Pizza: Bee's critic lists his area favorites
11/18/2012 12:00 AM
11/19/2012 6:22 AM
What's your favorite pizza place? Do you agree or disagree with Blair's ratings? Add your comment below.
For many years, Sacramento was not known as a pizza town. There were Zelda's, Luigi's and a few other spots here and there, but the quality dropped off perceptibly and quickly.
Not any more. In recent weeks, I have visited and revisited some of our best pizzerias going, and I'm impressed with the quality. A few are truly great, several are superb, and the rest on my list are good bets for pizza for just about anyone.
List? How could anyone rank the best pizza in and around Sacramento? It's not easy – and this shouldn't be considered the only list going.
These pizzas are personal favorites and, like anyone else, I have preferences. You'll see that the pies that rank highest are mostly thin-crust Neapolitan or New York-style. I like tradition and craft when it comes to pizza. Those things should always matter – letting the dough develop over time, using a wood-burning oven or a well-worn deck oven to get the heat way up there.
I also like pizza that succeeds at being different, like the semi-sweet chicken with mint that's drizzled with lime juice at Hot City in east Sacramento. That place also does an excellent spicy-hot pizza, which is another of my biases.
Pizzas were disqualified from this list if they came with toppings that were of poor quality. But more than that, the crust had to be good. The crust is what pulls it all together. It can be crispy. It can be chewy. But it can't be dull and lacking character.
Many of the places on this list are relatively new – Masullo, Hot Italian, OneSpeed, Pizza Rock, Matteo's – and they have surely elevated the area's reputation. Hook & Ladder just opened and is already showing it is serious about pizza.
Your list may be similar to mine – or it may differ entirely. When it comes to pizza, it's very personal. And these days, we're loaded with a wealth of choices.
HOW WE ARRIVED AT THE RANKINGS
The overall pizza score combines rankings for crust, toppings, flavor, and how those components work together to make for an excellent eating experience.
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2711 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 443-8929, www.masullopizza.com
Overall score: 97 (out of 100)
The flavors and mouthfeel of the pies here are extraordinary. Crust has a combination of chewiness, tenderness and flavor. The slightly soggy consistency is a nod to the tradition of Naples, where pizza is eaten with a knife and fork. Some will complain about the skimpy toppings, but the eatability is much more generous than it appears.
1627 16th St., Sacramento; (916) 444-3000, www.hotitalian.net
Overall score: 93
The crust may not be quite as consistent as when Hot Italian opened nearly four years ago, but at its best the thin crust has a wonderful aroma and chewiness. The toppings are excellent quality. My mainstay is the "Stella" (prosciutto and mushrooms) with an egg in the middle, and spicy olive oil drizzled on top at the table.
4818 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 706-1748, www.onespeedpizza.com
Overall score: 93
A very well-balanced pizza – appearance, flavor, texture – with a superb crust that has slightly less chew than traditional Neapolitan-style pies.
The traditional Margherita or the Italian sausage with red onions are good bets.
1415 L St., Sacramento;
(916) 440-8888, www.paragarys.com
Overall score: 92
If you want an earnest and delicious take on Neapolitan pizza, this is an excellent destination. The Margherita is elegantly simple, and the "Carne Mista" with meatballs, sausage and salami is loaded with flavor and spice.
One of the best crusts in town.
1020 K St., Sacramento; (916) 737-5777, www.pizzarocksacramento.com
Overall score: 91
Big and busy, this pizzeria offers more styles of pizza than any place around, yet the quality doesn't suffer. The classic Margherita may be the signature pie, but the thicker American-style pizza dubbed "Sacramento," with spicy-hot pepperoni, salami, mushrooms and more, is lots of fun and plenty delicious. The "Cal Italia" is a creative, edgy pie with salty, sweet and bitter notes all working in harmony.
Matteo's Pizza and Bistro
5132 Arden Way, Carmichael; (916) 779-0727, www.pizzamatteo.com
Overall score: 90
Really good crust with a bit of char to the edges, the pizza here is a winner. Try the no-holds-barred "The Matteo" with Italian sausage, pepperoni, chorizo, bacon and spicy tomato sauce. It was thrilling to the taste buds, while the "California," with organic chicken, artichoke hearts and goat cheese, was more low-key but also very good.
