Feathers flew

Winging it right at the Pizza Place on Noriega



CHEAP EATS The good wings were at Noriega Pizza in the Sunset. So there, Mission District! First Wayway leaves the building and takes his cutie-pie with him — not to mention their baby. And now this.

And not only to the Sunset, by the way, did they move, but way the hell out there in the Sunset, on 40-somethingth Avenue, around the corner from Noriega Pizza. Or, as it is more officially known, The Pizza Place on Noriega. Which Wayway likes better than Delfina, but maybe just because it's possible to eat there.

We could have sat down, for example.

As we carried our pizza and wings back home to the cutie pies, he pointed with his nose toward the little store he likes better than Bi-Rite, and the this he likes better than that. And so forth.

"Uh-huh, uh-huh," I said. "And where's Joe Montana?"

"Excuse me?" he said.

Changing tactics, I started to remind him he'd had me haul them out a pound of Faye's coffee, ground for drip — but then remembered I'm in no position to ride my friends for leaving the neighborhood when I spend half my time in the deep goddamn South.

Speaking of which, I managed to wing my way back to New Orleans in time for the French Canadian Quarter Festival, and — more to the point — a cochon de lait po-boy from the Love At First Bite stand. Which wasn't as knee-buckling as last year's, but still I would list it as something worth risking your life for.

On the plane, the sweet man sitting next to me said I could hold onto his arm during landing, if I wanted. He'd gotten a pretty good read on my body language during takeoff, when I permanently damaged the kidneys of the poor person seated in front of me, and crumpled a whole entire Cosmo, cover to cover, in my hands. By the time we reached cruising altitude, it was the size, shape, and approximate consistency of a baseball.

So I was already thinking the dude was brave, to sacrifice an entire limb to those same hands; then he told me he'd been in an emergency landing himself. Only his was worse than mine! It ended with him falling off the wing onto his face and breaking his knee cap, whereas I only sustained a real bad fear of flying. Or love of trains, as I sometimes like to put it.

Anyway, the weather wasn't right, and the pilot had pretty much promised a rough ride most of the way. While I was dropping valium (and maybe for the same reason) my new soon-to-be-one-armed friend was dropping names: something about working in the music biz in San Francisco in the '60s and '70s, his association with "Jerry." And then Willie Nelson. (Who I happen to like.)

He'd written a book. I wrote this.

In other words, there was so much to talk about, that we wound up landing without him losing his arm!

As far as Sunset chicken wings go, though, you're still up in the air, aren't you?

OK. Noriega clips its wings off of bigger birds, so they come out juicier from the fryer. And the buttery hot sauce in which they are enslathered ... it tastes like heaven — or at least upstate New York.

By comparison New Yorker's (now Pizzeria's) Mission District hot wings are small and dry, and the sauce has something off about it. The wings will grow on you, but will never lift you off the ground. Never mind heaven.

So: advantage Wayway.

As for Noriega's pizza, Delfina it is not. His point about actually being able to eat there was well taken, though. And it's a fun, likeable, more casual place to sit, with sports on TV, and a patio. And I enjoyed the pie, with good sausage, olives, and lots of sauce. Like I like it.

The crust was pretty thin, but not thin enough, or at any rate not crispy enough. They do use a brick oven. If they used a little bit of a hotter one, and hand-tossed the dough a little thinner ...

Then maybe.

Which isn't to say it isn't, on the strength of its wings, my new favorite restaurant. *

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