3001 Beech St, San Diego, CA 92102 (map); buonaforchettasd.com Pizza Style: Neapolitan The Skinny: Neighborhood pizzeria slinging Neapolitan-style pies baked in a legit wood-fired oven Price: Pizzas range from $7 to $15. Regina Margherita, $13; Alexa, $12, Tiramisu, $6
When it comes to pizza, San Diego is still in its awkward teenage years. Truly excellent purveyors are on the rise and the potential is evident, but compared to what's going on in pizza capitals like New York or Chicago, it's clear that we've got a lot of growing up to do. Still, the positive response to new pizzerias that are dedicated to honing their craft is always encouraging. Such is the case with Buona Forchetta, the latest addition to SD's decidedly uncrowded Neapolitan pizza scene.
The husband-and-wife-owned spot in South Park is committed to making pizzas in the traditional Neapolitan style, using top-notch olive oil—co-owner Matteo Cattaneo has a line on Farchioni oil because, well, his family produces it—San Marzano tomato sauce, and a gold-tiled Stefano Ferrara wood-fired pizza oven.
Comparisons to North Park's neighboring Neapolitan-style joint, Pizzeria Bruno, are inevitable. But Buona Forchetta sets itself apart with a larger, more comprehensive menu that boasts 21 varieties of pizza alongside a range of calzones, fresh pastas, antipasti, salads, and desserts (including a killer tiramisu). In addition to their red and white pies, the South Park restaurant has an exciting selection of pizze fritte, which are lightly fried before they're finished in the oven.
The Regina Margherita ($13) features milky bufala mozzarella, generously portioned over a thin layer of bright, sweet San Marzano tomato sauce. The crust is soft and a bit chewy, with some minor leopard spotting; as Neapolitan-style pies go, it isn't jarringly different from a standard thin-crust pie. The char is minimal, and the crust is crisp enough on the bottom that you can easily pick up a slice, fold it, and eat it like any other pizza (unlike Bruno, which is strictly a fork-and-knife affair). What really makes you take notice of the pies at Buona Forchetta is the salt, particularly on the margherita pie. The salty spike in each bite was admittedly tasty, but by my third slice, I was scraping off the excess.
I far prefer the Alexa ($12). It's topped with crumbled housemade fennel sausage and rapini, and it's not nearly as salty as the Margherita. The bitter veg plays off the sweet, mild sausage for a nice, well-balanced pie. Say yes to chili flakes on this one: the injection of heat into this equation works wonders.
Unfortunately, the execution wasn't totally consistent, and on two separate visits, I was served pizzas with significantly uneven charring.
The six pies I sampled were all a bit different: some wet on the bottom, others with plenty of char. I'm chalking it up to a bit of a learning curve on the oven. Even so, $13 for a mostly-perfect buffalo mozzarella Margherita pie is still pretty awesome.
Let me also make a motion for the house-made tiramisu ($6), which is perfect in its simplicity and the ideal final act to a slightly-too-salty-to-savory meal. Trust me on this one.