The roots of pizza go back to ancient times, flatbreads and the Romans. But legend has it that Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita, who visited Naples, Italy in 1889, were the first members of Italian royalty to put the dish on the map. They asked for a pizza, and the one made for them contained fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. That pizza is still known as Pizza Margherita today.
Pizza first appeared in the United States with the arrival of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. It was popular among large Italian populations in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Trenton and Saint Louis.
Before the 1940s, pizza consumption was limited mostly to Italian immigrants and their descendants. However, following World War II, veterans introduced to Italy’s native cuisine proved a ready market for pizza. The Chicago-style deep-dish pizza was invented in 1943 by Chicago entrepreneurs Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo.
The U.S. market really took off with the rise of chains like Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s during the ’60s.
San Diego and the Peninsula, like its craft brews, have a selection of pizzerias to rival anywhere else. Here are a few spots to choose from:
Mr. Moto Pizza
Owner Gibran Fernandez started out working at Pizza on Pearl in La Jolla, eventually purchasing a stake in the eatery, which led to his first restaurant in 2015 in Pacific Beach. Soon, he spread to North Park, Point Loma and, most recently, Ocean Beach.
According to Fernandez, what makes his pies truly special are “our unique pairings and toppings and our ricotta-stuffed crust.”
Variety is important too. “We change it up with a new pizza of the month where we really innovate by the slice offering gourmet options with everything made in-house,” said Fernandez.
Mr. Moto is known especially for use of premium cheeses, fresh gourmet ingredients and its perfectly kneaded, hand-tossed dough.
“The craft in our dough, and our consistency, really stands out,” noted Fernandez. “We offer drizzles with our toppings like rosemary, olive oil, sweet balsamic glaze, truffle, and garlic knots being the most popular and to die for.”
Branding is also big for Fernandez, who offers “funky videos” on Instagram to advertise his product. “It’s just a story with cartoons of one of my locations,” he said of his videos noting Mr. Moto’s trademark mustache is on everything in his pizzerias “including our door handles.”
1929 Cable St.
Hours: Mondays-Wednesdays 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thursdays-Sundays 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
The name of this OB eatery, next to Olive Tree Marketplace, means Olive Tree in Italian. It is a casual and cozy neighborhood restaurant owned by the Olive Tree Marketplace.
The pizzeria is known for its simple, fresh ingredients that are prepared to order to create authentic regional and seasonal specialties with a variety of flavors.
The menu offers a selection of salads, pasta, grilled meat, and seafood entrees, as well as artisanal pizzas, which blend the rustic flavors of Italian cuisine with locally sourced ingredients. Ulivo believes pizza doesn’t need frills.
“Ulivo Restaurant gets the basic elements of a good pizza right,” claims Ulivo’s website at ulivorestaurant.com. The dough is made fresh daily, and the hand-tossed pies are not too thin, and not too think. The crust is also never soggy.
Ulivo uses grande mozzarella cheese of the highest quality and is regarded as one of the best in the industry. The meat and veggie toppings are always fresh and plentiful.
There are six specialty pizzas offered on the menu. Patrons can also build their own pie. Meat lovers can try the Colosseum. The Prosciutto and Pear pie is also a favorite topped with fresh arugula and balsamic glaze. Any pizza can also be made on Ulivo’s delicious gluten-free crust.
1776 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.
Hours: 4:30-9:30 p.m. seven days a week.
This popular OB eatery offering pizzas galore has an interesting history. In March 1987, siblings Gina and Vince Marsaglia, both in their 20s, bought a struggling pizza place in Solana Beach. Vince took advantage of free space in the restaurant’s storage area to dabble with home brewing. The hobby took off, and Vince and Gina subsequently decided to go into the brewpub business.
Pizza Port in the heart of OB offered its first craft-brewed beers to patrons in 1992, and quickly gained a reputation in San Diego’s growing craft beer scene. So far, the Pizza Port locations collectively have won over 91 medals/awards from the Great American Beer Festival.
Pizza Port location No. 4 opened in 2010 in Ocean Beach. The menu is extensive featuring original, anti-wimpy, create-your-own pizzas as well as a pizza of the month choice. Also on the menu are salads and a variety of munchies, appetizers, and drinks.
