One might suspect the South Bay presents a tough market to break into for a pizza place, what with the proliferation of Chipotle-style, Build-Your-Own-Pizza (BYOP) chains such as MOD, Blaze and Pieology. But then comes a new joint like Firenza Pizza.

The Virginia-based chain is making its first venture outside the Washington, D.C., area, and decided to open a restaurant in Los Gatos. I brought along my 6-year-old pizza expert, whose love for pizza is matched only by his love of all things trains.

Firenza sports an impressive lineup of regular and gluten-free crusts, six sauces, eight meats and cheeses, 17 fruits and vegetables, and nine finishing sauces. Their biggest claim to fame is an unheard of “Cali-style” ($1.99), where they’ll top the pie with a Romaine and spring mix that’s seasoned with a vinaigrette, and then finished with some fresh slices of avocado. They also have a preset menu of signature pies, which come in at 10 inches, whether custom or preset, and are priced the same at a paltry $8.99 each.

We ordered their signature Firenza—mozzarella-provolone blend, pepperoni, sausage, artichoke, red onions, peppers, fresh garlic—and a Cali-style, as well as a classic Margherita with my son’s usual toppings: pepperoni and sausage. The first thing we noticed was the gooeyness and quality of the cheese, as it gives a nice stretch as you pull the slice away from the pie. The ingredients themselves are all fresh and top-notch and are purchased daily.

Having been to all of the BYOP joints in the area, I can attest that Firenza’s is the best of the bunch. With a nice chew and a good bite, it’s also sturdy enough to hold all the ingredients together. The flavors were terrific, and the added crunch from the semolina flour is a nice touch. The even cooking can be attributed to their Turbochef convection oven which cooks their dough in less than three minutes. My only criticism is there was very little char on the crust, which is a signature of a classic wood-fired oven.

As for the Cali-style, I was hesitant because I’m a bit of a pizza purist (read snob) and the thought of salad on my pie seemed like heresy. But I felt I’d be remiss in my duties to not try it. The avocado and greens were actually very good, making the fairly heavy pizza seem light and healthy. I’m awaiting my excommunication any day now.

In the endless sea of BYOP there is now a clear winner, and my guest expert agreed. With fresh ingredients, an exceptional crust and a philanthropic soul—they’ve raised more than $5K for the Los Gatos United Soccer team—Firenza is the new standard in fast-casual pies.

Firenza Pizza
681 Blossom Hill Rd, Los Gatos.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the location of the restaurant. regrets the error.