San Francisco Pizza Safari Part 3

This may have been a trip to California, but there sure was enough “New York Style” pizza to make me double check the time zone. I ran into some great slice shops, notable pie spots, and even a few gnarly piles of goo masquerading as pizza. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights.

Rotten City Pizza is located in a nondescript building in Emeryville, just east of the bay. I had received many tips about this place so I figured it would be worth the long rainy walk from the BART station. The rain dried off as soon as I walked inside and saw the lovely display of freshly baked pies. I saw some beauties, but this was just one stop in an eight pizzeria day so I had to stay focused. I ordered a slice of Margherita and a Funghi (tomato sauce, mozz, provolone, parmigiano, roasted cremini mushrooms, toasted garlic chips). Both slices were excellent, but the Margherita had some lovely structure from a brief reheat. These are some serious “New York Style” slices and I highly recommend stopping by next time you’re in Emeryville looking for some grub. Just check these ladies out:

I tried some other attempts at “New York Style,” which apparently gets translated simply as “pizza-by-the-slice.” Lanesplitter does a pretty grimy version, as does Nizario’s. Both are good for late-night stops but neither require photographic evidence. One the other hand, I do find the need to display a crime against pizza in the form of two college town favorites. Fat Slice and Blondie’s are of the last-resort variety of pizza. I had heard their names bandied about too much to not check them out. Don’t make the same mistake. Here’s what we’re dealing with:  

Not only are these thick slabs of industrial strength cardboard completely flavorless, they’re also $3.50 each! I guess you’re paying for all that cheese, which reminded me more of the rubber soles of my shoes. Wow, I am embarrassed to even put these photos on the same page as Rotten City. Please forgive me.

You can’t talk about “New York Style” pizza in San Francisco without mentioning Escape From New York. With six locations in the Bay Area and a few more in Portland, OR, EFNY puts out some completely passable slices. I went a little stir crazy and ordered a specialty slice on top of my standard cheese slice. Why not? After all, I’m on vacation! Both were good, but the potato and garlic was exciting. The Godfather is ready to dig in!

Moving right along, let’s take a moment to discuss a New York style pie joint that’s new to the scene. Emilia’s is a one man operation where phones are answered, pies are baked and cash is taken by owner Keith Freilich. Using a conventional gas oven, Keith manages to get some nice color that truly welcomes the New York comparisons. It’s also pretty classic that he only accepts cash. Maybe the system will change with the addition of more staff, but it seemed like there was a pretty specific method to ordering pizza. You have to place your order at least an hour in advance, and you are then given a pick-up time. You have the option of sitting at one of the three tables inside, but I took mine to-go. Just take a gander at this baby and you’ll see how serious this pizza scene has become with the addition of Emilia’s. 

In the past few years TONS of quality pizzerias have opened in and around San Francisco. The amazing fact is that there are so many styles to choose from! You’re not stuck with gourmet artisinal blah blah blah, which most east coasters think they’re in for when heading to the Left Coast. There’s a whole landscape happening out west and something tells me it’s just starting to heat up. That about does it for the Bay Area “New York Style” pizza wrap-up, but stay tuned for one more installment from San Francisco before we dive deep into the pits of Los Angeles.