Whether you’re escaping harsh winter or a muggy summer, San Diego is the perfect climate year-round and a top destination for everything outdoors. Its spectacular location along the Pacific coastline, replete with severe ocean cliffs, giant waves, and dazzling sunsets makes San Diego every surfer, hiker, nature lover, and outdoorsman’s dream come true.
California dreaming brought me to San Diego for fun in the sun as I explored the many amazing natural and cultural attractions. Marveling at the seals basking in the sun at La Jolla Cove, wandering around the iconic Balboa Park, and lounging in the sun at Coronado beach are among the highlights of my trip.
My tour of San Diego’s pizza restaurants was also a huge success. I found the best pizza in San Diego in a multitude of styles from New York to Italian to Chicago.
111 Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103
Bronx Pizza has been a Hillcrest neighborhood slice shop and pizzeria since 1997, providing friendly service and award-winning New York-style thin-crust pizza.
The Bronx crew strives to bring the East coast local slice shop vibe to the west coast and has succeeded with flying colors, garnering awards for the best pizza and the best small business in San Diego from local and national publications.
As per New York-style pizzerias go, you can find a variety of slices to grab a quick bite, build your own whole pie, or choose from a selection of specialty pies. They also have build-your-own calzones and a selection of salads. I recommend their Bronx Deluxe with pepperoni, sausage, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, black olives, and garlic.
3077 North Park Way, San Diego, CA 92104
Tribute Pizza deems their food Neo-Neapolitan, a fusion of Neapolitan and New York-style pizzas that use locally sourced ingredients from the weekly farmers market located just next door in the historic North Park neighborhood.
The dining space is located inside a renovated 1950s Post Office building that retains its old signage and structural skeleton, making for a cool industrial-chic décor.
The menu at Tribute changes according to seasonal availability and includes small plates, seasonal salads, desserts, and of course their unique pizzas that draw from various baking and preparation techniques. There’s also a full list of locally brewed beer and classic cocktails to enjoy with your meal.
3001 Beech St, San Diego, CA 92102
Founded by owner Matteo Cattaneo, Buona Forchetta is an authentic Italian eatery that started as a modest restaurant in the South Park neighborhood that blossomed into an award-winning San Diego staple. Buona Forchetta still has a friendly, local feel while also offering the most gourmet and beautifully presented Italian food in town.
The centerpiece of the restaurant is the massive wood-fired oven that delivers the most authentic Neapolitan pizzas topped with a myriad of colorful ingredients sourced from California’s local bounty.
Along with dozens of pizza creations, there are amazing antipasti and house-made equally delicious pasta dishes. I went with the most authentic fried pizza Amanda with provolone, ricotta, and prosciutto.
With locations in the North Park, Imperial Beach, and Golden Hill neighborhoods, Pizzeria Luigi is a trendy, family-friendly New York-style pizzeria and slice shop. Each location has a fun, quirky décor in a colorful building with great outdoor patios for dining alfresco. Welcoming staff and cheap prices make Pizzeria Luigi a hit with locals.
Along with authentic thin-crust New York-style pizzas, you can get stromboli, calzones, salads, and some seriously delicious pasta with homemade sauces like Bolognese and peso.
They also have a selection of veggie and vegan pies sans cheese or using vegan cheese substitutes. My favorite pie is the Sports Bar with potato, bacon, cheddar, sour cream, and green onions.
Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria delivers the best Chicago-style pan pizza along with other classic Chicago favorites like Chicago-style hot dogs and beef sandwiches in a friendly, family-oriented restaurant and pub. Located in the Mission Hills neighborhood, Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria is family-owned and operated and offers every type of Chicago-inspired dish from pizza to pasta to Polish sausages.
They offer three types of pizza: deep dish, thin-crust, and stuffed pizza. The stuffed pizza is what I imagine when I think of Chicago pizza, a colossal layering of toppings, cheese, and chunky tomato sauce surrounded by a thick, dense crust.
It’s the definition of a pizza pie. I recommend the stuffed Monster of the Midway pie with sausage, pepperoni, hot giardiniera, and elephant garlic.
845 15th St #501, San Diego, CA 92101
Located right across from the famous Petco Park, Basic Bar and Pizza is a cool brewpub and pizzeria in a unique industrial-chic space with high-beamed, wooden ceilings, exposed brick walls, and stainless steel and wood tables.
