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6 top pizza places in Southern California

Americans love pizza. In fact, we eat 3 billion pies a year. To satisfy that craving, here are 6 places in Southern California that dish up excellent pizzas.

Convivo

901 E. Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara. 805-845-6789; convivorestaurant.com 

Pizza served at Convivo

Photo by Chuck Place

Located in the Santa Barbara Inn across from the palm tree–lined ocean, Convivo has carved out a loyal local following. Chef and co-owner Peter McNee describes the seasonal menu as “nomad Italian,” using Italy as home base to explore flavors from Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Middle East. Servers ferry flatbreads and pizzas from the wood-fired oven, house-made pastas, fresh crudo and salads, and roasted seafood and meats in the casually sophisticated dining room and on the heated patio. Though the menu changes often, you might start with Santa Barbara uni, harvested just a seashell’s throw away. The spit-roasted chicken is a standout. Save room for a chocolate caramel bar with house-made salted caramel gelato. —Nancy Ransohoff

Leonardo’s Ristorante and Pizzeria

632 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang. 805-686-0846; leonardoscucina.com

Pizza served at Leonardo

Photo by Chuck Place

Chef Leonardo Curti has a lot of well-fed fans from his 20-plus years as co-owner of Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez. They’ve now followed him to his new place just a few miles away. They come for the family-style atmosphere and the consistently excellent Italian food that includes comforting pastas, fresh fish and veal, and pizza served piping hot from a gas- and wood-burning pizza oven. Swing by for a late lunch after wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley (Leonardo’s is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner) and try the beautiful New York grilled steak with arugula, tomato, red onions, and pecorino. Dinner mainstays include the tender and tasty veal scaloppine and Penne Leonardo’s with sausage and mushrooms in a tomato cream sauce with truffle oil. —Nancy Ransohoff

Dough Girl

16851 Victory Boulevard, Van Nuys. 818-373-7300; doughgirl.pizza

Pizza served at Dough Girl

Photo by Vanessa Stump

Owner Mar Diego worked her way up from the projects and a stay in a penitentiary to create this pizza shop that has a higher purpose: to rehabilitate troubled youths by giving them jobs and responsibilities. Some have criminal records and addictions; others have mental health challenges. Many come from broken homes, and a few are homeless. Diego learned how to make pizza when she apprenticed at restaurants in Rome, and she finessed her skills while working in New York pizzerias. At Dough Girl, the pizzas are a New York–meets–Southern California hybrid that utilize fresh, never-frozen ingredients and hand-sliced mozzarella cheese. The vegan pepperoni and sausages are house-made. Best sellers include The Mobster, with lobster sauce and tiger shrimp, and the Animal-Style, a thin pie piled high with french fries and American cheddar. Diego’s mentees help dream up other concoctions, such as ravioli pizza, that add a humorous touch to Dough Girl’s eclectic menu. —Eddie Lin

Pizza Romana

615 N. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles. 323-939-1148; pizzaromana.com

Pizza fresh from the oven at Pizza Romana

Photo by Vanessa Stump

That pizza is second only to tacos as the frugal food lover’s friend is a surprise to no Angeleno. The challenge lies in finding a pizzeria that has the perfect mix of quality, value, and atmosphere, and Pizza Romana nails it. Located on La Brea in the happening heart of L.A., it’s a bustling, subway-tile–bedecked, authentically Roman place that ferments its dough the proper way, tops it with organic, sometimes-homegrown ingredients, and bakes it just right in an Italian oven, so it comes out a little chewy, a little puffy, and with a whole lot of flavor. Best of all, pizzas start at just $9; the superb one with butternut squash, leeks, and bacon chunks is a mere $12. Gluten-free pizzas cost an extra $2. Also on the menu are such sides as roasted vegetables for just $6, a delicious grilled Caesar for $10, and terrific Italian wines by the glass for $9. You’ll order at the counter but get proper silverware and cloth napkins and service by an exceptionally attentive staff, and you’ll be surrounded by groups of vivacious, gorgeous young folks who look like an updated, more diverse version of the Friends cast. —Colleen Dunn Bates

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana

101 N. Harbor Boulevard, Fullerton. 714-626-0727; fuocopizza.com

Fuoco Pizza Napoletana

Photo by Alan de Herrera

At Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana, it’s all about the crust. The restaurant’s Neapolitan pizza crust strikes that rare balance between overly airy and densely chewy, the crust just substantial enough to support a handful of toppings without overwhelming them. The affumicata pizza smolders with the taste of a summer barbecue, pairing smoked mozzarella with umami-rich roasted mushrooms and bright basil. The diavola brings a bit more heat—spicy salame is made even more devilish by crushed red pepper. And the namesake Fuoco pizza is a tomato-free alternative, with prosciutto, arugula, Parmesan, and truffle oil. For dessert, try the Nutellamisu: lady fingers soaked in hazelnut espresso and layered with vanilla cream, Nutella and hazelnuts. —Miles Clements

Officine Buona Forchetta

2865 Sims Road, San Diego (in Liberty Station). 619-548-5770; officinebuonaforchetta.com

Pizza served at Officine

Photo by Rob Andrew

The clever name of Officine Buona Forchetta, an auto-themed place, translates clumsily as “Body Shop Good Fork.” Two prominent local chef-restaurateurs have endowed this lively, breezy restaurant with a vast menu. Guests hungry for pizza have seven varieties and a total of 47 pies from which to choose. Besides daily ravioli and pasta specials, there are mix-and-match options with five pasta types and seven sauces. Meat dishes include a crisp veal chop Milanese and a massive Florence-style T-bone for two. Some desserts entertain, notably the Moka Mi Su, a creamy tiramisu variant served alongside an enameled espresso pot. —David Nelson

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