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Taste Off: The Best Frozen Pizza from Restaurants in San Francisco

Clear out the freezer for these new primo pies 

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The pandemic has served up a few silver linings, among them — the rise of the restaurant frozen pizza. In early days, back when everyone was panic buying frozen spinach (shudders), the esteemed restaurant critics at Eater New York reviewed the best and worst frozen pizza, like actually from the grocery store, and didn’t mince words over DiGiorno (“This is bad pizza,” concluded critic Ryan Sutton).

But Cali restaurants have caught up, getting in on this freezer game with dumplings and ravioli, and now many of the leading pizza restaurants in San Francisco are offering frozen pies. There’s a lot to love about quality frozen pizza: It’s convenient to shove to the back, then pull out whenever you’d rather burn all your sweatpants than figure out dinner one more time. And it’s a great way to support local restaurants, by adding on an item to your takeout order.

Eater SF editors agreed that these restaurant frozen pizzas were a significant step up in terms of flavor, texture, and overall quality than the usual freezer-aisle offerings. But frozen pizza is also a new format for many restaurants, making the experience somewhat uneven. A word of warning: Take any reheating instructions with a grain of salt. Some cook times were off for home ovens, and more than one pie was browned beyond a crisp. But there were some chewy, gooey, and pillowy revelations. Here are the tastiest frozen pizzas from restaurants in San Francisco.

Del Popolo frozen pizza Becky Duffett

The Pillowiest Neapolitan-Style

Del Popolo

Del Popolo has some of the best Neapolitan-style pies in the city, those thin pizzas that puff up like a pillow with black leopard spots. I wondered how it could possibly hold up, if not served directly out of the fiery inferno of their legendary oven, but frozen and flashed again at home. In fact, it was the finest frozen pizza I’ve ever eaten, still maintaining that tanginess and chewiness from their slow fermented dough. The cook time was actually true to the instructions, it’s only 5 minutes, don’t wander off with a glass of wine. And in addition to the classic Margherita, with sweet crushed tomatoes and milky fresh mozzarella, the thinly sliced potatoes with rosemary and pleasantly bitter broccoli raab were distinctive. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Buy: Del Popolo ($60 for four pizzas)

Eve Batey

The Most Piquant Crust

Pizzeria Delfina

In its frozen-to-table form, Pizzeria Delfina’s abundant crusts take on a crispy, almost matzo-like quality, far less chewy than the crust you’re used to with the on-site version of their Neapolitan-inspired pies. This is a good thing for those of us who prefer their pizzas with vegetables: frozen mushrooms or broccoli raab (the toppings I went with) can unleash a tidal wave of liquid as they heat up, overwhelming a less rigid thin crust. The cheeses (caciocavallo, mozzarella, and fontina) melted up like they were born to be frozen, neither stringy nor separated. And my delivery, from no-commission platform Take Home, was fast and friendly. — Eve Batey, editor

Buy: Pizzeria Delfina via Take Home ($17.75 to 19.75)

Frozen pizza from Tony’s Luke Tsai

The Closest Approximation of a New York Slice

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana

There might not be a pizzeria with more national brand recognition than Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, so it’s no surprise that Goldbelly, the national food delivery platform, has tapped the restaurant’s prizewinning pizzas to be one of its Bay Area offerings, available to be shipped anywhere in the country. It’s not a deal that makes much sense for local customers, though, as you wind up paying a premium — as much as $40 per frozen pizza — when you could pick up a hot pie from the North Beach restaurant for a fraction of the cost, or buy the frozen pizzas in person at Giovanni’s in North Beach, the pizzeria’s market offshoot. There, damn good pizza go for $13–$15. Tony Gemignani is known for his wide array of pizza styles, from Detroit to Chicago deep dish, but these par-baked frozen pies are all in the “Italian/American” style, and the “New Yorker,” loaded with pepperoni, sausage, and a pitch-perfect red sauce, scratches the itch for a New York slice. The crust may be the best I’ve ever had on a frozen pizza, crunchy on the bottom but foldable (if that’s how you roll) and wonderfully chewy in a way you normally don’t find in a frozen product, especially if you don’t overbake it. (Might was perfect after 13 minutes at 500 degrees on a hot pizza stone, but your oven mileage may, of course, vary.) — Luke Tsai, food editor

Buy: Goldbelly ($99 to $119 for three pizzas), Giovanni’s ($13 to 15 per pizza)

The Most Restaurant-like Pie

Zero Zero

If you baked up a frozen Zero Zero pizza for me and tossed it in a logo-ed box, I wouldn’t have known that you didn’t grab one of their fresh-baked Neapolitan pies to go — it’s that similar to the “real thing.” (My constant chatter about my frozen Zero Zero delight is one of the reasons Becky came up with this whole taste test, I suspect, as much an effort to disprove me as to get me to shut up.) I’m partial to the generously-topped Fillmore (hen of the woods mushrooms, leeks, mozzarella, grana padano, pecornio, fontina), which baked up best when placed on a pizza pan (placed alone on the oven rack leaves it too dry). The Margherita works well too: its sauce stands up to the rigors of freezing and reheating quite nicely. — Eve Batey, editor

