Everything You Need To Know About California-Style Pizza

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California also boasts of its pizza. You have probably never heard of California-style pizza unless you are a westerner in the united states.

You can hardly think of California cuisine without the California style pizza coming up.

This pizza is trendy on the western coast, and it is quite remarkable. But where did this special pizza come from?

Origin of California style pizza

California style pizza is an invention of two famous restaurateurs named Alice Waters and Ed LaDou in the 1980s. Ed LaDou worked in Cow Hollow in San Francisco at a restaurant called Prego.

LaDou had learned the art of pizza making while still a teen. He worked in a New York-style pizza restaurant in the 70s in Mountain View. Later he worked at Ecco before moving to Prego.

LaDou’s role at Prego was the pizza chef and was tasked with experimenting and creating different pizza styles. LaDou liked putting toppings like clams and eggplant on pizza. He would then serve the guests of these new pizza dishes.

Before 1980, people cringed at the idea of having anything green on a pizza. Putting broccoli, eggplant, pineapples, or even kale was unheard of. Americans could not even begin to imagine the thought of eggs or chicken on a pizza. No one had tried goat cheese on a pizza before.

However, with the 80s, California cuisine started taking off. Alice Waters was the head chef at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. She headed a team of pizza chefs. One of her favorite restaurants was Tommasso’s Italian Restaurant, located in San Francisco and had the first wood-fired pizza oven in 1935.

One time Alice Waters visited Italy and came up with the idea of having a new kitchen above the dining area in her restaurant. Before long, Chez Panisse, her restaurant, was known for customizing Italian pizzas to be more Californian. This brought about a viral effect.

Gradually Chez Panisse became more popular in the bay area, thanks to Waters. Coincidentally, chef Wolfgang Puck and his girlfriend Barbara Lazaroff visited LaDou’s restaurant, where he served him one of his experimental pizzas. This pizza had unusual toppings like mustard, ricotta, pate, and red peppers.

Wolfgang Puck was so impressed by LaDou’s genius that he later hired him at his soon-to-be-open restaurant in Hollywood. The restaurant was called Spago. Because Puck encouraged LaDou’s genius, LaDou developed over 250 pizza recipes while working at Spago.

In 1982, Spago grew so much and became the spot for many celebrities and executives in Beverly Hills. It served exclusive dishes, and different California pizzas were some of them. This restaurant was only associated with the elite. This made LaDou very popular.

LaDou’s contribution to the spread of California-style pizza

When Ed LaDou joined Spago, it became a success. After Spago’s success, copycats kept trying to copy the California style pizza, but most people found this pizza quite snobby and unattainable. This made the California pizza stay in Hollywood.

In 1985, Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax approached LaDou and coaxed him to contribute to the development of the California pizza kitchen menu. This menu included familiar pizza types. In addition to this, he also included new pizza dishes like barbecue chicken pizza and Thai chicken pizza.

This was strange as no one had ever put the chicken on pizza before that. BBQ chicken pizza also had barbecue sauce instead of the usual marinara sauce.

Thai Chicken pizza had roasted garlic and peanut sauce. This fired up the spread of California-style pizza as it became more available.

Suddenly the whole of California wanted to be part of the new trend. Pizzerias started incorporating California-style pizza in their menus. California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) was quick to take advantage of this and became the primary ambassador of this pizza style. They quickly established spots in malls all over the United States.

LaDou later went ahead to help with menus for other restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe and  Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza is one of the most popular spots for California pizza style pizza.

The style

In the 90s, Americans became more adventurous in the kitchen. There was a rise in fusion cooking as people started trying out things that were considered unusual. This contributed a lot to the spread of California-style like pizza.  If you are unfamiliar with this pizza style, you might wonder, what makes it different?

California-style pizza is a combination of many other pizza styles, except it has a small twist. This pizza style is characterized by a round crust that is similar to the traditional Italian style.

California-style pizza borrows its crust from the New York-style pizza too. The crust is round and thin. To bake a California pizza, you need a wood-fired oven, just like in the Neapolitan pizza styles.

This pizza style is small, unlike the new york style. Its size is almost similar to the Neapolitan pie.  

The difference between California-style pizza and other pizza types is in the toppings. This pizza style boasts of incorporating the freshest and healthiest organic ingredients. In an age where people are trying to be healthy and eat clean, it was important for the restaurant industry to adjust too hence the growth of California pizza. California style pizzas are mostly vegan and vegetarian.

Most of the common toppings in California-style pizza are avocado, artichoke hearts, and goat cheese. Some pizza variations have duck sausage, pate,  others truffles, etc. Do not be afraid to go as wild and weird as you can get. You can add any protein you can think of. If you want shrimp, throw it in. Say steak, add it.

For vegetable toppings, pizza chefs mostly use California seasonal produce like cauliflower, figs, kales, beetroots, and much more.

There are common examples of California style pizza. Let us explore some examples of California style pizza available.

