California Style Pizza

While most associate New York or Chicago with the finest pizza, those who know will tell you that some of the best pies come from an unlikely source: California. 

Growing up in Southern California, we thought the assembly line-style pizza chains were as good as they got. However, after moving north to San Francisco for college and exploring the diverse culinary scene, we discovered an entirely new style of pie that made us question everything we ever thought we knew about pizza. 

Thin crust doesn’t always have to mean dry and lackluster – in fact, some of the crispiest, most flavorful crusts we’ve ever had have come from the California style, with its creative toppings, vibrant sauces, and wood-fired cooking that elevates every bite. 

In this blog post, we’ll introduce all of you to California-style pizza. So let’s dig in!

What Is California-Style Pizza?

what is california style pizza

California-style pizza is a type of pizza that originated in California in the 1980s. It is typically known for its use of non-traditional toppings, creative flavor combinations, and a thin crust that is baked to perfection in a wood-fired oven. 

Unlike traditional Italian or New York-style pizzas, California Style Pizzas often feature ingredients like roasted vegetables, fresh herbs, artisanal cheeses, and gourmet meats. 

The result is a unique and delicious pizza experience that has gained popularity not only in California but also across the United States and beyond.

Origins Of California Style Pizza

The origins of California Style Pizza can be traced back to chefs Alice Waters and Ed LaDou. In the 1980s, both were experimenting with creating unique flavor combinations using fresh, locally sourced ingredients in their cooking. 

LaDou was hired by Waters to work at her famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, where he began experimenting with pizza toppings and crusts, ultimately leading to the creation of his pizza concept called “California Pizza”. 

The idea quickly caught on, and other pizzerias in California started creating their versions of this style. Eventually, the trend spread across the country and even internationally, solidifying California’s place as a leader in innovative and delicious pizza.

What Makes California-Style Pizza Become Special?

Next, let’s take a closer look at what sets California Style Pizza apart from other styles.

1. Locally-Sourced Ingredients: One of the key characteristics of California Style Pizza is the use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Chefs take pride in using produce and meats that are grown and raised nearby, resulting in a more flavorful and sustainable pizza.

2. Non-Traditional Toppings: As mentioned before, California Style Pizza often features non-traditional toppings like roasted vegetables, fresh herbs, gourmet cheeses, and unique sauces. This allows for a wide range of flavor combinations and a more diverse eating experience.

3. Thin, Crispy Crust: Unlike the thick, doughy crusts found in other styles of pizza, California Style Pizzas have a thin crust that is crispy and full of flavor. This is achieved through baking the pies in a wood-fired oven at high temperatures, resulting in a perfectly cooked and delicious crust.

4. Wood-Fired Cooking: The use of a wood-fired oven is another defining characteristic of California Style Pizza. This method of cooking imparts a smoky and charred flavor to the pizza, adding depth and complexity to each bite.

5. Light, Balanced Flavors:  California Style Pizza is all about balance – each ingredient works together to create a harmonious and well-rounded flavor profile. This means that no one topping or sauce overpowers the others, resulting in a light and delicious pizza experience.

California Style Pizza may have originated on the West Coast, but its popularity has spread far and wide for good reason. With its use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, unique toppings and sauces, thin and crispy crust, wood-fired cooking methods, and balanced flavors, it’s no wonder that this style has become a favorite among pizza lovers everywhere. 

So the next time you’re craving a slice of pizza that’s anything but ordinary, give California-style pizza a try – your taste buds will thank you!

Where To Buy California-Style Pizza?

While California Style Pizza can be found in many pizzerias across the country, there are a few notable spots that have become synonymous with this style. 

Here are some recommended places to try if you want to experience the best of California Style Pizza:

1. Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles, CA): Owned by celebrity chefs Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali, this pizzeria is known for its delicious California-style pies.

2. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (San Francisco, CA): This pizzeria offers a variety of styles including Neapolitan and New York, but their California Style Pizza is not to be missed.

3. Ken’s Artisan Pizza (Portland, OR): Known for its wood-fired pizzas, this spot serves up a variety of unique and delicious California-style pies.

4. Il Forno (Brooklyn, NY): Although not located in California, this Brooklyn pizzeria has gained a reputation for its tasty California Style Pizzas made with fresh ingredients and a crispy crust.