Zelda's Gourmet Pizza
1415 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 447-1400, www.zeldasgourmetpizza.com
Overall score: 89
This Chicago-style pizza is thick, heavy, loaded with flavor and has a crust that is crunchy and unique. This pie is not for everyone, but Zelda's loyalists swear by it. Eat one slice too many, and you just might go into hibernation.
Linda's Chicago Style Pizzeria
7815 Greenback Lane, Citrus Heights; (916) 722-2700, www.letseat.at/lindas
Zelda's for the suburban crowd. Linda Ellington, sister of the late Zelda Breslin, expands the empire with this very loyal tribute to Zelda's pies. The atmosphere is not as charming, but the pizza is the real deal. We even liked the Veggie Supreme better than the original.
Giovanni's Old World New York Pizza
Two Sacramento locations 6200 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 455-8831 and 5924 S. Land Park Drive;
(916) 393-7001, www.giosnypizza.com
Overall score: 88
If you like a thin, crisp crust with lots of flavor and a modicum of chew, this is your place for a classic New York pizza experience – that is, if you're not put off by the cavernous dining rooms. The toppings are ample, the sauce refined and tasty. Favorite pies are the "Don Giovanni" with peppers and sausage, and the first-rate, sauce-less "Pizza Rustica" with salami, peppers and spinach.
Dominick's NY Pizza & Deli
187 Blue Ravine Road, Suite 16, Folsom; (916) 351-0900, www.dominicksmarketdeli.com
Overall score: 88
Very impressive toppings on the "New York Combo" gave it excellent flavor and texture, including sausage, pepperoni and plump green olives. The veggie pizza is also a winner. A good crust that is a little thicker than Giovanni's and not crisp.
Hot City Pizza
5642 J St., Sacramento; (916) 731-8888, www.hotcity-pizza.com
Overall score: 87
Whole-wheat pizza used to sound dreadful – the pizza box had better chew.
But no longer.
This amazing, tender whole-wheat crust is a revelation that makes these pizzas stand out. Though not all the pies are at the same level of goodness, the "Angry Pig" is hot and spicy, and a great choice to go with this joint's excellent little craft beer selection.
The ingredients and flavor profiles of the various pies tend to be edgy and practically avant garde, like the sweet and savory "Mojito" pie with chicken, mint and lime juice.
Hook & Ladder
1630 S St., Sacramento; (916) 442-4855, www.hookandladder916.com
Overall score: 87
Though the crust might need a tweak or two to develop more texture, the toppings are already providing some sensory thrills at this new midtown restaurant and bar.
The spicy sausage and roasted artichokes smothered with arugula is excellent. The pie topped with rock shrimp, fennel and "sardine bagna cauda" is also delicious.
4215 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 482-1008, www.wenellispizzas.com
Overall score: 85
This is a solid all-around performer with hearty, no-nonsense pizzas. The "Green chiles and Louisiana style hot sausage" is a tremendous eating experience – more than just full-on heat, this pie has balance and nuanced flavors.
Celestino's New York Pizza and Pasta
6160 Stanford Ranch Road, Rocklin; (916) 771-8600, www.celestinospizza.com
Overall score: 85
A reader's tip alerted me to this pizza outpost, where the crust is thin and extra crispy. The pizzas have lots of flavor. Try the "Tom Jones" with sausage, Canadian bacon and pepperoni, or the "Meatball special" pizza.
Pieces Pizza by the Slice
1309 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 441-1949
Overall score: 82
If you can get past the grunge décor and the "Trainspotting" crowd that often gathers out front, you may just find this to be your no-nonsense guilty pleasure. One slice will fill you up. Crisp crust, decent toppings, nice flavor.
1050 20th St., Sacramento; (916) 447-1255
Overall score: 80
The pizzas have shown improvement here recently. It's a good choice for by-the-slice. Though the slices aren't as big as those at Pieces, the flavors are good, and the crisp crust has its appeal.
Wicked West Pizza & BBQ
3160 Jefferson Blvd., West Sacramento; (916) 572-0572, www.wickedwestpizza.com
Overall score: 80
This family-fun place is serious about combining good pizza with healthy options. The whole-wheat crust is pretty tender and tasty, and the toppings are good quality. "The Rib Feast" pizza with BBQ sauce and pork rib meat is both daring and delicious.
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