Basic is a fantastic pizzeria for lunch and dinner, then converts into a nightclub and cocktail bar after 10. Families can come for a pre or post-game lunch or dinner, and young adults can enjoy craft cocktails to a great soundtrack after hours.
Basic serves New Haven-style thin crust pizza with the highest quality ingredients and gourmet assembly. I loved the pear and gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts to start. My favorite specialty pizza is the J Street white pie with mozzarella, chicken, bacon, sun-dried tomato, and pesto.
Owned and operated by Executive Chef and Italian native Massimo Tenino, Isola Pizza Bar is a Neapolitan pizzeria and traditional Italian restaurant named for Chef Tenino’s Nonna Isola. Using his Nonna’s simple and classic cooking as inspiration, Isola Pizza Bar serves award-winning Italian fare to the La Jolla and Little Italy neighborhoods of San Diego.
Voted Best Pizza and Diner’s Choice Award, Isola’s pizza is as authentic as Neapolitan pizza gets. Each restaurant uses a wood-fired oven imported directly from Naples. Their small plates like melon and prosciutto and their house-made pasta are also excellent options.
It was hard to pick a favorite pizza from the wealth of incredible options, but I loved the arugula con l’uovo pizza with mozzarella, parmigiano, panna, truffle oil, a farm egg, arugula, and crispy pancetta.
897 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
Located in the beautiful Encinitas neighborhood, Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizzeria is an upscale wood-fired pizzeria and wine bar owned and operated by seasoned chef Wade Hageman and his wife Kristi. Chef Hageman has manned the pizza oven from his modest beginnings in a Southern Italian pizza joint to a five-diamond Wolfgang Puck restaurant.
Blue Ribbon’s inviting atmosphere and delicious menu of small plates, pizza, local beers, and the wonderful wine list have won acclaim in the San Diego Eater. I recommend starting with the crispy three-cheese ravioli with roasted tomato sauce and deep-fried brussels sprouts with bacon and capers to start while you savor a delicious glass of house wine.
My favorite pizza was the New Stinking Rose with tomato sauce, roasted and fresh garlic, Italian sausage, and arugula pesto.
Ambrogio 15 is the creation of Milan transplants and close friends Luca, Giacomo, and Andrea who studied and worked together in San Diego before deciding to quit their corporate jobs to pursue their dreams of bringing Milan to San Diego.
Their hard work paid off with a highly successful concept pizzeria with three thriving locations in the Pacific Beach, Little Italy, and Del Mar neighborhoods. The pizza at Ambrogio15 is a unique trifecta of super-thin crust, whole wheat thicker crust, and cloud focaccia crust.
Whichever you choose is bound to be delicious, but their signature is the paper-thin crust pizza. I loved the Nduja Mozzarella di Bufala, and Porchetta pizza with red onions and arugula.
3416 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Known comically as BLAH, Blind Lady Ale House is a pizzeria and beer bar in the Normal Heights neighborhood and a popular hangout spot to grab a house-brewed artisanal beer and listen to great music.
Every Thursday is Jazz night and every Friday is Vinyl Slices with a different 3 hour DJ set each week. The pizza at BLAH is Neapolitan-style pizza with both traditional and fusion specialty pies. They also make pizzas with nut-based cheeses and soy meats for vegetarians and vegans.
I loved their Mexican-style House Chorizo pie with house-made chorizo, poblano chili, fontina, Epazote, cotija cheese, and tomato sauce with chunks of avocado added.
3933 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Located in the heart of the North Park neighborhood, Caffe Calabria is a coffee roaster, coffee house, cocktail bar, and authentic Neapolitan pizzeria all in one!
You can enjoy the freshest coffee and espresso drinks every day of the week, but from Wednesday through Sunday, Caffe Calabria transforms into a cocktail bar and Italian eatery, giving you the full Italian culinary experience.
The bright and bustling atmosphere creates a warm and lively atmosphere to enjoy a coffee date by day and a social night of drinks and pizza by night. The custom-built wood-fired oven delivers authentic thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizzas that use imported Italian ingredients.
My favorite pizza was the Cotto e Funghi pizza with organic San Marzano tomatoes, mushrooms, grana, mozzarella, fior di latte, ricotta, and prosciutto cotto.
