Feast: A refulgence of pizza - Page 3

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

The purveyor's name is Piccino (801 22nd St., SF; 415-824-4224, www.piccinocafe.com), which suggests smallness, and the place is indeed small: no more than a few seats bigger than Pizzetta 211, if that, and much of the space likewise given over to the kitchen. And — again likewise — there's sidewalk seating. Since the weather in Dogpatch can actually be warm and sunny from time to time, with little or no wind, eating alfresco isn't quite the exercise in chilled futility it can be in the city's more windward quarters.

Piccino is, perhaps, slightly less a pure pizzeria than Pizzeria Delfina and Gialina. Or we might say the menu is pizza-plus. In the evenings, particularly, the cooking broadens to a wider palette of Franco-Italian dishes, and you might have a brief vision of being at some junior offshoot of Slow Club. Then the neighbors start showing up to claim their take-out pies, duly boxed — pies topped with arugula, maybe, and speck (a smoked prosciutto-style ham), or maybe with just tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil (the faithful margherita pizza) or capers, black olives, and anchovies (a Neapolitan-style pie). Crusts, of course, are wafer-thin and crisp.

The horse having galloped from the barn, let me now pointlessly close the door by disclosing that I prefer, strongly, obviously, thin-crust pizza. It is more elegant, less starchy, and harder to make well. Also, it does not thrive in boxes, which means it is, in a sense, as perishable as a delicate piece of fruit. A good thin-crust pizza has to come right out of the oven and be hurried to the table, where people are eagerly waiting. Anticipation is one of life's most impressive pleasures, especially when the pleasure we're anticipating is subject to rapid depreciation. The moment will pass, the ship will sail, we made the train or we missed the train, and the crust is soggy, and we will have to wait until next year — or if not next year, a little while, at least.

I like deep-dish pizza too, though it resembles a macho quiche at least as much as pizza and has never been much of a player here. Zachary's (1853 Solano, Berk.; 510-525-5950, www.zacharys.com) wins regular plaudits, and even people I know who've lived in Chicago and eaten Lou Malnati's deep-dish pizza speak respectfully of it. This must count for something. On the other hand, competition is minimal. For some years, the Chicago chain Pizzeria Uno operated an outpost on Lombard; I went once and found it satisfactory in the way that McDonald's cheeseburgers in London are satisfactory: the food is a recognizable and edible simulacrum of the authentic item, a credible counterfeit. The Uno on Lombard closed and became something else. Deep-dish pizza remains a mystery here. Thin is the word.*

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