6 local spots to celebrate National Cheese Pizza Day, from slice to pie

Photo courtesy of Giovanni's
Giovanni's Old World New York Pizzeria serves up its renowned cheese pizza by the slice or whole pie.

Let’s be honest: Any time is a good time to celebrate the marvel that is pizza. But today is National Cheese Pizza Day, and we’ve got six delicious, mozzarella-laden ways to pay tasty tribute to America’s favorite Italian import.

Pizzeria Urbano
This newcomer to Sacramento's pizza scene inhabits the space vacated by Luigi’s in midtown’s buzzy MARRS complex, serving up plate-size slices into the wee hours (they close up shop at 2:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). Owners Carlos and Jose Luis Ulloa are doing pizza their way, and the formaggio pizza—whole-milk mozzarella cheese and house-made tomato sauce on a semi-thin crust that is airy and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside—surprises the mouth with unexpected flavor from the garlic-oil-brushed crust. $4 per slice; $21 per pie. Hours vary by day. 1050 20th St. 447-1255. facebook.com/pizzeriaurbano

Giovanni’s Old World New York Pizzeria
According to Giovanni’s co-owner John Ruffaine (who makes all the dough, sauces and dressings from scratch for both restaurant locations), the key to his authentic New York-style cheese pizza isn’t just the fact that he uses fresh mozzarella cheese from the Big Apple, or the fact that the dough varies slightly from day to day because it’s made by feel. It’s the experience of eating a gargantuan slice so big it has to be folded to cradle all the flavors in a crusty pocket that is a “little floppy on the first bite," but firms up toward the end. “That’s the way New Yorkers eat pizza,” Ruffaine says. $3.50 per slice; $8.85-$18.95 for whole pies. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Daily. 6200 Folsom Blvd. 455-8831; 5924 S. Land Park Dr. 393-7001. facebook.com/giovannisoldworldnewyorkpizzeria

La Fornaretta
Head to the Sierra foothills for a little taste of old Sicily. After slinging pies and pastas to Southern California foodies at the original La Fornaretta in Pasadena, owner Cesare Di Lorenzo decided in 2005 to move closer to his family and recreate the successful venture in Newcastle. Since opening in 2007, Di Lorenzo’s secret 50-year-old recipe for authentic Sicilian marinara sauce has been ladled atop hand-pressed dough and sprinkled with mozzarella imported from Italy to create the pizza del pastore, an edible transport back to the old world it came from. $13.95-$19.95. Tues-Fri. Lunch starts 11:30 a.m. Tues.-Fri.; dinner starts 5 p.m. Tues.-Sun. 455 Main St. Newcastle. 663-1338. lafornaretta.com

Hot Italian
This midtown hot spot harkens back to the Neapolitan traditions of old with a light crust and sparse toppings, and also takes advantage of our region's bounty with farm-fresh ingredients to create pies that pizzaiolo and Hot Italian co-founder Fabrizio Cercatore says is the “perfect balance between Italian and California ingredients.” The epitome of that blissful union can been seen (and tasted) in its classic Cannavaro pizza; only adorned with a touch of basil, its sauce uses tomatoes from Lodi-based Stanislaus Food Products, which sources produce from farms like Del Rio Botanicals in West Sacramento, and its mozzarella comes from Italy by way of Galbani, which was founded in 1882 and won gold medals at the 2013 World Dairy Expo contest for three of its mozzarella cheeses. $11 per pie. Open daily at 11:30 a.m. Weekends at 10:30 a.m. 1627 16th St. 444-3000. hotitalian.net

Village Pizza & Grill
Rumor is this locally owned pizza spot has the best slice in Yolo County. While we may not be able to vouch for the whole county, we can definitely say that if you're traipsing around Davis and get a hankering for a slice, this university-town parlor is the place to stop. Voted Davis Enterprise's readers’ choice for best pizza three years running, the pies first garnered fame at owner Aziz Fatahi’s original establishment, Village Bakery, where it was one of many delicious, bread-based products available—and where you can still get pizza by the slice ($2.62 per pie or $15.50 per pie; 814 Second St.). Fatahi opened Village Pizza & Grill in 2009 to focus on his uber-popular pizza, keeping his house-made dough thin and crisp and topping his pizzas with the highest-quality mozzarella cheese for the creamiest texture. $7.45-$17.95 per pie. Mon-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. 403 G Street. Davis. 530-750-0100. villagepizzagrill.biz  

Zelda’s Original Gourmet Pizza
From outside its façade on 21st Street, this midtown institution might look like a dive bar that uses a secret entrance knock. But don’t be deterred: Area pizza lovers flock to the clubby, comfortable Zelda’s, which has been cooking up Chicago-style deep-dish pizza since 1978. The bready crust rises up the sides to contain all the flavorful goodness of tangy tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella cheese inside the pie. The staff recommends calling ahead (ideally 40 minutes) because these fork-and-knife masterpieces take some time, but even if you don't, your first bite of Zelda's pizza will prove that it's worth the wait. $6.50-$17.75 per pie. Hours vary by day. 1415 21st St. 447-1400. zeldasgourmetpizza.com