The city of Poway is one of San Diego’s most well-heeled neighborhoods. However, it still has a rustic feel from its roots as a classic Western town. There is nothing close to a fancy restaurant. Its main drag, Poway Road, is loaded with thrift shops, fast food joints and some great pizza and Mexican joints. This is where we have found some of our favorite cheap eats. Topping that list is one of my favorite pizza places, Coney Island Pizzeria. In our search for San Diego’s best pizza, I present our Coney Island Pizzeria review.
Growing up in the northeast (Philadelphia), I learned to appreciate the small mom and pop pizza locations. These places featured a pizzaiolo, a master pizza maker, often from Italy. Coney Island has its own pizzaiolo, also known as dad. While dad makes the pizza, mom runs the front shop. Together they make a great pizza, but it is important to know Coney Island is a small family run operation.
The original location of Coney Island Pizzeria was on the east end of Poway Road, right before heading up towards Mt. Woodson. This location had been several pizza places. Most notably it was the home of Sweet Home Chicago, the best deep-dish pizza we have ever had. Sweet Home Chicago was a bootstrap operation that went out of business in 2010. It became Coney Island Pizzeria and when acquired by the current owners in 2013, they moved to the current mid-Poway location.
I think the original Coney Island served sandwiches and pasta, but currently the focus is on thin crust NY style pizza. Prices are in line with most pizza shops. An 18” is $17 with extra toppings at $2. A personal 10” is $7 with $1 toppings. Slices are $3 with a lunch special of 2 slices and a drink for $7.
Some unique items from Coney Island include a Sicilian thick crust pizza and a Cheese Stuffed Pizza, which is 2 pizzas slapped together. Both pizzas cost around $20 plus toppings. There is a wide variety of red and white specialty pizzas, most ranging from $20 to $22.
The biggest compliant you see about Coney Island is the inconsistent service. This is a small operation where the owner is also the only main cook. Hours and availability of items can be inconsistent. Many of the menu items are written on the chalk board above the cash register and are not listed on the official menu. This includes the Sicilian Thick Crust and Cheese Stuffed Pizza.
The Sicilian takes an hour to bake and comes out with blackened edges. This is what is supposed to look like, similar to our homemade Detroit style-pizza. I don’t think they like to make it because some consumers complain about the black edges. My wife loves this pizza and every time we order it, they ask if we realize the edges will come out black.
Meanwhile, the NY slices are some of the best in town. On a good day, this can easily compete with Bronx or any of the top NY thin crust places. Coney Island is not exaggerating when they claim they have mastered the dough. This attention to quality is appreciated among fans of NY-style pizza but is somewhat problematic in service-oriented Southern California.
If you go on Yelp you will see the owner and head pizzaiolo (under the name Elmer R) is not afraid to talk back to customers. Customer who are surly or do not tip drivers can find they get 86’ed. Elmer invites these customers to go to one of the many other pizza places in the neighborhood.
I find most of the great pizza places are pretty bare-bones when it comes to amenities. This is especially true of NY style pizza. Coney Island Pizzeria definitely falls in this category and it is best as a takeout place. There are only a few tables and some counter seats inside, with a couple outside tables. They used to serve beer, but now it is BYOB. Drinks come in cans from the refrigerator.
We are on a quest to review our top pizza places in the greater San Diego area. This involves revisiting our longtime favorites to make sure they are still up to par. I can definitely say that Coney Island Pizzeria is on the short list for favorite New York style pizza. Just call ahead to make sure they are open!