Life without pizza? Fuhgeddaboudit! But if you’re fed up with the usual fodder, try one of these locally owned pizzerias whose pizzas are well worth remembering.
Dough. Sauce. Cheese.
The building blocks of pizza form a holy trinity of gooey goodness when made and assembled with care. But when cynically slapped together by uncaring hands or factory robots, these three ingredients create a pasty axis of evil. So how to avoid boring, soggy, soulless pizza?
Easy: Go to one of the many independent pizzerias that flourish in the Sacramento region. The crust may be smoky from a wood-fired oven, or tender and stretchy from the addition of buttermilk. The sauce may be tangy or sweet, or have the spicy kick of three mules. The place may be an old dive or a swanky haunt, but of one thing you can be sure: Along with the dough, sauce and cheese, you’ll be getting plenty of local flavor.
Here are 20 independent pizzerias to try.
Andy B’s Pizza and More
Quality ingredients and great customer service make Andy B’s a destination pizzeria for fans in the know.
The basics: Yummy crust is on the thin side, New York-style, but they’ll make it thick on request. The secret is the brick-lined oven, which holds the temperature steady yet doesn’t dry the pizza out, according to assistant manager Justin Williams.
Extras: Specialty breads, cinnamon rolls, PB&J dessert pizza (It doesn’t sound like it would taste so good, but it’s amazing, says Williams)
Popular combo: Andy’s Combo: pepperoni, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage, salami, bell peppers, onions, olives and mushrooms
Delivery: No (All pies are available in a take-and-bake version, if you’d rather use your brick-lined oven at home)
4886 San Juan Ave., Fair Oaks; (916) 967-4992; andybspizza.com
At this bustling restaurant in Historic Folsom, old photos of Chicago are mounted on walls as deep red as the local wines served here. It’s open for dinner only, and reservations are recommended on weekends. An ambitious new outpost at 27th and J in midtown Sacramento promises to take some of the heat off the Folsom Department.
The basics: Chicago Fire offers a fragrant deep-dish pie, a thin-crust version cut in squares and a double-crusted stuffed pie that will more than assuage the appetite you acquire after waiting 40 minutes for this monster to bake.
Extras: Italian beef sandwich (order it juicy, cheesy or with hot peppers); deep-dish chocolate-chip-cookie-dough dessert pizza
Popular combo: Sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers, onions and mushrooms
614 Sutter St., Folsom; (916) 353-0140
Ciro’s Pizza Cafe
A heavy hand with the toppings draws a crowd to Ciro’s from well beyond the delivery area. Outside, there are cafe tables with bright-green umbrellas; a cheerful interior with big windows makes Ciro’s especially nice for lunch.
The basics: Hand-tossed crust, available in six styles: Original California, Neapolitan, Extra Thick, Super Thin, Chicago Deep Dish and Double Stuffed
Extras: Pesto veggie calzone
Popular combo: The Mountaintop looms large with pepperoni, smoked ham, olives, mushrooms, salami, red onions, sausage, fresh tomato, bell peppers, fresh garlic and extra cheese.
7521 Old Auburn Road, Citrus Heights; (916) 726-5757
241 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom; (916) 983-5757
Fair Oaks/Orangevale (delivery only): (916) 729-5757
While not exactly famous, this pizza place has been filling the bill in Land Park for the past 15 years. Speedy delivery and copious coupons keep parents dialing that number.
The basics: Both thin and thick crusts available; the thick is pillowy enough to sleep on
Extras: Buffalo wings, calzones, salads
Popular combo: The Famous Chicken: white garlic sauce, onions, mushrooms, fresh tomato and chicken, of course
2998 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 448-3333
Garolbi’s Hot City Pizza
This East Sac newcomer combines fresh ingredients with earnest, people-pleasing energy. Popular with Sacramento State athletes, Garolbi’s is the official pizza sponsor of the Sac State Athletic Department.
The basics: The whole-grain crust is substantial but not heavy. Pungent pies like Triple Garlic Happiness and The Angry Pig require an eating partner.
Extras: Loaded Spinach Salad (with blue cheese, bacon, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes); multigrain pastas coming soon
Popular combo: The Primo. It’s a heavy pizza, says co-owner Garrison Tucker.
Delivery: Yes, on the cutest scooter!
5642 J St., Sacramento; (916) 731-8888
Giovanni’s Old World New York Pizzeria
New York, New York, it’s a hell of a pizza, and Giovanni’s delivers a thin crust, sweet sauce and judiciously applied fresh toppings that’ll give ya Bleecker Street flashbacks. Dcor is early-millennium plastic with video games and large-screen TV, thankfully off to the side in the TV room at the Land Park location. The Natomas, Folsom Boulevard and Land Park sites are especially good for large groups; each holds more than 200 soccer players.