505 Laurel St, San Diego, CA 92101
Cucina Urbana is a high-end Italian eatery and wine shop in the Bankers Hill neighborhood directly in front of San Diego’s iconic Balboa Park. Cucina Urbana’s colorful, contemporary, yet cozy interior creates a wonderful atmosphere for date nights and family-style get-togethers.
They source all their ingredients and wines from local farms and wineries to create a farm-to-table Italian meal. The menu at Cucina Urbana is a multi-course Italian meal featuring small plates, salads, pizza, pasta, and entrees.
Their Italian Chopped salad was the most beautifully colorful display of California produce I saw on my trip. I also loved the short rib pappardelle with cremini mushrooms. Their pizzas are Neapolitan-style for sharing. I enjoyed the calabrese salami, pineapple habanero jam, provolone dolce, red onion, and arugula pizza.
2707 Congress Street #1p, San Diego, CA 92110
Located just East of San Diego’s historic Old Town, Pizza Bella Italian Bistro is a family-friendly, casual New York-style pizzeria and Italian kitchen. Its dining room has stucco textured walls lined with Old-world Italian paintings for a rustic, countryside vibe in a friendly atmosphere.
The extensive menu features a long list of pasta, salads, Italian sandwiches, appetizers, and New York-Italian-style desserts like cannoli and cheesecake.
I loved their Kitchen Sink pizza, a New York thin-crust round with mixed red and pesto sauces, chopped pepperoni, Italian sausage, red onion, green deli olives, jalapenos, ricotta and feta, fresh basil, and pineapple. Trust me, it somehow melds together perfectly.
The Venetian Restaurant is a family-owned and operated Italian restaurant serving the Point Loma neighborhood since 1965. With 55 years in San Diego, The Venetian Restaurant is the quintessential mom-and-pop family-friendly Italian restaurant.
Their heaping plates of classic Italian dishes like lasagna, veal parmesan, and shrimp scampi are the height of Italian comfort food. They have a great selection of thin-crust pies and the classic square Sicilian pizza with a denser crust.
I loved their thin crust Genovese pizza with pesto, roasted garlic, caramelized scallops, prosciutto, pine nuts, and a blend of cheeses.
4046 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Located in the North Park neighborhood, Sicilian Thing Pizza is a friendly, casual New-York style slice shop specializing in deep-pan, square-shaped Sicilian-style pies. It’s also a classic slice shop, with a glass counter displaying a variety of round thin-crust pies cut into enormous slices for a quick lunch on the go.
I was personally stoked about this pizzeria because the thick square Sicilian is my favorite style of pizza. They also have stromboli, subs, salads, and local craft beers on tap. My favorite Sicilian pie was the Almost Lasagna with red sauce, ricotta cheese, and meatballs.
4150 Regents Park Row #100, La Jolla, CA 92037
Regents Pizzeria is a gargantuan 150-seat pizza warehouse and beer pub in the beautiful La Jolla neighborhood. Originally a failing restaurant, Regents Pizzeria became a local phenomenon after the late and great Chef Stephen Carson took over as owner and chef.
Regents Pizzeria has a bustling family-friendly atmosphere with a massive beer list and your favorite styles of American pizza from Chicago to New York.
The menu is as massive as the beer list, with appetizers, salads, pasta, sandwiches, hot fried chicken, and pizza from around the U.S. You can get both New York and Chicago-style pizza by the slice at Regents, so I recommend trying a slice of each.
I had the New York slice of hot sopressata slice with homemade marinara spicy Italian salami fresh oregano and parmesan. For the Chicago-style, I had the Popeye with aged mozzarella, spinach, artichoke hearts, ricotta, parmesan, and marinara.
1827 India St, San Diego, CA 92101
Located in Little Italy, Landini’s Pizzeria is a family-owned and operated New York-style pizzeria. Owner Leo Landini hails from Florence, Italy, while his wife and co-owner Christine Landini is a San Diego native.
Their thin-crust pizza, wings, salads, and paninis are affordable and delicious California-takes on a New York tradition. The most popular dishes at Landini’s are the chicken wings and plain cheese pizza, but they have plenty of specialty pies with various sauces for more adventurous eaters.
I enjoyed the Arrabbiata pizza with spicy red sauce, thinly sliced red onions, and a light sprinkle of Parmigiano. I also enjoyed the Rustica with a mozzarella blend and crispy brussels sprouts.