“While we don’t know entirely what’s next for us, we want to continue to brew great beer, make great pizzas, and make new friends,” said the pizzeria on its website. “Through all the growth and changes we have seen over the past 30 years, what continues to drive our passion and our mantra still rings true, so cheers to that.”
1956 Bacon St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Newport Pizza & Ale House
The long time pizza place on Newport Avenue was the go-to spot for residents seeking New York-style slices and plenty of craft beer. But, unfortunately for thin-crust fans, the venerable pizza shop closed its doors on Feb. 9. Plans are for it moving across the street in the Jungle Java property to create a pizza and beer garden while sharing space with the coffee shop.
Officine Buona Forchetta
If your tastes in pizza run toward authentic Italian, then Officine Buona Forchetta is your place. This eatery blends award-winning Neapolitan-style pies and Northern Italian upscale entrees in a family-friendly, approachable space.
Located in the heart of Liberty Station, the 2,600-square-foot restaurant boasts two patios, offering families their very own seating complete with playground and secure space to romp for kids while parents enjoy their meals.
Inside, two gilded ovens churn out classic creations, while the main kitchen serves up chef-driven pasta and entree dishes. Owner Matteo Cattaneo brought the Italian warehouse-style eatery to life with industrial seating, hand-drawn murals, and a vintage Fiat repurposed into a table for two.
“We have Neapolitan pizza, Naples-style,” said Officine’s general manager Romina Licapa, adding, “Everything is imported from Italy. The mozzarella we use is homemade from an Italian recipe. Of course, the tomato sauce and mozzarella are both homemade.”
Licapa said Officine’s pizzas are distinguished by their bigger borders and crusts. “It’s not crunchy,” she said of their pies noting, “We have plenty of choices. One of our most popular is the Sofia, with artichokes, mushrooms, and bruschetta toasted Italian bread drenched in olive oil.”
2865 Sims Road
Hours: Mondays-Thursdays 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sundays 11:30 a.m.- 9 p.m.
Landini’s Pizzeria with locations in both Liberty Station and Little Italy bills itself as “best pizza by the slice.”
“We are the first and only New York-style “pizza by the slice” in the neighborhood since 2009,” claims the pizzeria’s website.
Located in Liberty Public Market’s Mess Hall, Landini’s has a huge selection of pie options with ingredients including pepperoni, ham, meatballs, black olives, cheese, eggplant, jalapenos, pineapple, zucchini, red peppers, ricotta, green bell peppers, fresh mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian sausage, pesto, fresh garlic, anchovies, red onions, artichoke, chicken, bacon, fresh spinach, and fresh tomatoes.
Landini’s also offers up warm Panini layered with imported meats and cheeses, Florentine inspired pasta and a fine selection of beers and wines.
2820 Historic Decatur Road.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
If you like your pies handmade and Italian style, you’ll love Alfredo’s Pizzeria in the heart of Point Loma.
“Freshness is important and everything is handmade,” said owner Alfredo Mata, who made pizzas in Italy for five years before moving to the States where he’s worked 15 years in the pizza industry. “We do have vegan and gluten-free options.”
Mata said thin is the preferred style at his pizzeria, but he can make pizzas to order. “We can even make a pizza with a Sicilian-style thick crust,” he said.
The menu features Margherita, meat lover’s, cheese and Alfredo’s combo pizzas, as well as Buffalo wings, salad, calzones, Strombolis and rolls, hot and cold subs, pasta dishes, desserts, appetizers, and soft drinks.
3022 Cañon St.
Hours: Mondays-Thursdays 11 a.m. -10:45 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m.-11:45 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m.-10:45 p.m.
This charming bistro offers Italian-Mediterranean cuisine and live music indoors in a garden patio setting.
As its name implies, Old Venice is old school, and has been family owned and operated for 40 years.
Old Venice is the perfect place to enjoy time with loved ones. The restaurant hosts private events and offers catering. Open for lunch and dinner, the pizza menu offers choices including Old Venice Deluxe, Italian and gourmet specials, as well as Rustica and margarita pies.
The rest of the menu is equally scrumptious offering a wide variety of seafood dishes including Osso Bucco, Rigatoni Bolognese, shrimp and scallops Alfredo, honey glazed salmon, Australian lamb and chicken piccata, as well as pasta and salads, to name just a few menu choices.
2910 Canon St.
Thursdays-Saturdays 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sundays-Thursdays 4-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays 4-10 p.m.