Buy: Zero Zero ($15.95 to 20.95)

Frozen pizza from Piccino Becky Duffett

The Freshest Veggie Toppings

Piccino

Piccino, the pasta-pizza-salad spot of the Dogpatch, is known for loading up on seasonal produce, and the same sentiment carries through on a really very mushroomy funghi pie. It was quite a thin crust, which got crunchy and crackery, so check it early, before those edges get too dark golden brown. But it’s loaded up with pureed mushrooms as the sauce itself, plus a tangle of oyster mushrooms on top, melded with mild and creamy stracchino cheese. Oh, and they also have frozen cookie dough, if you really want to party. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Buy: Piccino ($17 to $22)

Casey’s Pizza frozen pizza Becky Duffett

The Best Pizza-and-Beer Buddy Pairing

Casey’s Pizza

Casey Crynes claims street cred as the first pizza truck in San Francisco, and now slings East Coast–style pies out of a permanent location in Mission Bay. The “mini” frozen pizzas are in fact the same size as other restaurant’s regular-sized pies, but perhaps that is small by East Coast standards? We’re talking 11 inches, enough for 1 to 2 people. It’s still a thin crust pizza, which came out crisp on the bottom, but maybe a touch thicker and fluffier on top, and that did help preserve texture on the reheat. My pizzas arrived without any instructions. Flipping back to and following the instructions on the website, I baked them at 450°F for 7 minutes. Crynes later reached out and said that he actually recommends 500°F for 9 minutes, ideally on a stone, and I agree, my cheese could have been just a touch meltier. The other fun detail is that this place is into beer, so they’re throwing together some combo packs. You can get a frozen pepperoni pizza and a four pack of brews, and they’re going to be local, and they’re going to be good. — Becky Duffett, reporter

Buy: Casey’s Pizza ($15 to $16 per pizza, $30 for the pizza-beer combo)

Arthur Mac’s frozen pizza Luke Tsai

The Kid-Friendliest Frozen Pizza

Arthur Mac’s Tap and Shack

The first thing to know about the Arthur Mac’s frozen pizzas is that they appear to be an entirely different style of pizza than the one the restaurant sells hot out of its brick oven — what comes in the vacuum-sealed bag is a thin-crusted, rectangular pie, as opposed to the thicker, crisp-bottomed, round variety it’s known for. Once baked off, per instructions, in a 450-degree oven, these pizzas eat a little like the kind of rustic, homemade pie you might make in the kitchen on your own. The combination of sauce, plentiful stretchy cheese, and slightly bready crust on the pepperoni pizza evoked childhood memories of Ellio’s, though not necessarily in a bad way: My two young kids both devoured several slices. Online, the only two topping options are cheese and pepperoni, but if you visit the North Oakland restaurant, there are usually a couple of more elaborate options. — Luke Tsai, food editor

Buy: Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack ($14.50 to $16.50, with an in-store buy-three-get-one-free deal)

Eve Batey

The Control Group

DiGiorno

Don’t @ me, but: prior to the pandemic, I’d never made a frozen pizza. When I was very young, one paid for convenience, and most frozen, prepared foods cost more than my family could afford...so, as I developed food shopping habits as a parsimonious adult, I steered clear of the frozen foods aisles in favor of the pasta/rice/bean aisles. That’s how I ended up at the Safeway and Church and Market, buying a “rising crust” and a “croissant crust” pizza (total: $13 bucks and change) to see how restaurant versions stacked up to the mass-market favorite. You won’t be surprised to hear that the restaurant pizzas tasted a hell of a lot better: more complex in flavor, fresher, and way less sweet. In a perfect world, we’d all support our local businesses and consume only quality ingredients, right? But, as someone whose days hustling to afford basic necessities are never far from mind, I can see why the $6.49 rising crust version (the croissant option is indefensible) is one of the company’s most popular pies. — Eve Batey, editor

Buy: Safeway ($3.67 to 6.49)

Del Popolo

855 Bush Street, , CA 94108 (415) 589-7940 Visit Website

Arthur Mac's Tap and Snack

4006 Martin Luther King Junior Way, , CA 94609 (510) 823-2509 Visit Website

Piccino

1001 Minnesota Street, , CA 94107 (415) 824-4224 Visit Website

Tony's Pizza Napoletana

1570 Stockton Street, , CA 94133 (415) 835-9888 Visit Website

Casey's Pizza

1170 4th Street, , CA 94158 (415) 814-2482 Visit Website

Pizzeria Delfina

3611 18th Street, , CA 94110 (415) 437-6800 Visit Website

Zero Zero

826 Folsom Street, , CA 94107 (415) 348-8800 Visit Website

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