It’s the dinner hour at Pizzaiolo in Oakland, California. Your kids are running around the boccie court on the patio. A glass of Lambrusco fizzes purply in front of you. And then the pizzas appear, brawny constructions, blackened around the edges but delicately yeasty under the crunch, and bearing gypsy peppers, house-made pork sausage, and tomatoes with a better pedigree than Henry Cabot Lodge. You are the lucky recipient of Sustainable Pie, food of choice for fashionable locavores of all ages.
If your pizza is garnished with wild nettles, squash blossoms, burrata cheese, or La Quercia prosciutto (from Iowa—not everything can be local), it is Sustainable Pie. If the menu trumpets the chef’s allegiances to the Slow Food movement, the town farmers’ market, and recycled cardboard take-out boxes, it is Sustainable Pie. If your pizza is called flatbread and is baked in a wood-burning oven built from indigenous clay and stone, it is Sustainable Pie. If you have spent 90 minutes staring at the framed James Beard Award in the bar while your children inhale organic root beer before the hostess finally calls your name, you are no doubt about to (finally!) eat Sustainable Pie.
Such pizza—an ideal way for families to experience the food of A-list chefs like Alice Waters, who started this whole movement—is not just dinner, it’s a political statement as heartfelt as the Riverkeeper sticker on the bumper of your Volvo. It’s also almost always outstandingly good. And the credo, that even a simple slice can be a platform for saving the planet, is as easy to swallow as, well, pie.
Bronx-born Chris Bianco’s Neapolitan-style pies are crafted with Arizona’s primo organic produce and mozzarella that he makes him-self every morning. This just may be the single best thing to eat in the Southwest. 623 E. Adams St., Phoenix; 602/258-8300; pizzeriabianco.com.
Carlo Petrini, originator of Slow Food International, told the San Francisco Chronicle that A16 was the first Italian restaurant he liked outside of Italy. Sit at the counter and watch the pies being baked to puffy, charred perfection. Naples on a plate. 2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco; 415/ 771-2216; a16sf.com.
Café at Chez Panisse
The birthplace, in the early 1970’s, of Sustainable Pie. Without this crowded, casual adjunct to the temple of conscientious cuisine, we might all be eating Domino’s. 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley; 510/ 548-5525; chezpanisse.com.
Nancy Silverton’s celebrity-intensive Hollywood eatery (which she owns with Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich)—don’t miss the pie with Mozza’s own lardo. Smart families go in the more leisurely late afternoon.641 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles; 323/297-0101; mozza-la.com.
The organic flour is milled just miles away, and the produce is grown by the stars of the nearby farmers’ markets (some of whom use the restaurant’s scraps as compost). 5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland; 510/652-4888; pizzaiolooakland.com.
Locally sourced discs delivered in electric vehicles by staff wearing superhero costumes that they fashion themselves. 2917 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612/824-9100; galacticpizza.com.
A new kind of Brooklyn pie, built with area organic vegetables and hormone-free meats, in a kitchen partly powered by wind energy. What all the hip Park Slope toddlers cut their teeth on. 295 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn; 718/230-0221; frannysbrooklyn.com.
Hot Lips Pizza
Although this might seem like regular-guy pizza, the ingredients come from a sterling roster of Oregon farmers; co-owner Dave Yudkin lectures on sustainability at Portland schools; and deliveries arrive in electric cars. They concoct their own fruit sodas, too. 1909 SW Sixth Ave., Portland; 503/224-0311; plus three other Portland locations; hotlipspizza.com.
What George Schenk’s original outpost doesn’t grow in its own gardens, it gets from the farms down the road. There are currently 11 restaurants that are American Flatbread spin-offs, scattered from Portland, Maine, to Los Alamos, California. You can also pick up their pies in the freezer section at Whole Foods and other markets. 46 Lareau Rd., Waitsfield; 802/ 496-8856; open Fridays and Saturdays only; americanflatbread.com.
Jonathan Gold, L.A. Weekly’s dining critic, was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.