New York City is known for its thin-crust pizza and Chicago has cornered the market on gut-busting deep-dish pies. California pizzerias, meanwhile, feature an incredibly diverse collection of styles and flavors. Looking for something inventive and perhaps even a little shocking? Check. Interested in hyper-local toppings? Yep. And traditionalists won't feel left out either, as many top spots tick that box. We couldn't possibly cover all of the deserving pizza joints in the Golden State but here's a quick guide to some you really need to know.
CUCINA URBANA, SAN DIEGO —The imaginative toppings tell the story at this upscale spot that opened in San Diego's Banker's Hill neighborhood in 2009: Potato + Leek + Prosciutto; Date + Ricotta + Bacon; Pesto + Gaeta Olive. These and other thin-crust pies have been wowing SoCal diners since 2009.
SPAGO, BEVERLY HILLS — Wolfgang Puck's restaurant empire spreads far and wide but there's a special energy that permeates the mothership in Beverly Hills. His Pizza With House Cured Salmon, of course, is a culinary icon—the kind of dish that has inspired legions of chefs—and it has been on the menu since 1982. The red onion gives it a pop, the dill créme fraiche establishes a foundation of richness, and the caviar elevates the entire experience to ridiculous heights.
TRIPLE BEAM PIZZA, HIGHLAND PARK — This brand-new spot features some high-flying culinary talent—James Beard winners Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina—and is already creating big-time buzz. Also: You pay by the ounce. For more options in Los Angeles, check out this great piece from Discover Los Angeles.
BERETTA, SAN FRANCISCO — This cozy restaurant in the Mission District opened in 2008 and has become a neighborhood landmark. Try the Chorizo pizza, which features Oaxaca cheese and cilantro, or perhaps go for the Zucchini pie, featuring onion and goat cheese. Better yet, go for brunch and get the Carbonara: It includes bacon, two eggs, mozzarella, pecorino, and cracked black pepper.
ZACHARY'S CHICAGO PIZZA, OAKLAND — Zach Zachowski and Barbara Gabel grew up in small towns in Wisconsin and fell in love with Chicago-style dish deep pizza while living in the Windy City. In 1983 they opened up their first restaurant in Oakland, which promised Midwest-style pies with a "California twist." Case in point: the Good Health Pizza, which features free range chicken breast, chopped fresh spinach, and reduced fat mozzarella on a wheat crust. Additional locations in Berkeley, San Ramon, and Pleasant Hill.
OENOTRI, NAPA — Wine and pizza pair perfectly together, and industry insiders keep the tables filled this downtown establishment. The wine list is spectacular (this is Napa Valley, after all) and the seasonally influenced menu is constantly changing. Keep an eye out for the Brassica Pizza, which features broccoli rabe, cauliflower, hot pepper, and green garlic pesto.
DHILLONS PIZZA, YUBA CITY — Here you'll find Indian-inspired options on the Punjabi Pizza menu—Spinach Paneer, Butter Chicken, Veggie Curry, and more. Having trouble picturing these pies? Watch the video below for the full story.