Lately, I have become quite the pizza fan. Used to be whenever Mr. Food Musings suggested ordering in or going out, all he'd get in reply was a groan (and, if I thought I could get away with it, a roll of the eyes). But then A16 came to town and life changed.
These days, great pizza is getting easier and easier to find in San Francisco. Tommaso's and Giorgio's, two traditional all-time favorites, have been joined by Little Star, and for Neapolitan-style pies (don't forget that pizza was invented in Naples) there's A16, Pizzaiolo and, as of July 19th, Pizzeria Delfina.
We went with R., R. and B. for a belated birthday celebration (for me!) and enjoyed a few bottles of Aglianico del Vulture, D'Angelo 2002, Basilicata. (On the sidewalk, I might add, while we waited nearly an hour and a half for a table. Harumph! Down with the no reservations policy!) Despite the cold, we kept warm with our Vulture, selected by R. for its name (what's wrong with that?). Our waitress was super duper cool, and she kept coming out and cracking jokes and showing off her fancy dangly earrings (we positively cooed -- well, okay, Mr. FM not so much) and giving us progress reports on the table that was destined to be ours, if only the people sitting at it would LEAVE!
Finally they did and we were ushered into the cozy restaurant like puppies waiting impatiently at the back door. Since we already had our wine chosen, we ordered another bottle and started barking food orders at our server the second he came to the table. (Hint: don't waste that hour standing outside in the cold. Ask for a menu!) Our group was largely a non-meat and specifically non-pork eating crew, so our selections made themselves: the Napoletana (above) with anchovies, capers, hot peppers, olives and oregano; the Margherita, a triump of mozzarella, basil, tomato and parmesan; and the Clam Pie with Cherrystone clams, tomato, oregano, pecorino and hot peppers.
But first, the fresh-stretched mozzarella was calling my name. Ever since I talked to owner/chef Craig Stoll about it, it's been on my list of things to try before I die. And now that I have, I can die happy. Served with a dousing of olive oil, the mozzarella was fresh as a baby's bottom after a sprinkling of talcum powder. Creamy and mild, it had a sly hint of sweetness and a mild tang. Either in deference to my clear adoration of it or because they had been entranced by the Early Girl tomatoes with a black olive vinaigrette, the others let me eat more than my fair share.
As to the pizza, the star of the night, it was served with that cute dish of condiments pictured at the top: a few sprigs of fresh oregano, smelling nice and strong; a pile of crushed red pepper flakes; and, a mound of just grated parmesan. How cute! I sprinkled and sprinkled and sprinkled my slices, enjoying the novelty of using fresh spices. The pizza was very, very good. I liked the thin crisp crust and the tomato sauce was divine, light and rich at the same time. My favorite was the Margherita (with that same delicious fresh-stretched cheese). Everyone else in the group was split between loving the Clam pie, with an admirable amount of kick to it, and the Napoletana for those not afraid of a little fish and brine. And then, when we had dispensed with our pizzas, it was time for dessert.
That meant a plum crostata. Ever since I made crostata a few weeks back, I've been obsessed. This one was good, damn good, and a sight better than mine (though in truth, it looked more like a tart with a very careful and decorative crust. Maybe crostata refers to the way the dough is made, not laid out? Anybody know?) The buttery crust yielded easily to my fork and the sweet plums inside were moist and jammy and lick-your-plate-clean good. Because I was the birthday girl, I got a piece all to myself while the others made do with sharing. And that is the ONLY reason I forgave them for singing the birthday song in the middle of a restaurant (last time that happened, I broke into tears. No, not happy tears, tears of cringing, seventh grade embarassment. This crew didn't know any better but since I had that delicious crostata staring up at me, I managed to keep it to a sniffle. I suppose it's partly my fault; after all, I ponied up the candle -- I'd saved the one from Manresa.)
Now one last thing before I go. I've read a good many reviews of PD since it opened, and one thing most inevitably do is compare it to A16. I am tempted to do the same, but in truth I think what's more interesting than which is better is the simple fact that A16 has undeniably become the standard bearer for pizza in San Francisco. PD is, deliberately or not, regarded as a challenger to the throne. I'll keep to myself which one I call out in the night for, and you go and decide for yourself. And if you don't mind a drive to Oakland, I hear Pizzaiolo is another to try. So much pizza, so little time. But someone's gotta do it. Why not you and me?