What Makes California-Style Pizza So Unique?

When you think of pizza's geographic hotspots, a few places probably come to mind. High-quality but simplistic pizza reigns supreme in Naples, Italy, while deep dish is Chicago's controversial claim to fame. Meanwhile, any trip to New York City requires a stop for a historic slice; it's practically ingrained in the culture.

But what about the West Coast?

Surely, California is known for other foods – sushi, peaches — before it's associated with pizza. The Golden State boasts a slew of vegetarian and vegan restaurants that seem to counteract the very nature of a greasy, grab-and-go slice. But, pizza isn't as antithetical to California cuisine as it may appear.

If you're in doubt about California's pizza credibility, look no further than California Pizza Kitchen. According to CPK's website, the California-style eatery has amassed a widespread fanbase. The chain has spread throughout America and abroad, proving that California pizza can hold its own.

Yet as California rises in the ranks of pizza greats, it must remain humble — and true to its roots. The distinctive pizza style pays homage to the very produce that defines California's culinary culture.

California pizza is all about fresh, local ingredients — and creative combinations

California-style pizza enhances the state's trademark produce via a new form. According to Culture Trip, California-style pizza relies on a thin, standard crust, not unlike traditional Italian and New York doughs. This basic base allows the added ingredients to truly shine.

Per Serious Eats, these ingredients aren't those typically associated with pizza. Instead, the toppings and therefore tastes are uniquely Californian. The West Coast is known for avocados and organic food, so a sprinkle of fresh, healthier toppings — eggs, goat cheese, and artichokes, to name a few — will upgrade any slice with a California twist. Mexican-inspired add-ons also tend to top Southern California slices, spreading the state's fusion of cuisines over a quintessentially Italian base (per PMQ Pizza Media).

"California-style pizza has a thinner crust, but the true distinction lies in nontraditional toppings that deviate from the standard mozzarella and pepperoni," Jade Waterman, Director of Marketing at San Diego's Woodstock's Pizza, summarized for PMQ.

Yet while California pizza heavily relies on innovative, fresh flavors, meat lovers need not be dissuaded. Grilled chicken is a standard California-style addition. CPK even offers a buffalo chicken option for pizza enthusiasts not yet prepared to go full-on veggie.