5. Spago:  (Beverly Hills, CA): This upscale restaurant owned by renowned chef Wolfgang Puck is credited with popularizing California Style Pizza and continues to serve up delicious pies in a sleek and modern atmosphere.

6. Chez Panisse:  (Berkeley, CA): Last but not least, the restaurant where it all began – Chez Panisse. Stop by to experience one of the original California Style Pizzas and taste a piece of pizza history.

7. California Pizza Kitchen:  If you can’t make it to any of the above locations, fear not – California Pizza Kitchen has locations across the country and offers a variety of delicious California Style Pizzas that are sure to satisfy your cravings.

No matter where you choose to enjoy it, one thing is for sure – once you try California Style Pizza, you’ll never go back to plain old pepperoni again!

Ingredients Used On California Style Pizza

As mentioned before, California Style Pizza is all about using fresh and locally sourced ingredients to create unique and flavorful pies. Here are some common toppings and sauces used in this style of pizza:

1. Roasted Vegetables: From bell peppers to eggplant to mushrooms, roasted vegetables add a delicious depth of flavor to California Style Pizzas.

2. Fresh Herbs: Chefs love to use fresh herbs like basil, oregano, and thyme to add a pop of freshness to their pizzas.

3. Gourmet Cheeses: From creamy mozzarella to tangy goat cheese, California Style Pizza often features a variety of gourmet cheeses that take the flavor profile up a notch.

4. Unique Sauces: Instead of traditional tomato sauce, California Style Pizzas may feature sauces like pesto, BBQ sauce, or even salsa for a unique and delicious twist.

5. Locally-Sourced Meats: For meat lovers, California Style Pizza offers a variety of options such as locally-raised chicken, prosciutto, or spicy sausage to top off their pies.

6. Artisanal Bread Crumbs: Another unique ingredient commonly found in California Style Pizzas is artisanal bread crumbs, which add a crispy and flavorful texture to the pizza.

7. Fresh Fruits: Yes, you read that right – some California Style Pizzas even feature fresh fruits like figs, peaches, or apples for a surprising but delicious flavor combination.

With such a diverse range of ingredients used in California Style Pizza, there truly is something for every taste bud to enjoy.

How To Make California-Style Pizza?

homemade california style pizza

Some people might want to try making their own California Style Pizza at home. While it may seem intimidating, it’s quite simple. Here’s a basic recipe to get you started:

– Step 1: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

– Step 2: Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick.

– Step 3: Place the rolled-out dough onto a baking sheet or pizza stone.

– Step 4: Spread your choice of sauce over the dough, leaving about an inch border around the edges.

– Step 5: Evenly distribute mozzarella cheese over the sauce.

– Step 6: Add your choice of toppings, making sure not to overload the pizza.

– Step 7: Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

– Step 8: Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Feel free to experiment with different toppings and sauces to create your own unique California Style Pizza. And don’t forget to pair it with a glass of local wine or craft beer for the ultimate West Coast experience.

Tips For Making a Delicious California-Style Pizza

Although the instructions are quite  simple, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when making California Style Pizza including: 

1. Use fresh ingredients whenever possible for the best flavors.

2. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your toppings and sauces – that’s what makes California Style Pizza

3. Don’t overload your pizza with toppings – less is more when it comes to California Style Pizza.

4. Preheat your oven and baking sheet or pizza stone to ensure a crispy crust.

5. Invest in a pizza peel to easily transfer the pizza onto and off of the hot surface.

6. Use fresh herbs as a finishing touch for added freshness and flavor.

7. Let your pizza cool for a few minutes before slicing to avoid burning your mouth with the hot cheese and toppings.

By following these tips, you’ll be sure to create a delicious California Style Pizza that will rival any restaurant’s version. Enjoy!


In conclusion, now you know lots of interesting things about California-style pizza. California Style Pizza may have originated in one small Berkeley restaurant, but it has since become a beloved and iconic dish enjoyed across the country. 

With its fresh and flavorful ingredients, crispy crust, and endless possibilities for toppings, it’s no wonder why this unique style of pizza has gained so much popularity. Whether you prefer to dine out at one of the original California Style Pizza restaurants or try your hand at making it at home, one thing is for sure – you’ll never look at pizza the same way again. 

So go ahead and give it a try, and discover why California Style Pizza truly is a tasty slice of West Coast culture!

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