And the answer to this highly personal and much debated question, after much research, time and expense...... is....Pizzaiolo.
No, this was not unanimous. But it was almost was.
Here's where we stopped on our pizza tour yesterday (thank you to those who helped us map out our stop during the dead period from 4 to 5:30)
1) Focus on the pizza. No ordering other items off the menu until the last stop (# times rule broken: once, if you count multiple orders of the squid at Pizzaiolo "once". Well worth risking mutiny)
2) Order a margherita and "the best pizza you make" at each stop. (# times rule broken: once. Unavoidable. Chez Pannise does not make a margherita pizza)
3) Stay true to one "type"....not NY vs. CA but rather, no deep dish/chicago style, stuffed, etc. Thin crust pizza of varying styles ruled the day.
4) Pizza can be taken to go if not feasible to dine in but it must be eaten immediately (# times rule broken: once, because limo got lost en route to Dopo and the takeout pizza likely suffered as a result)
5) (unspoken) Do not throw up in the limo
Our Stops (in order):
1) Picco (to go: margherita and mushroom)
the 2 marin-ites were loyal but everyone else was underwhelmed and deemed this "not the best in the bay, michael bauer". The mushroom one needed a shot of salt. Agreed that if this was the neighborhood pizzeria, we'd all be psyched but not really worth long travels over bridges.
2) Chez Panisse (pizzetta w/chanterelles and leeks, pizza with riverdog farm sweet and hot peppers)
not really pizza but good. super buttery crust grew on most over time. really difficult to compare w/the others. not too shockingly, outstanding toppings (the mushroom and leek 'za humiliated Picco's version). many ranked this #2 or #3.
3) Gioia (pronounced Joy-Ya)(no dine in: formaggio, Radicchio w/pancetta, red onion and gorgonzola)
either loved it or hated it. few seemed fond of the incredibly rich (and not even close to passing the "paper towel test"....slices collasped on themselves almost immediately) yet also bitter radicchio but we liked will, the owner (?), despite his full fledged Yankee attire. I had flashbacks to this girl in high school who used to attack her slice with a paper napkin to remove the excess oil. One vote for #1 on the Formaggio ("Down with all this flatbread sh*t") but otherwise, this was dubbed "awesome 2 am drunk pizza" (we ate it around 4:30 in the afternoon).
4) Pizzaiolo (margherita with mozzarella di bufola, pizzaiolo, which had salami, red onion, riccota and
olive on that day)
Crust perfection. Worth the trip across the bay, and the hellish drive back to the city at prime time Saturday evening. We now understand the lines that for prior to opening and were lucky enough to take over the bar for 1/2 hour as we downed the pizzas and a few orders of the squid. This got the most #1 votes and frankly, was the place that tempted most of us to say "screw the crawl, let's stay here".
5) Dopo (to go: margherita, sausage and green garlic)
Had high hopes for the crust here too but this one really disappointed everyone. Nobody could taste the green garlic (where did they find it in December, someone asked) and the za's were pretty well done and overtly spicy. I'd go back and give it another shot b/c really, the drive took 25 min vs. the 2.5 min it should have taken (and we based our order on). Maybe not only the limo momentarily lost it's way, but we did as well, as I overheard comments like "the problem with the rankings is that I'm just really sick of pizza now" (thus leading to fantasies about other crawls we could do...squid crawls, bbq pork crawls....) and "I want to take a nap or go to the bathroom and right now, I can't do either".
6) Tomasso's (to go: margherita, spinach and parmesean)
"I'm pleasantly surprised as I thought this would be garbage", quipped one participant. I found it too chewy and doughy. The general consensus, if they deliver, it's a go. If I gotta park in North Beach, not worth it.
7) A16 (Marinara, Marg. w/Proscuitto, Bianca w/Boar Sausage added)
Only half the crew made it here (so you ask, why 3 pizzas? Good question. I'll leave out the part about the apps and short ribs).
I was pretty excited to compare A16 to Pizzaiolo. I have to say, and this is total personal taste obviously, A16 has the best sauce. I mostly stuck to the Marinara as I was done with rich. The sauce may be too sweet for some people but I think it's great. I love this pizza and it's more accessible to me than Pizzaiolo. At the end of the day, you can't go wrong with either and frankly, the only pizza we had that people (on the margin) thought was NOT GOOD was the raddicchio one from Gioia...and that was more the selection of toppings vs. the technique or quality of the joint.
I think the ideal pie would be A16's tomato sauce on Pizzaiolo's crust.
We could not muster the appetite or energy to hit Pizzeria Delfina or Paulines...another day.
The link below provides the addresses and websites of everywhere we went- Lauriston was not a participant but hope he doesn't mind using his page as a reference here!