Examples of famous California-style pizza

There are many examples of California-style pizza. This pizza type has no boundary as it can be anything.

Below are three common examples of California Pizza Kitchen.

California Veggie Pizza


California Veggie Pizza


This pizza contains mostly broccoli and mushrooms. If you are vegetarian, then this option is available for you.

The Original barbeque chicken pizza

Original barbeque chicken pizza


This is based on LaDou’s recipe. It consists of barbecue chicken hence getting its name.

California club pizza

California club pizza


This pizza has mayonnaise, avocado, tomatoes, lemon-pepper, arugula, grilled chicken, and bacon.

Spots for California-style pizza

Many restaurants are serving California-style pizza today. The fantastic thing is the father restaurants of this dish are still there. If you are in Hollywood, you can still enjoy this style of pizza at Spago. You can enjoy the famous Spago signature California-style pizza: house-smoked salmon pizza.

If you are in Berkeley, Chez Panisse is still there and booming. Wolfgang Puck is also there and serves authentic Californian cuisine, with the California pizza style included.

If you want to have a taste of how it all started, then California Pizza Kitchen is there in malls all over the united states for you to visit. Today, there are so many places serving chicken barbeque, but it would be amazing to try one at California Pizza Kitchen to get the original barbeque chicken pizza taste.

While at California Pizza Kitchen, you can try the cauliflower crust pizzas too. This was an invention made recently at CPK to try to move to a healthier lifestyle. If you have eaten California style pizza and somehow have not had enough and would like to try to make your own at home,  California Pizza Kitchen sells frozen pizza.

We can’t mention Los Angeles without mentioning Caioti Pizza Cafe. This restaurant is located at 4346 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City, California.

They offer both New-york style pizza and California style pizza. They even have a pizza named after LaDou called  LaDou’s Barbecue Chicken, which is based on LaDou’s recipe.

There has a variety of pizza available, ranging from vegetarian to meaty types. Caio has gluten-free options available in 10 inches size. You can order takeout or have your pizza delivered to you.

For northern Californians, many pizzerias are serving California-style style pizza. We have Pizzetta 211, Gialina, Pizzeria Delfina, Flour + Water and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, and Pauline’s. All these fantastic spots are in San Francisco.

Pizzetta 211 is in outer Richmond in San Francisco. This is a difficult place to get a table. Initially, they had indoor dining, but at the moment, only outdoor dining is available. You can also call in for takeout.

The chef at Pizzetta 211 serves these rotating specials that many people are crazy about. When you visit Pizzetta 211, please do not ask for the pepperoni, basil, tomato, or mozzarella pizzas, though we are crazy about those too. Ask for one of the specials, especially a Californian style pizza with an egg. Delicious!  

Gialina’s pizza served at Glen Park has been said to be the best in the Bay Area. All we know is that their Californian style pizza is phenomenal. The most amazing thing is their pizzas are made from a gas oven.

Gialina thin-crust rotating pizza exists in over ten types. The pizza available changes with seasons; this depends on what food yield is on the season. However, if you are lucky to find Wild Nettles, which has mushrooms, red onions, pancetta, and Italian provolone, choose it.

Gialina allows you to add an egg to your pizza. As if not enough, all their pizza crust are all gluten-free.

The owner of Gialana also owns a spot in Lower Haight called Ragazza. You can find Gialana’s menu there too.

Pizzeria Delfina is a great place. This place always has a crowd lining up, waiting to get a table. However, at the moment, it does not allow for sitting and dining. You order and pick-up or wait for your pizza to be delivered. You might want to try their addictive pizza when you are in San Francisco.

Flour + Water is a regional Italian restaurant opened nine years ago by chef Thomas McNaughton, a James Beard- nominee. It boasts of unique toppings like bone marrow and rapini. Their pizzas are delicious, with a lot of attention paid to their Italian-type crust. You might want to check it out at Harrison Street in San Francisco.

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is another excellent spot to checkout. Tony’s is owned by Tony Gemignani. He won the 13-time world pizza championship. This makes it already a place to visit. Do you know that Tony imports most of his ingredients from Napoli?

He also has seven types of ovens for the many types of pizzas they serve. You can get whatever pizza, ranging from Napoletana to new york pizza.  He also has one of the best Californian pizzas you would ever find.

You can get indoor dining at Tony’s at 25%, outdoor dining, and takeout and delivery. Be sure to pay them a visit at their location in North Beach.

Popular pizza chains that serve California style pizzas are Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, California Pizza Kitchen, and Extreme Pizza.

If you are outside the West Coast, it might be harder to get a California style pizza. However, you can visit joints like California Pizza Kitchen in many malls all over the united states.  If you are in a restaurant, you can be lucky to find a pizza influenced by Cali’s creativity.

You can hardly find the California style pizza or a pizza that goes by that name outside America. You have probably eaten pizza that has similar characteristics as the ones served in a California-style pizza kitchen. You might not recognize it, but this too could have been influenced by California-style pizza.

