The scene: Pizza is one of America’s favorite comfort foods, and there are thousands of pizzerias, good and bad, dotting the nation’s cities and highways. Great American Bites has been to a lot of the most famous and highly rated pizzerias from coast to coast, but I have proclaimed one single San Francisco establishment, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, to be the nation’s best pizzeria.
Tony Gemignani was the first American to win the title of world champion pizza maker at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, but he goes way beyond traditional Neapolitan pizza and creates delicious versions of the most popular global styles, all under one roof. His temple to pizza-making has seven different ovens – including coal, wood, gas and electric, at temperatures from 550 to 1,000 degrees – all so he can turn out authentic versions of nine distinctly different regional pizza styles.
There is nothing quite like Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, but second place in the pantheon of amazingly varied and delicious pizza in a single spot belongs to Pizza Rock, Gemignani’s more laid-back chain. Pizza Rock is a lot easier to get into than the perennially jammed Tony’s, with three locations and about a dozen of the streamlined Slice House versions. Layouts and menus vary slightly by location, but the Downtown Las Vegas flagship is representative, offering eight styles of pizza made in four different ovens.
The very accessible flagship is just a block off Fremont Street, the pedestrianized main drag in downtown, and is open for lunch, dinner and late night. There’s a Slice House in front where you can grab individual slices to go or sit at a few bar stools. A couple of large dining rooms lead back to a big circular bar with seats, and more tables beyond that. With lots of reconfigurable tables, it is set up to accommodate large groups, which is great because the many styles of pizza are best shared.
In keeping with the music theme, the soundtrack is classic rock and the menus are presented inside old LP album covers. A tractor-trailer cab parked in the middle of the space serves as DJ booth on weekend nights.
Besides Downtown Vegas, there are Pizza Rock locations at the Green Valley Ranch casino resort in suburban Henderson, Nevada, and in downtown Sacramento, California. Forthcoming locations are rumored to include another Vegas suburb and Arizona. There is also a Slice House in the Green Valley Ranch food court, as well as several locations throughout greater San Francisco and several within Oracle Park, where the Giants play. The Slice Houses all offer up a very wide variety of New York-style, Detroit-style and Sicilian pizza by the slice, and special slices of the day in eclectic styles.
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