The basics: Made-from-scratch sausage and meatballs, dressings; imported Italian cheeses
Extras: Rotisserie chicken is highly seasoned and good to go; five house microbrew beers
Popular combo: Newcomers love the Bronx Bomber with all the toppings, says co-owner John Ruffaine, but after they’ve been coming for a while, they see the beauty of the more simple pizzas, such as the elegant Pizza Bianco, with mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino Romano, fresh tomato and garlic.
Delivery: Natomas only; service may expand to other locations
5924 S. Land Park Drive, Sacramento; (916) 393-7001
6200 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 455-8831
2701 Del Paso Road, Sacramento; (916) 574-9070
2449 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 487-1277
Johnnie’s Sidewalk Pizza
There’s almost 30 years of archeological interest here, with layers of dcor from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. A large-screen TV represents the current decade. West Sac soccer league signups are held right in. the middle of the dining room, and about 50 Bible students regularly gather in the event room.
The basics: Here’s the secret to the incredible flaky crust: Roll dough out, then fold it over; repeat, repeat, repeat for layers of biscuity goodness, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Extras: Draft beer, tasty fried zucchini, a salad bar that looks like it was built by a woodshop class
Popular combo: Greek Pizza: mushrooms, olives, bell peppers, onions, feta cheese, sausage and fresh tomato
Delivery: Yes (West Sac only)
1301 Merkley Ave., West Sacramento; (916) 372-0432
Louie’s Chicago Style Pizza
Costa Georgopoulos named the place after his late father, who owned a pizzeria in San Francisco in the ’90s. Working with his brother, Eli, and with help from other family members such as cousins Beto and Big Jesse, he’s created a neighborhood place.
The basics: While deep-dish is their claim to fame, the brothers also offer a thin-crust version (available by the slice Mondayâ€“Friday 11 a.m.â€“2 p.m.)
Extras: Chicken wings, Sierra Nevada on tap
Popular combo: Chi-Town Gourmet: baked chicken breast, spinach and mushrooms
Delivery: Yes (Sundayâ€“Thursday only)
2110 Sunset Blvd., Rocklin; (916) 435-3111;
Luigi’s Pizza Parlor
New York-style pies, with the attitude to match, have been served up here in Oak Park since 1953. Three guys stand behind the counter with flour up to their elbows, ready to toss you a good one. Celso Luigi Brida, who owns the place with his brother, Frank, will pitch a few stories, too, and insist that you taste his housemade dressings.
The basics: Flavorful cheese mix, tangy sauce, housemade sausage
Extras: Pastrami sandwich, cannelloni
Popular combo: Luigi’s Special: olives, salami, sausage and mushrooms
3800 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 456-0641
Mamma Susanna’s Italian Pizzeria
Family-run and family-friendly, this no-frills restaurant serves up Italian by Italians in River Park’s very own mini-mall.
The basics: Caprese pizza with fresh mozzarella, fresh tomato, basil and oregano
Extras: Full Italian menu, including baked salmon fillet served on a bed of wilted spinach
Popular combo: Mamma Susanna’s: salami, pepperoni, ham, sausage and all the veggies
Delivery: Yes, lunch and dinner (Sac State, River Park, upper J Street area)
5487 Carlson Drive, Sacramento; (916) 452-7465
Mark & Monica’s Family Pizza
The word family in its name aptly describes this welcoming hub of kids’ sports teams, birthday parties and weekend warriors.
The basics: The breakfast pizza&emdash;white garlic sauce, mozzarella, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, fresh tomato, bacon and bell peppers&emdash;is not on the menu; order it the night before and pick it up in the morning.
Extras: Owners Mark and Monica Brooks have run the business for 21 years and stayed married for 22 years, beating the odds in both arenas. (They also co-own Mark & Monica’s Sports Grill & Pizza in Granite Bay.)
Popular combo: Salami, pepperoni, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, linguiÃ§a, beef, sausage and olives
4751 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael; (916) 487-1010
225 G St., Lincoln; (916) 434-1010
Hip midtowners love the outdoor patio. Wannabes suck up the edgy vibe. Servers are pierced, tattooed, scantily clad or all of the above.
Not basic at all: Gorgonzola and Fuji apple pizza
Extras: Great people-watching, suggestive artwork
Popular combo: The Sicilian: spicy marinara, salami, sweet Italian sausage and prosciutto, topped with fresh oregano and basil
1806 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; (916) 447-8646
Pieces Pizza by the Slice
The vibe is hippie, punk and rock at this cash-only place, open ’til 2:30 a.m. on weekends. The bathrooms are covered in graffiti that’s equally philosophical and scatological. The tip jar is full of water to discourage those who would dip in.
