SoCal pizza lovers were recently abuzz with the news that Emmy Squared, a New York-based chain specializing in Detroit-style, extra-cheesy pies, was opening in Santa Monica.
The shop, which set up in Santa Monica Brew Works, is only one of many hot spots in that bustling food region.
But Bakersfield is no slouch in the pizza department, both in its sheer consumption and its support of innovative new spots.
Like other segments of the restaurant industry, we've got plenty of chains, so there's little need to delve into those other than noting a recent opening.
The new Me-N-Ed's that opened in Countryside Village at Highway 178 and Comanche Drive is a great addition to the northeast community. Tony's Pizza has stayed strong but it's always a better situation when diners have options, especially the nights that Tony's is packed.
And because this Me-N-Ed's is part of the holdings of Countryside Corp., it will have the added benefit of serving the award-winning chile verde mac and cheese as a side dish.
Beyond the chains, we've got some wonderful pizza purveyors.
Laura Journey at Baker's Outpost turned her sourdough superpowers to pizza about a year ago for a weekly Pizza Nite. On Wednesdays, the shop tucked away at Truxtun Avenue and Oak Street turns into a mini gourmet pizzeria, offering at least four different pies as well as a few salads and a dessert usually making great use of seasonal fruit.
The pizzas also highlight great local produce with options rotating with the seasons.
Some pies that come highly recommended are the Hippie Dippie, using Edible Schoolyard olive oil, herbed goat cheese, Fortitude Farm zucchini and pea tendrils; the Farmhouse, made with house red sauce, Fortitude Farm heirloom tomatoes, house-made ricotta, basil, Edible Schoolyard olive oil and Vancouver Island salt, which is sold in the bakery; and the Fuzzy Peach, with garlic scape pesto, roasted poblanos and peaches, mozzarella, Parmesan and Edible Schoolyard olive oil.
Pies start at $19 but are easily shareable. And the quality of the sourdough crust makes it a mean contender as a cold slice, when you have no need to heat up leftovers.
The menu, which changes weekly, is available at bakers-outpost-pizza-nite.square.site or the link on the bakery's Instagram page (@bakersoutpost). You must order ahead and set your pickup time (between 4:15 and 7:45 p.m. Wednesday).
Baker's Outpost is at 3310 Truxtun Ave., Suite 160.
Another spicy fresh option for pizza is Tommy's Pizza, operating out of the kitchen of Imbibe Wine & Spirits Merchant (4140 Truxtun Ave.).
Launched in March, it's the venture of Thomas Benham, who some may recognize from his appearances in Californian columns by his father, Herb Benham.
He has surpassed the newsprint to make a name for himself, building on the foundation he established working at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and further honed at The Market Restaurant in Gloucester, Mass.
You can trust that this thin-crust pizza pairs well with wine since Benham perfected his pizzas at Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery, owned by his uncle Courtney Benham.
The menu offers four options — The Cheese, just tomato sauce and mozzarella; Margherita, with tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella; Hot Pepp, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, pickled Fresno peppers and red onion; and Bianca, featuring fresh mozzarella, ricotta, artichokes, green olives and hot honey — or you can build your own with toppings including those above as well as sausage, bacon, mushrooms and anchovy.
The Hot Pepp lives up to its name with a fantastic kick from the peppers that can be soothed by an adult beverage or soft drink. The pepperoni is the cupped kind that bakes with nice crisped edges or added crunch.
Not a fan of the black olives so often overused on combination pies elsewhere, I immensely enjoyed the green olives on the Bianca, which also benefits from that hot honey adding sweetness to the cheese-rich pizza.
If your companions don't want pizza (and, if so, why are they your companions?), Tommy's also offers Caesar and chopped salads.
Pizza is available from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at Imbibe. You can order at the counter or call ahead (661-863-9291 for the direct line or 661-633-9463 for the shop).
And finally, there is a hidden pizza gem in southwest Bakersfield.
Pizz-a-Perfection (8500 Harris Road) is located around the corner from the Sam's Club in a small shopping center also home to an Indian grocery store.
Along with classic pies, it offers a variety of unique options much like its predecessor, The Fuchsian Pizza Sector, that last held that location.
Wanting to try two of their signature pizzas, I opted for a half Tandoori Tikka and half Popping Paneer.
The tikka starts with a garlic white sauce that is topped with spiced chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, fresh jalapeños and fresh cilantro.
The paneer is apparent both in the sauce as well as the marinated pieces that come on the pizza along with mushrooms, red bell peppers, onions, and fresh jalapeños and cilantro.
Both made great use of the vegetables, which hold their own even alongside such flavorful proteins. (Anyone worried about so many jalapeños, rest assured that some slices are well-seeded so some of the bite is diminished.)
The crust was solid with a nice crunch and held up well as leftovers, unlike some places where moist ingredients made the crust soggy by the next day.
Pizz-a-Perfection also has three other signatures: the Macho Mexican, with a spicy red sauce, salami, pepperoni, linguica, beef, chorizo and veggies; Cracking Cajun, with white sauce, veggies and chicken marinated with homemade Cajun seasoning; and Blazing Buffalo, featuring garlic sauce, veggies and chicken with a Buffalo sauce drizzle.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Visit orderpizzaperfection.com to view the full menu, which also includes some classic pies as well as excellent curry fries.