316 Virginia Street, Seattle,
206-838-7388 Chef Tom Douglas, star of several Seattle hot spots including Palace Kitchen, sent his baker, Gwen Grande, around the nation to pick up pizza pointers before she fired up her own oven. Armed with this knowledge, she makes, as the restaurant's name suggests, a pie to be reckoned with. The crust is ultra-crispy, with plenty of air bubbles, and it has a splash of olive oil that gives it a glossy, caramelized exterior.
MOZZA BAR 641 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, 323-297-0101 What do you get when you pair Nancy Silverton, one of the nation's greatest bakers, with Mario Batali, one of its best Italian chefs? Mozza Bar, the first excellent pizza in pie-starved Southern California (it opens October 24). Silverton spent a year perfecting the dough. Her breadlike crust is two inches high, but unlike that of Chicago deep-dish, it has a light, crisp exterior and a tender, moist interior.
320 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur, California,
Chef-owner Bruce Hill spent a long time cooking fusion food in the Bay Area; thank God he's come to his senses. His pizza is lightweight and properly pliant. He even par-bakes pies before blast-freezing them so his customers can pick up where he left off at home. Hill has created the first frozen pizza I've ever loved-just for that, the man deserves a MacArthur "genius" grant.
5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland,
Charlie Hallowell discovered his metier when he worked the pizza station at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Before opening Pizzaiolo, he studied the food of master Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. It wasn't exactly a formal apprenticeship, but based on edible evidence, Hallowell learned a lot. Made in a wood-burning oven with first-rate California ingredients, his pies may well be up to Bianco's standards. In any case, they're certainly up to mine.