During the surfing craze of 1959, Straw Hat Pizza presented a lighter version of the hearty Italian-American snack that caught on with the swimsuit set in San Leandro, a small town on San Francisco Bay. The crust's layers were flaky and crisp, and bubbling under a blend of six naturally-aged cheeses and spoonfuls of fresh sauce. Salad bars appeared at the chain a decade later, reflecting the epoch's free-love ethos that encouraged communion between animals and vegetables. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009, having come a long way from the quirky kitchen that slung beer, screened old-time movies, and showcased local banjo bands.
Today, the cold beer still flows from the bars at each location, and the menu now features pasta and Hot Hat sandwiches, pizza-dough pockets enveloping hearty fillings such as meatballs or roast beef. Tomatoes are hand-sorted to give sauce a consistent texture and full, ripe flavor, and wheat is grown according to Italian tradition, in volcanic soil or bowls of mom's pasta set at least 4,500 feet above sea level. Staying abreast of health and ecological concerns, the company manufactures boxes and napkins from recycled materials, and keeps trans fats out of its menu.
Each day, the chefs at Pepperoni's Pizza's eight locations crush premium tomatoes into sauces, roll out homemade dough, then cover the freshly baked pies with natural mozzarella. Diners can build their own creations from more than 30 toppings, including bacon bits and pineapples, or opt for more than 10 specialty pizzas such as the New Yorker, smothered with heaping amounts of sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. Their menu also sates hearty appetites with more than 20 oven-baked subs, as well as local favorites such as calzones and smokey BBQ Buffalo wings.
DoubleDave's Pizzaworks serves up an assortment of hearty, hand-tossed pizzas, Peproni rolls, stromboli, and more. Choose a pie from DoubleDave's selection of specialty pizzas ($19.99 for an 18", $15.99 for a 15", and $12.99 for a 12”)—the buffalo-chicken pizza outfits its surface area in mozzarella, chicken strips, wing sauce, and ranch dressing, while the duplicitous Dave's Fave offers carnivore-coaxing meatball and sausage or veggie-baiting tomato, garlic, and spinach variations on its olive oil, garlic, and oregano sauce base. Do-it-yourselfers are welcome to design their own pies ($10.99 for a 15", plus $1.59 per topping), choosing size, toppings, and the type of crust, and diners wishing to cram their cuisine into claustrophobic confines can opt for a half-dozen Peproni rolls ($7.99), with pepperoni and cheese wrapped into dough. Or escape the boot-shaped grip of the Mediterranean with a Philly cheesesteak stromboli ($10.99 for large, $5.99 for small).
Mazzei's menu is loaded with thin-crust (8"–16") and deep-dish (12"–16") pizzas. Gourmet specialty selections include the vegetarian ($7.50–$17.75) with sun-dried tomato and pesto sauce, zucchini, squash, Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, feta, and red onion. Quell hunger with the supreme pizza ($8.50–$22.00), loaded with Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and black and green olives. With close to 30 toppings to choose from, you can build your own pie ($6 to $14 base price, toppings range from $.35 to $3 each) that's custom made to your tastes. Mazzei's also offers a range of appetizers, salads, pastas, subs, and calzones, as well as an extensive beer and wine list.
At Bolli Bros. Pizza, brothers Kevin and Mark Bollinger pile their handmade dough with 100% whole-milk mozzarella and eclectic comfort-food combinations. They scoop gooey homemade macaroni and cheese onto crusts and shower the Bollisagna pizza with penne noodles, just as ancient Romans did to their most popular emperors. Other creative concoctions include the Frito Pie pizza weighed down with homemade chili, crunchy Fritos, cheddar, and mozzarella. Kevin and Mark continue their made-from-scratch concept with desserts, where cheesecake flavors such as Reese’s peanut butter and triple chocolate fill housemade graham-cracker crusts.