The basics: Big New York-style slices. Pick from the pies on the counter, then they throw the slice into the oven to get it all bubbly. You can ask for extra chopped garlic.
Extras: Hearing the sweet voice of Mari Todd, who’s worked here for 11 years, sing along with the rock and reggae tunes
Popular combo: Delish pesto with artichoke hearts; it folds well, but you can get it cut into smaller slices
1309 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 441-1949
Little leaguers and other pizza fans in the Elk Grove area have enjoyed the hospitality of the Bell family for more than 20 years. Pizza Bell has not only survived but thrived amid population growth and the plethora of chain restaurants.
The basics: More than 50 pizzas and four turnovers of the salad bar are devoured every weekday during all you can eat lunch between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Extras: Regulars, like the Lloyds, have been coming here every Saturday at 3 p.m. for the past two decades, according to Patty Cox, who has been with the Bells for the past 11 years. The Lloyds table is reserved with a paper plate.
Popular combo: Ham, pepperoni, Italian sausage, olives, mushrooms and pepperoncini peppers
Delivery: Yes, from Sheldon to Interstate 5 to Bradshaw Road
8996 Grant Line Road, Sheldon; (916) 686-6444
8591 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove; (916) 685-1560
Planet’s Best Pizza
Fresh ingredients, gourmet combos and personal service make this family-owned take-and-bake a slice above.
The basics: Choose the no need for pepper sauce for a spicy kick. It outsells the traditional sauce, according to its creator, owner Steven Ulle, who loves it with the meat supreme combo.
Extras: Cinnabread dessert pizza, drizzled with white icing, offered with a family pizza deal for dessert or breakfast the next day
Popular combo: The Verona (invented by Ulle’s wife, Kristina): garlic Alfredo sauce, chicken, green and red bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms, ground bacon and fresh tomato wedges
Delivery: No (but Ulle is known to carry your pizza to the car for you)
6011 Stanford Ranch Road, #106, Rocklin; (916) 663-6008; planetsbestpizza.com
Roma’s in South Sacramento has a festive, family-night-out feeling. Maybe it’s the centerpiece of the dining room: a Roman fountain with a trident of plastic greenery that reaches all the way to the acoustic-panel ceiling.
The basics: Fresh and filling; the sourdough crust is puffy, the cheese is gooey and the toppings are generous. Chicken, artichoke heart and pesto sauces are available in lieu of tomato.
Extras: Italian beers Moretti and Birra Peroni; bring quarters for the jukebox
Popular combo: Roma’s Special: mushrooms, salami, pepperoni, sausage, olives, linguiÃ§a, beef and bell peppers
5743 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 395-0781
This New York City-style slice kitchen is open late and goes for the hole-in-the-wall effect. Cash only.
The basics: Thin, foldable crust; big slices that get reheated (ask them to cut yours into smaller pieces)
Extras: Frosted beer mugs
Popular combo: Slice of pepperoni and a Pabst for $4 during happy hour
1501 16th St., Sacramento; (916) 444-3699
Best-known for the rustic breads it wholesales to local white-tablecloth restaurants, Village Bakery of Davis makes the best slice in this college (and therefore pizza-loving) town. The patio has a postcard view of the Davis Railroad Depot.
The basics: The pliable buttermilk crust doesn’t look like anything special, but bite into it and nothing is the same.
Extras: Napoleons, cream puffs, tortes
Popular combo: Eggplant with roasted onions, kalamata olives and feta cheese
Delivery: Yes, starting at 5 p.m.
814 Second St., Davis; (530) 750-2255
We’re talking old-school, from the wood paneling and pinball machine to the ancient ovens, which frankly could do a better job of cooking the crust all the way through. Toppings are fresh and tasty, though.
The basics: Sausage is flavorful without being too spicy for the kids.
Extras: Beer on tap, super-friendly service
Popular combo: Salami, pepperoni, mushrooms, linguiÃ§a, beef, sausage and onions
Delivery: Yes (Arden area only)
4215 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 482-1008
Zelda’s Original Gourmet Pizza
The momentum of this grottolike midtown pizzeria comes in part from the full bar and pitchers of beer. The twinkly, multicolored lights are strung up year-round, recalling ghosts of Christmas past. So popular (and crowded), they encourage you to call in your order a half-hour before arriving.
The basics: The Spinoccoli is insanely popular, despite its appearance: Think church potluck broccoli casserole topped with orange cheese.
Extras: Chicago-style deep-dish apple and peach for dessert
Popular combo: Sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, bell peppers and onions, with lots of savory red sauce
1415 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 447-1400