Bread, cheese and tomato sauce—such ordinary, commonplace ingredients individually. Yet when you fuse the three together with just the right spices, in just the right combination, oh boy, do you have something special. It’s not as easy as it seems, though. As we’ve all learned at one time or another: all pizza is not created equal. Every one of us has experienced the dreaded cardboard crust, the soggy, saucy mess, the horrid lackluster cheese application or the “these vegetables definitely came out of a can” realization—and each scenario is enough to make us curl up in a ball and wail to the pizza overlords…because what’s more depressing than crushed pizza dreams?

Well, to help you avoid one of those dramatic episodes of epic pizza disappointment (and since it’s National Pizza Month), we’ve compiled a list of the absolute best pizzas in California. Some are straight-up pizza joints that just plain rock and others are gourmet eateries that reinvent the classic in amazing ways—and if you love pizza, you’re going to appreciate every single one. Now, on to the pies!

High-End/Gourmet 

1. South End
2805 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

South End

Gourmet pizza in a strip mall? You bet! Fans love the Rustic Pies with “just the right amount of crunch and chew,” not to mention it has an incredible wine list to boot. The topper: The service is outstanding (and you don’t find that perk everyday).

Standout Pizzas: Boardwalk and Venus

2. Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland, Los Angeles (Additional Locations in Newport Beach and San Diego)


Bianco Pizza
There’s a reason Mozza is always packed—the pizza is downright spectacular. The flavor combinations are stellar, the toppings and cheese are unbelievably fresh and the crust is dream-worthy (as in…you’ll never be a crust-dumper again!).

Standout Pizzas: Squash Blossom and (the sinfully rich) Bianca.

3. Flour + Water
2401 Harrison St. San Francisco

IMG_0902
Led by chef/genius Thomas McNaugton, this intimate little restaurant cooks up some of the most amazing Neapolitan-style pizzas you’ve ever tasted, and San Franciscans know it (hence the mammoth waits!). The menu changes daily, but don’t worry—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a disappointing pie.

Standout Pizzas: Patata (Potato) Pizza and Margherita Pizza

 

Budget–Medium End

1. Pizzamania
13547 Telegraph Road,
Whittier

Pizzamania
For 40+ years, Pizzamannia has been serving up classic pizza with zero frills and perfect taste. Plop down, order a pitcher of beer, watch some sports and inhale some of the most delicious, cheesy, saucy, fresh pies you’ll find anywhere.

Standout Pizzas: Pepperoni, Hawaiian or Pastrami for the adventurous

2. Cheese Board Pizza
1512 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 

the daily Cheeseboard Pizza
When you arrive at this tried and true pizza joint, expect a line. 50+ deep at least—because that is how much Cheese Board is loved in Berkeley. They serve only ONE type of pizza per day (which is seasonal and vegetarian), and no matter how zany the combinations may sound, they’re always a slice of heaven.

Standout Pizzas: Always changing, but anything with California corn is a major winner

3. Old Town Pizza
150 Sacramento Street, Auburn, CA  (Additional location in Lincoln)

Old Town
Red-checkered tablecloths, friendly service and super awesome pizza are the foundation of the Sac-area’s favorite Old Town Pizza. It was the KCRA A-List pick for the #1 BEST Pizza in Sacramento and after biting into the crispy-on-the-outside/doughy-soft on the inside crust, we see what all the fuss is about.

Standout Pizzas: Sierra Veggie and The Mother Lode

 

HONORABLE VEGAN MENTION

Cruzer Pizza
4449 Prospect, Los Angeles

Vegan
Just because vegans don’t eat “real” cheese, doesn’t mean they don’t love a good pizza—and Angelenos have the pleasure of Cruzer “100% Animal-Free” Vegan  Pizzeria in the Los Feliz area. Even a carnivore or two has waxed poetic about their delizioso pies—so if you’re in the area, give it a try.

Standout Pizzas: Gourmet Pesto Pizza and the QuarryGirl.com Pizza

What’s your favorite pizza place in California? Let us know!