We'll start at the end of the mystery, like the film Memento: Why didn't I include your favorite in this list of 10 great pizzerias that we Weeklings love? Because that's what the comments section is for, dear reader. Without further delay, here are 10 great pizzerias in Orange County!
10. Pepz Pizza
We Weeklings chose Pepz Pizza as 2011's Best Restaurant to Take the Kids To, so naturally, it makes this Best of the Best list. Your kids' love of pizza has to begin somewhere, so why not in the deep end, with Pepz's pastrami pizza shot through with mustard and pickles? Is it okay for pizza to be born this way? Lady Gaga, as well as our own Anne Marie, would say yes.
Pepz Pepperoni's Pizza, various locations in Orange County; www.pepzpizza.com.
9. Pizza D'Oro
Speaking of pizzas kids love, pick up an outsized pizza from Pizza D'Oro to go. At its Costa Mesa location, several takeout pizza boxes decorate the wall to illustrate how massive a pizza you can order, all the way from a “small” 12-inch pizza to a 30-inch behemoth that would make a memorable hit at any kids' pizza party.
Pizza D'Oro, 1145 Baker St., Costa Mesa, (714) 549-0685; 10585 Slater St., Fountain Valley, (714) 963-0227; 8468 Indianapolis Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-9383; www.eatatpizzadoro.com.
8. Pizza Port
While taking the kids to their favorite pizza place is well and good, sometimes the priority is a quality beer to go with Mom and Dad's dinner. Few pizza restaurants brew their own beers as tasty as Pizza Port in San Clemente, which won our editorial 2010 Best Beer Selection. This San Diego-based brewery/pizzeria features guest beers as well as in-house brews to pair with a selection of flavor-boosted topping combinations in the thick, chewy, gourmet, all-American style of pizza.
Pizza Port, 301 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 940-0005; www.pizzaport.com.
7. Tony's Litte Italy
What's that? Deep-dish pizza gets you salivating? There are precious few practitioners of the Chicago-style deep dish here in Orange County, and the best example is Placentia's Tony's Little Italy.
Anne Marie chose Tony's for her top pick in 2011's 100 Favorite Dishes, saying the “pizza is a retrofitted Italian masterpiece, beginning with a flaky yet sturdy crust as its base. No schmaltzy thin layer of dough overseeing this project. Tony's can withstand and protect precious cargo from the high winds of Chi-town neighborhoods. And how about that layer of mozza? Oozing enough chewy, stringy goodness to spur an oil well. Tomatoes are strewn over like a red badge of courage.”
Tony's Little Italy, 1808 N. Placentia Ave., Placentia, (714) 528-2159; tonyslittleitaly.com.
6. A Slice of NY Pizza
Pizza from the Second City is great, but America's love of pizza began in New York, where Italian immigrants settled. Where do you get a NYC-style pizza in OC? For those in North County, we have Seal Beach's A Slice of NY Pizza, as authentic a slice shop as any in midtown Manhattan. And its second, soon-to-open location in Huntington Harbour we reported back in July? Still soon-to-open, supposedly in January.
A Slice of New York Pizza, 142 Main St., Ste. B, Seal Beach, (562) 493-4430; and soon, 16821 Algonquin St., Ste. 101, Huntington Beach; asliceofnewyorkpizza.net.
The South County place to get a real-deal NY slice is LaRocco's. Dave mooned over the white garlic pizza, which took No. 34 in this year's 100 Favorite Dishes.
La Rocco's Pizzeria, 122 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, (949) 366-8890; laroccospizzaonline.com.
4. TJ's Woodfire
Rule No. 34 of the food world is if it exists, there's a food-truck version of it. So along comes TJ's Woodfired Pizza, a mobile brick-oven pizza caterer that sets up every week at the OC Great Park Farmers' Market on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dave wrote about it back in July; find it at No. 63 in this year's 100 Favorites.
3. Pizza e Vino
The majority of wood-fired pizzerias employ an oven fired by a thermostat-controlled gas heat source supplemented by a log or two. Pizza e Vino takes the purist Neapolitan approach, using only wood fire to heat its oven, which was imported from Italy. The thin, carefully dried sticks of almond wood produce high heat, but also a pungent smoke that adds flavors to the pizzas for the brief moments they're in the oven.
Pizza e Vino, 31441 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Ste. M, Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 713-1500; pizzaevino.net.
As we've inched closer to the No. 1 pizza on this list, you'll have noticed a more artisanal progression. The wood-fired oven used in Costa Mesa's ecco is one of several high-end OC pizzerias that make a pizza closer to what you'd find in Naples or Rome.
ecco's crust strikes that perfect balance between the thin vs. puffy, lightly toasted crust sections vs. charred spots, crisply foldable vs. floppy. It's day-in, day-out, a great and satisfying gourmet Neapolitan-style pizza.
ecco, 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 444-3226; eccopizza.com.
1. Pizzeria Mozza
We've previously described four of OC's Naples-style pizzerias in Shuji's Top Five Restaurants for 2010, and we predicted a five-way race when Mozza opened. We were so eager for it to open that we rushed down on opening night to see if the food was the same as what's found at the phenomenal Mozza original in Los Angeles, and it was. The pizza, primi, pasta, the meat entrées–all deserving of the top slot in this Best of the Best list!
Pizzeria Mozza, 800 W. Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, (949) 945-1126; pizzeriamozza.com.