As Stanford students come to campus this fall, many for the first time, they must answer an essential question. Where is there good pizza in town? Pizza is an essential food. The magical combination of sauce, cheese and dough is comforting and community-building, whether you’re sharing a pie with a study group or eating a slice late at night when you’re tired but can’t sleep. I consider myself an extreme pizzaphile, so for the benefit of our readers, I have eaten and reviewed five pizza restaurants within the city limits of Palo Alto.
I am judging only plain cheese pizzas in this review. If a pizza shop cannot make a decent cheese pizza, it is not worth paying extra for toppings. Pizzas are rated based on price, value and cheese and sauce quality. Here are the ratings:
The iconic national chain serves the greater Palo Alto area from its Cambridge Avenue location. The red sauce goes a bit overboard on Italian seasoning, and the crust is a little chewy — but, for me, that’s part of the appeal. The mountains could slide into the sea tomorrow, but Domino’s pizza will still be with us, alleviating our hunger until midnight (1 a.m. on weekends).
Price: $16.99 for a 14” pie
Pizza My Heart
Unique on this list, Pizza My Heart is the only store in the group that sells pizza by the slice in addition to whole pizzas. The surf-themed decor of the University Avenue location is worth a visit for a slice sometime. The sauce on the pies is nice and sweet and tastes like natural tomatoes. The sauce, however, is unevenly distributed across the dough of the pizza, which leads to dry bites in some areas and sauce overload in others. The crust is a bit crunchy in places, but overall this is a very good pizza joint.
Price: $17.75 for a 14” pie
The national chain promising “better ingredients, better pizza” can be found on El Camino Real in Palo Alto. The cheese on the pizza is slightly rubbery and the sauce is, in my opinion, just a bit too sugary. Despite these flaws, the pizza is still decent.
Price: $20.74 for a large pie
Inspired by the finest pizzas of Naples, Terun is not for the faint of heart — or wallet. Its high-end location on California Avenue is a great place to take a date if you want to impress them. Their pies are good, if on the small side. This shop is the gourmand’s pizzeria in Palo Alto. In fact, the Food Network called it one of the seven best Neapolitan pizzerias in the country.
Price: $18 for a medium-sized Margherita pizza
Mountain Mike’s Pizza
This regional chain was my favorite pizza spot as a kid, so I might not be the most objective reviewer on this one because of the nostalgia. The sauce at this Middlefield Road pie shop is not quite pureed enough, and the cheese blend is a bit stiff. The pizza is greater than the sum of the parts, however, so I must recommend it. Perhaps I do so because I have many fond memories of playing PacMan at the arcade at Mountain Mike’s.
Price: $19.95 for a 14” pizza