What is California-Style Pizza?

California knows how to party, and what’s a party without pizza? Non-West Coasters may not be familiar with it, but California has a pizza style to call its own.

Here’s everything you need to know about California-style pizza:

Wait, there’s such a thing as a California pizza?


Credit for the California pizza is shared between chefs Ed LaDou and Alice Waters, who separately and simultaneously began topping their pies in the early 1980s with fresh, local, and sometimes exotic ingredients.

Isn’t a California pizza just a smaller New York pizza?

Sort of! But, not quite.

The California pizza’s round crust is a meld of New York and Neapolitan styles. In terms of thickness, the crust measures similarly to an NYC pie and it is usually baked in a wood-fired oven, like Neapolitan styles. Also, like a Neapolitan pie, it’s on the small side, making it a single-serving pizza.

So, in a sense, a California pizza can be considered a miniaturized version of New York-style pizza. But, when it comes to toppings, the two hit a serious fork in the road.

What goes on top of a California pizza?

Pizzaiolos of the California style are not afraid to get weird. LaDou’s early pies experimented with toppings such as goat cheese, truffles, pâté, and even mustard. Waters also employed goat cheese and incorporated duck sausage into some of her creations.

That same spirit of bold innovation lives on today. California pizzas can be found with barbecue chicken, shrimp, steak, and just about any other protein you can imagine. When it comes to the vegetables, California pizza tends to draw off of its best seasonal produce, which results in pizzas featuring kale, beets, cauliflower, avocados, figs, and much more.

Can I get a California-style pizza outside of California?

You’re not guaranteed to find a California-style pizzeria beyond of the West Coast, but you can almost certainly order a pie that has been influenced by Cali’s creativity. Pizzas with toppings ranging from childhood comfort foods to highfalutin fare to healthy vegetables are definitely feeling the California love, no matter where they’re served.

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