Why do we choose California style pizza?

California pizza has very many variations all over the world. You might be surprised that one of your favorite pizzas outside the United States is a variation of or was inspired by California style pizza.

We all love Californian pizza because it allows you to go as wild as you want to go. You can put whatever you want on it. It is the pizza that encourages the most creativity without fear of judgment.

Californian pizza is unique. What you find in one location might not be available in another. For instance, When you go to Japan, you will find a California Pizza Kitchen post in Kawasaki that serves miso shrimp and kalbi sticks on pizza.

There are countries like Australia that have restaurants with a whole breakfast menu inspired by California pizza. In some locations, you might find Californian pizzas in square shapes. California pizza is quite flexible. Whatever you want or think, you can make. This is the reason why people love it so much. Other reasons include:

No room for routine.

Californian pizza is based on experimentation. What you find in one spot, you will probably not find in another. When you are tired of the usual type of pizza and would want to try something new, then California pizza is what you should go for. You can try different types of pizza every time you visit a pizzeria.

Based on tradition.

Californian pizza boasts of being an experimental pizza. It was created by accident from experiments by Alice Waters and LaDou. The toppings change from place to place and chef to chef. However, its crust is still based on the traditional Italian style. To make a Californian style pizza, you have to observe traditional ways of making an Italian pizza like a hot fire-wood oven.

Suits your healthy lifestyle

California pizza has the healthiest toppings. This pizza type has been said to be one of the healthiest forms of pizza. It features ingredients that have not been processed and are directly from the farm. Today some pizzerias have gone ahead to have cauliflower crust to make it healthier. You can also have some with gluten-free crusts.

Fresh toppings

The toppings added to an authentic California pizza are local produce from the farm. Most pizzerias buy the ingredients from local farmers, and while still fresh, they put on pizza. Unlike in other pizza types, where most of the toppings are processed, you are sure to find the original taste and flavor of the toppings.

Huge portions

California style is very satisfying. Despite them being small, they have a lot of toppings. This means that you quickly get full with just a portion without eating a lot of the wheaty crust as in many pizzas.

If you are starving, you can eat a whole one alone, since they come as a single serving. But you will be full of healthy vitamins and minerals. Your children can have a healthy, fully balanced dish with a California pizza.

Additionally, because of its flexibility, a family can easily make Californian pizzas in the house without spending a lot of money.

It is a unique and rebellious option.

It was not until the late 1990s that people started accepting ‘strange’ ingredients on their pizza. Even today, some still cringe at the idea of having things like basil or broccoli on a pizza. Some people think it is a bad idea to have exotic ingredients on a pizza.

For some, pizza is not pizza without a lot of meat. With Californian pizza, you go against the norm. Less meat, more vegetables. Don’t we all want to feel a bit rebellious at times?

There is a pizza for everyone.

In most traditional pizzerias, families order a pizza or two to share amongst themselves. But for California-style pizza is served single serving. This means everyone in the family can choose what they want and enjoy their customized slice.

Say you do not like eggplant but prefer broccoli, you can have that. Or if you prefer runny eggs over boiled eggs, you can still have that in your pizza. This variety is what most people enjoy.

You can find it anywhere.

Despite your socioeconomic status, you can get a fantastic California-style pizza for you. If you are after an upscale location, you can visit places like Spago. But if you are somehow low on budget, you can still get frozen California-style pizza and enjoy it. Additionally, you can customize this pizza as much as you want. After all, what is a California style pizza without creativity?

They are just so pretty.

Most California pizza style pizzas are so colorful and inviting. There is green from some vegetables, red from tomatoes or pepper, yellow and white from eggs or goat cheese, purple from eggplants, brown from chicken or duck sausages, etc.

This is not common in other pizza types. You can add your favorite colorful vegetable and protein toppings to make it look as salivating as you want it to be.

Availability of delivery options.

Most pizzerias offer delivery o[ptions. This means you can order your pizza from a local kitchen and have it delivered without you leaving your seat. Additionally, some pizzerias offer services like mobile kitchens if you have a party in Southern California.

It is the pizza for a night out with friends.

You can eat California-style pizza with Sangria. Because it is wholesome, it feels like a complete meal. You can have your pizza as you sip wine. This makes the experience more fun. Next time you are looking for something to do with friends, go on a night out and have a fantastic experience eating California-style pizza with a glass of wine.


California-style is a must-try for all food lovers. There are plenty of unique spots to sample the pizza. Most of the spots have variations that would suit your need ranging from vegetarian options to meaty types, gluten-free types to no-gluten free and with as many toppings as you would love.

In case you want to try your California-style pizza at home, you can get them in a frozen form in many stores. They are available as frozen pizza in many areas in the United States. However, it would be best for your first time to visit a known restaurant to get the full experience of the real, authentic California-style pizza.

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