Goat Hill Pizza

La pie bohème, from high atop Portrero Hill
Photo by Rory McNamara


While the denizens of Washington, DC must nourish themselves with Capitol Hill Blue, we of the Blessed Realm have easy access to Goat Hill Pizza, and although there aren't any goats on Potrero Hill any more, in blue or any other color, the views are still magical, the pizza is pretty good, and a longtime spirit of San Francisco abides, despite the passing of a third of a century and the ebb and flow of various funny-money economic tides.

Goat Hill is more than a pizzeria with a view (though a better view you won't easily find), more than a place long famed for its Monday night, all-you-can-eat pizza dim sum extravaganza (though a better deal you won't easily find): it's a kind of community center, a locus of mingling, with the restaurant's co-owner, Philip De Andrade, serving as mingler-in-chief as he moves from table to table, chatting and checking. The restaurant's long walls are regularly hung with paintings for sale, and, on certain warm weekend afternoons, the place becomes a kind of art gallery that smells of linguica and cheap red wine — just the sort of environment in which to stumble across a surviving Beat writer or unheralded master painter.

Goat Hill is a still-glowing ember of a bohemian San Francisco where life's riches were enjoyed but neither obsessed over nor paraded as status symbols. If, in a sense, it's an ambassador from the past, it's an envoy that's survived a host of Bible-worthy plagues, from earthquake, disease, and fire to the dot-com boom-bust (in with the Porsches, out with the Porsches!) and the long adventure in misrule that began with a stolen election and will eternally bear the name of the unbearable George W. Bush. The little man will be gone soon, holding hands with Dick Cheney in one of their undisclosed locations while Mesopotamia burns, but Goat Hill will still be there, packing them in on Monday nights.

While a wait for a table is generally an annoyance for people who are hungry to eat dinner, the Monday-night wait at Goat Hill is rather festive, especially in mild weather. Clots of people loiter on the sidewalk and in the street near the door, chatting and flirting and occasionally taking the long view down the slope of Connecticut Street to the city's luminous skyline, which seems close enough to touch. Of all the skyline views I've observed over the years, only those on the eastern slopes of Russian Hill are the equal of those on the north face of Potrero. With a view like that, who needs food? And yet, from time to time, the host does emerge from the restaurant to call out a name, and a party of people — maybe a twosome, but just as likely a sixsome or even more — eagerly marches inside.

The dim sum comparison is as old as time, but it isn't quite apposite. (Visitors to Goat Hill's arriviste location in the SoMa flatlands will find the all-you-can-eat deal in effect every day.) Whenever I've had actual dim sum at a Chinese place, the servers check off little boxes on a tab when we've chosen items to eat, so the final bill varies. At Goat Hill, you pay a flat fee (at the moment $10.95 per head), which buys you unlimited access to the salad bar along with unlimited access to the pies that emerge regularly from the kitchen. A pie arrives; its topping is announced, and, as at a Sotheby's auction, you point or mumble or in some other way indicate an interest, and you are given a slice. But step lively, because the next pie could be just seconds behind. Or, minutes might elapse, an interval in which you can thoughtfully chew your crust rinds. Some of these can look a little scorched.

The toppings themselves show signs of being drawn from the culinary equivalent of an auto dealership's parts bin. There's pepperoni, of course, and also pepperoni with sausage, and sausage with mushroom.

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