No food defines the college experience quite like pizza. Sure, San Francisco is a foodie haven with cuisine from every culture you could ever hope to experience — and often within walking distance. But when you’re truly at your hungriest, what you really need is a good pizza pie to wrap you up in its cheesy arms and make everything okay.
A little-known perk of going to USF: when you’re on campus, you are within walking distance of two pizzerias that serve up slices for $5 or under. The next time life hands you a #pizzaemergency, take a deep breath, dig through the change in your wallet, and remember that Nizario’s Pizza and Escape From New York are here for you. The only downside is having to choose just one.
Both Nizario’s and Escape boast prime San Francisco locations. Escape From New York is located smack in the middle of San Francisco’s famous Haight-Ashbury District. Bonus points for the close proximity to two killer record stores: Amoeba and Rasputin. Nizario’s, on the other hand is in close proximity to the strip of bars lining Geary (a fair number of students owe them a “thank you” for their late hours).
When you walk into Nizario’s, expect to be welcomed with a strong, immediate whiff of baking pies and friendly service. It’s a tiny place, almost the size of a dorm room if you don’t count the kitchen, so it’s either homey or claustrophobic depending on how many people are crammed inside. Slices are served up quickly, and appear thicker, cheesier, and greasier than most slices found in SF. That’s a Nizario’s calling card – slices that start at $3 (for cheese) and arrive so weighed down with toppings you’ll need two hands to comfortably hold. However, slices from Nizario’s mostly look and taste like frozen pizza. If you’re okay with pizza that won’t break the bank, but will make your clothes smell faintly of cheese for the next few hours, you’ll probably frequent Nizario’s. If you want to taste fresh, vibrant ingredients, or maybe an intriguing new topping combo, seek your slices elsewhere. There’s nothing flashier here other than Garlic Chicken Pesto or Meat Lovers, all topped with faintly saccharine marinara sauce.
Then there’s Escape From New York, whose name hints at either some serious pizza cred or deliberate overselling. For the most part, it delivers. Escape From New York is one of a rare breed of thin, crispy New York style slice pizzerias scattered throughout SF. While its pizza may not be as divinely flavorful as Arinell Pizza in The Mission, or Tony’s Slice House in North Beach, its the closest you’ll get to NY pizza without a 40 minute bus ride. Here, slices are generously topped with red sauce that’s tart with ripe tomatoes – a punch that Nizario’s lacks. While there’s less cheese than Nizario’s thickly topped slices, the cheese-to-sauce ratio is nice, and I’d venture to say Escape uses higher-quality mozzarella. Escape From New York is also far more adventurous when it comes to toppings, boasting fig/balsamic/goat cheese on one pie, applewood smoked bacon on another, and a pesto/potato/roasted garlic pizza that’s famous city-wide.
If the goal here is the cheapest pizza possible, Nizario’s wins. Two slices at Escape From New York can cost you just under $10, with cheese slices costing $3.75 and anything fancier between $4-$5. However, if you’re willing to spare an extra dollar for a better flavor investment, the obvious choice is Escape From New York. Come on, potatoes on pizza? Carbs on carbs? Groundbreaking.
Photo credit: Corie Schwabenland/Foghorn
3840 Geary Boulevard [16 min walk]
Escape From New York
1737 Haight Street [9 min walk]