Feast: A refulgence of pizza - Page 2

We bear witness to a renaissance of Italy's favorite savory pie
Photo by Rory McNamara

And at the freshly opened Farina (3560 18th St., SF; 415-565-0360), in the Mistro, you can treat yourself to a Ligurian-style flatbread that's as good as any thin-crust pizza you'd find in New York's Little Italy.

But the real revolution has been the blooming of pizzerias, restaurants that emphasize pizza but not take-out pizza (though takeout, box and all, tends to be available at them). Rome is full of such places, and such places are usually full of Romans, sitting at sidewalk tables in the warm evenings with sweaty bottles of Nastro Azzurro beer, waiting for their pies. Maybe our dearth of mild evenings helps explain our dearth of pizzerias, or maybe it's the lack of Nastro Azzurro. But if evenings haven't grown balmier around here, the shortage of pizzerias appears to be ending.

Our first stop is Pizzetta 211 (211 23rd Ave., SF; 415-379-9880, www.pizzetta211.com), which has been packing them in for several years despite the un-Roman fog that so often shrouds its Richmond neighborhood. Fog or no, you can sit, Roman-style, at sidewalk tables at Pizzetta 211 — and you might have to, since the pizzeria occupies a modest storefront and most of the space is given over to the kitchen. There are just a few tables, along with a counter set with a globe of olives and books about Italian wine, and the indoor seats fill up quickly. The pizzas themselves have a Zuni-like quality, or perhaps it's more accurate to say that the pizzas are the sorts of pizzas you'd expect to find at Zuni, if Zuni were a tiny pizzeria deep in the Avenues. Organic ingredients are stressed, and each pizza crust is tossed by hand while you watch. Hunger pangs while you wait? Nibble some olives.

The highest profile of new pizzerias has to be Pizzeria Delfina (3621 18th St., SF; 415-552-4055, www.delfinasf.com), which opened three summers ago next door to the mother ship, Delfina, in a tight space appealingly trimmed with stainless steel, blond wood, and plenty of glass. If Pizzetta 211 is urban rustic, with a certain bohemian air, then Pizzeria Delfina is modern Milanese: chic, sleek, slim, knowing. The place was a scene from the moment it opened, and while the sidewalk tables (within little stainless-steel corrals) help alleviate overcrowding inside, they also raise the watch-me factor. It's almost like a cruise bar, except with pizza, and the pizza is superior: wonderfully thin, with blistered crusts and toppings both innovative and traditional. And there is a wealth of well-conceived, well-made side dishes that emphasize our local trinity: seasonal, local, organic.

A little homier is Gialina (2842 Diamond, SF; 415-239-8500, www.gialina.com), which opened earlier this year in the Glen Park village center. That village center has been utterly transformed in the past few years by the arrival of such concerns as Canyon Market — a kind of cross between Whole Foods, Rainbow, and Bi-Rite — and Le P'tit Laurent, an au courant French bistro, and Gialina reflects the new ethic. The clientele appears to be young and well-off; more than a few have small children. Gialina accommodates the tot community and is the noisier for it, but the pizzas — not quite round, not quite square — are more than enough to compensate. Crusts are brilliantly thin, and toppings tend toward the seasonal and eclectic (green garlic in springtime, say). They're also bold. If the menu says that some combination is spicy, take this seriously. Gialina also offers a few nonpizza dishes, including antipasti and a nightly roast of some sort, but pizza is the main attraction.

Far across the city, in the onetime industrial wasteland of Dogpatch, we find yet another avatar of first-class pizza.

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