The dough wizards at Papa John's create circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
Much like the bird that bears its name - if that bird had opposable thumbs and a penchant for Italian food - Eagle Pizzeria serves up gooey pizzas alongside other Italian favorites. At the casual eatery, framed photos of baseball stars, newspaper clippings, and other sports memorabilia pack the butter-yellow walls, as patrons nosh on pesto bread over red and white checked tablecloths while perusing a menu that includes everything from hot sandwiches to spaghetti with baby clams. Hand-rolled dough, made fresh every day, bakes into a crispy crust that's covered in whole milk mozzarella and specially blended tomato sauce. Specialty pizzas cater to carnivores with a meat lovers' pizza - topped with six meats - and travel the world with Greek toppings such as olives and feta or Hawaiian toppings such as bell peppers and pineapple. Gluten-free crusts are also available.
Pizza Express bakers love working in front of a crowd. The restaurant's pizza-making station sits directly in front of the storefront window, giving customers an up-close look at how each pie is made. With passerby watching, bakers knead and toss dough before smothering it with zesty tomato sauce and blanketing it with mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, black olives, and peppers. Such a spectacle can inspire ravenous cravings for a slice. And though the restaurant specializes in take-out and delivery orders, customers can always take a seat at one of the restaurant's tables to grab a quick bite or eat half of a take-out order and then later explain to the family that the box ate it.
On a charming corner in Noe Valley, the black awning of neighborhood favorite Basso's Restaurant draws guests inside, where they watch chefs pull the crackling crusts of Napolitana-style pizzas from ovens in an open-concept kitchen. Whole-milk mozzarella bubbles on each pie before diners decorate it with toscana salami, organic green-apple slices, or festive tinsel. House-made meatballs, which use beef from the humane farm Niman Ranch, sit inside toasted sandwiches, stand next to forkfuls of spaghetti, or arrive à la carte as sides.
Papa Murphy's Take 'n' Bake Pizza was born out of the owner's frustration with bad pizza from chains, which often tasted as if every ingredient was canned or frozen. Deciding to change the industry, Papa Murphy's tosses every ingredient, all of which are never frozen, onto the crust in front of the customer's eyes and sends them home to bake in a home oven. This dedication to fresh flavor earned Papa Murphy's the top spot on Zagat's National Chain survey.
Visitors can create their own take on the pizza pie or chomp into one of his signature pizzas, which range from meat-filled stuffed crust to calorie-conscious lite varieties covered in vegetables. His appetizers and desserts follow the same pattern. Customers order raw cookie dough or cheesy bread ripe for the baking, resulting in every course being fresh from the oven.
Panhandle Pizza's cozy, elegantly unadorned setting betrays a complexity of aromas hinting at both traditional Italian and creatively vegan flavors. The cheerful kitchen staff lobs made-to-order dough into slices or whole pizzas, including Panhandle Specialties that take such daring topping chances as clams and corn. Vegan choices keep meat-and-cheese dodgers safely in the clear, and the unpretentious pizzeria's use of the Eat24 online order system ensures pies reach their purchasers promptly, in tact, and literally through a computer screen.