I am sure that most would agree with me saying that pizza is a food that should be considered all that is sacred if it is not already. After all, the food itself has a nonprofit association, “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana” (aka the “True Neapolitan Pizza Association”) that promotes and protects the “true Neapolitan pizza” in Naples, Italy where it first originated. We are talking about some serious stuff here, people. With the ease of preparation and fast cook-times, it should be no surprise that America quickly adapted to this stye of food as it is easy to eat, approachable, affordable, and provides instant comfort. Whether it be satiating a craving or eating your emotions to get over a breakup, pizza seems to be the solution to all of life’s problems.
With so many styles and interpreted adaptations of pizza, the choices can be more than overwhelming. From New York’s large-sliced, thin-crust pies to Chicago’s famous deep-dish, the combinations are infinite. But, if you are looking for a tried-and-true pizza joint with an authentic California surfer feel, look no further than San Clemente’s best, local pizza spot: Pizza Port.
When you first walk in, it is nearly impossible not to feel a little nostalgic as you are greeted with long, wooden, communal-style benches, surfboards mounted on the wall, a small bar with rotating taps full of great-tasting craft beer, and an upstairs arcade. The laid back atmosphere reminds you of simpler times as locals gather and pack the restaurant throughout the week regardless of what day it is.
The menu is slightly smaller than that of a standard pizza chain, but offers more than enough options and variety to satisfy just about anyone that walks through the door.
Being an ambitious consumer of food, it was difficult to restrain myself from ordering the entire menu. After all, it was only my photographer, Antonio Espino, and I and with my generosity and caring nature, I did not want him to leave hungry.
In order to capture the true essence of their artwork, we decided to order a variety of pies to enjoy the full spectrum:
Starting with my personal favorite: The Carlsbad.
The Greek-inspired pizza is just different enough to veer away from the traditional tomato sauce-based pizza, but still delicious to where you will reluctantly share. With the sweet acidity from the sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, salty kick from the feta, slight smokiness from the mesquite grilled chicken and all powered by the earthy pesto, it is almost impossible to stop eating slice after slice.
For those that enjoy a cornucopia of flavors, the Monterey is probably for you. With pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and artichoke hearts all mixed in under a layer of amazing mozzarella, you cannot really go wrong with this pie. We decided to go off the grid a bit and added pineapples because we are adults now and we are able to do what we want.
Sticking with tradition, a side order of spicy twice-baked chicken wings were quickly summoned. The only caution I must warn you about is that these are meaty enough to eat as a meal on its own. With phenomenal crispy skin on the outside and packed with juicy, tender meat on the inside, it is impossible not to take continuous bites, fighting through the scorching pain from the “right out of the oven” heat. Served with celery and carrots (more for the aesthetics in my opinion), enjoy these in between the slices of heavenly pizza.
Last, but certainly not least: the classic Pepperoni.
Much like the California Roll of sushi restaurants, the classic Pepperoni pizza is the foundation in which everyone secretly judges a pizza joint. With a fantastic crunch from the outer layer of the soft, chewy dough that lies beneath, a perfect amount of cheese that does not annoyingly slide off within the first bite and a beautiful, saltiness from the savory pepperoni, time seems to stop and take you back to your childhood.
All in all, if you want to go to a place where the energy is high, locals are congregating and the beer flows like wine (and the women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano), head down to San Clemente’s local watering hole: Pizza Port.