likes to keep it simple. That’s why he likes the Soppressata Salumi: brie, red onion, spiced honey, and fried rosemary. “Sometimes,” he said, “simple is better.”
5737 La Jolla Blvd.
Leucadia Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant
If you’re looking for a spot that literally has everything, Leucadia is it.
Sure, you could be like most people and order a classic pepperoni and cheese. But if you dare to venture to the Nuvo-Italian specialty section of the menu, you’re taste buds won’t be disappointed. From Thai chicken to pear to lobster, there’s something there for everyone.
General manager Todd Olszak’s personal favorite is the Rosemary Potato Chicken, roasted chicken, slices of potatoes, red onions, parsley, and rosemary mixed together in a butter garlic sauce. While he’s sure their wide variety and fresh ingredients are what has them churning pizzas out like nobody’s business, he said their delivery service is also a selling point.
“I think one of the things people like us for is the delivery service,” he said. “We’re prompt and can handle very large orders.”
7748 Regents Road