Remember when TripAdvisor came out with its list of the best cities for pizza and San Diego came out on top? And remember how much of the Internet, particularly our funny-accented friends from the Northeastern seaboard, collectively shat itself in outrage? I know. It was hilarious.
CityBeat 's Michael A. Gardiner recently broke down the good, the bad and the forgotten of TripAdvisor's San Diego pizza highlights. I think it was just exciting to win something besides "best place to ogle a panda," but it was hardly a mind-blowing win. Although I agree with Gardiner that TripAdvisor's inclusion of Filippi's was a horrific error, we really do have excellent pizza. So, actually, come to think of it: Suck it, New York!
The Privateer in Oceanside (1706 S. Coast Hwy.) is one of many San Diego County pizza places adding to the area's top-notch pie reputation. Its name is a nod to Oceanside's piratical image, and the walls, painted black, are adorned with artwork that leans toward skateboarding photos. Despite all that, The Privateer is cool and inviting and cranks some serious pizza out of its coal-fired oven.
I'm no hard-line pizza purist, but I am skeptical of gimmicky toppings. But just for you, gentle reader, I made sure to try the Captain Fin, an intriguing and wholly New York-offending pie topped with clam chowder, bacon and potatoes. I salute the Captain, because his namesake was outstanding. Like any good pirate, this pizza is salty, but for all the right reasons. The crust is wonderfully thin—I could see light passing through it in places—but still held up beautifully under the toppings. The chowder is really just a slight, savory sauce, hugged by a delicate bit of provolone, crispy chunks of bacon and papery slices of potato. This is gourmet hangover food at its best.
Plenty of other tasty options are available, from the house-made fennel sausage to less traditional toppings like jalapeños, blue cheese and lemon zest. Those with purity on the brain will enjoy the Margherita, the original pizza, with tangy red sauce and chewy discs of fiordilatte mozzarella.
Although pizza is clearly where they butter their bread (or sauce their dough), don't ignore the other menu offerings. From pecorino fries to fried olives and green beans, this isn't typical pizza-and-beer food. I was fortunate to eat at The Privateer on a day when sweet, golden cobs of corn were coming out of the oven. Each roasted special was covered with a creamy butter sauce spiked with smoky red pepper and topped with soft tendrils of charred jalapeños. After devouring the corn, I had enough buttery sauce left over that I was able to sop it up with my pizza crust—an appetizer of my own invention that maybe the kids at The Privateer should consider?
So maybe we don't have the long, storied pizza tradition of other towns. Maybe what makes San Diego great is that we're always creating our own, ever-changing traditions. Or maybe we're just really hungry for really good pizza.