Good Pizza

A culinary and literal beacon for the Tim Burton-like corner of Seventh and Mission streets
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Photo by Rory McNamara

paulr@sfbg.com

Are hotel restaurants second-class citizens? Do they fly coach? Not all of them, certainly, in this city: several of our grandest restaurants, including Masa's, Campton Place, and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, are in (grand) hotels. Still, the hotel restaurant, as a general proposition, gives a brief shiver. One has the abiding suspicion that these enterprises serve a captive audience consisting of out-of-towners — people here for conventions or conferences, or maybe just plain old tourists. In a tourist town like ours, tourists are the objects of considerable ambivalence. They spend money, yes, which is a particularly attractive gesture during times of economic apocalypse, but they're also suckers for cable-car rides and dishes like cioppino served in hollowed-out rounds of sourdough bread.

They're also not too likely to be found at such places as the intersection of Seventh and Mission streets, where, after nightfall, the look and a good deal of the feel of gloomy Gotham City in Tim Burton's first Batman movie set in. Scraps of stained newspaper rustle in the gutters, and passersby mutter to themselves. You wouldn't expect to find a hotel here, and yet there is one: it's called Good Hotel, it's part of the Joie de Vivre chain (which has made something of an art of bringing alternative style to sketchy or otherwise unlikely sites), and its restaurant is called Good Pizza. Yes, a hotel restaurant that's a pizzeria! This could be a first.

Tony pizzerias have been blooming in the city in the past few years, and Good Pizza is one of them. It emphasizes high quality ingredients — how about some fromage blanc from Cowgirl Creamery, or bacon from Nueske? — and it's also bright and good-looking in a way that reminded me of IKEA. The main color is an orange-peach, but there's plenty of warm wood trim, glass, and shiny stainless-steel for the Stockholm look. The bright and generous lighting, in addition to making the interior glow, also flows out to the street. The pizzeria is a lantern on its otherwise ill-lit corner.

The menu is quite limited, with a twist. On the non-twisty side, you can choose from among nine pies with predetermined toppings; the possibilities here range from a simple, classic margherita pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil) to a more oddball pie featuring the aforementioned fromage blanc in the company of seasonal organic apples, toasted walnuts, and scallions. The twist is that you can put together your own pizza, which, so far as I know, isn't permitted at such places as Delfina, Pizzetta 211, Piccino, or Gialina.

Perhaps there is wisdom in not permitting people the freedom to command their own pies. Seinfeld's Kramer tried to put cucumbers on a pizza, until Poppie smacked him down. Let this be a lesson to us all.

Cukes aren't an option at Good Pizza, but one evening we did order a pie that we supposed would be a splendid, if brief, monument to vegetarian possibility but didn't turn out quite right. The culprit, we decided, was the sun-dried tomatoes, which in certain contexts can add a sausage-y weight but in others can be noisy and uncooperative. Our pizza, a 12-incher ($13), began with the included tomato sauce and a proprietary cheese blend, and we added (besides the sun-dried tomatoes), roasted mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and fresh tomatoes (an extra $1 each). We couldn't quite put a finger on the exact nature of the clash, although artichoke hearts can be as recalcitrant as sun-dried tomatoes, and the fresh tomatoes had been added after the pizza had been lifted from the oven, leaving them raw and untethered to everything else.

Much simpler and therefore more coherent was the pepperoni pizza ($14 for the 12-incher). Has there ever been a bad pepperoni pizza? This one was made with Hobbs pepperoni, which made it sound a little hoity-toity.

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