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20090102-data.jpgI recall a certain episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the android Mr. Data is told that although his recital of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" is technically perfect, it lacks soul.

That's how I feel about most of the Neapolitan-style pizza I've tried. When it's done right, it's delicious but often lacks a nice crispness, and its daintiness is almost always just a little less than satisfying.

So when Girl Slice and I met up with some of her friends at Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco's Mission District over the holidays, I was prepared to be mehhed.

The photos I'd seen of Pizzeria Delfina's pies all said Neapolitan, and San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer described it as "thin crust, Neapolitan style with a nod to New York."

"Nod to New York," I thought. We'll see. It seems that when I travel outside New York, the pizza I eat falls into three categories:

  • Decent-to-masterful Neapolitan-style pizza
  • "Not New York–style but good for XYZ city"
  • Ugh

Where did Delfina fall?

Thankfully in none of the categories above. It was, similar to Bauer's description, equal parts Neapolitan (small, personal-size pizzas with exceptionally puffy rims) and New York-style (that all-important and hard-to-achieve crisp-chewy crust).

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Somehow, Delfina is able to crank out some satisfyingly proper-crusted pizzas in a gas-fired oven. That the toppings are fresh and outstanding doesn't hurt either. We shared four different pizzas to eat through a variety of what's on offer at this small space next door to the heralded original Delfina restaurant.

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The Salsiccia came recommended by Bauer in his review; it's topped with house-made fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions, and mozzarella ($14). I'm pretty much a sucker for any sausage-and-onion pie. This one was my favorite of the evening.

Girl Slice chose for her pick a basic Margherita (pictured at top of post), which was good, because it gave us a good baseline to judge crust, cheese, sauce, and overall balance. It passed—and exceeded—muster in all respects. New Yorkers familiar with Lucali should imagine one of Mark Iacono's pizzas but smaller.

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We also chose a couple pizzas that were either specials or that weren't listed on the Pizzeria Delfina online menu, because I have no idea which of the seven on-menu pizzas the two above would be. Sorry. The point of the dinner was not so much a pizza review as it was a catching-up with (and, for me, meeting new) friends.

The topmost of the two pies above was a white pizza topped with guanciale, and the one just above had prosciutto and fresh greens and was almost a salad pizza. Not bad, but by the point I ended up eating these two, I was stuffed to the gills, and I'm afraid I couldn't full appreciate them.

You see, I had eaten a "baby burrito" at La Corneta between lunch and dinner.

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Fresh-stretched mozzarella appetizer (four ounces; $8.25).

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Insalata tricolore (arugula, radicchio, and endive with lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and grana padano; $8)

The fact that we noshed on some appetizers (above) didn't help things, either.

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Another box joins the Slice Pizza Box Museum.

We couldn't house all the pizza on the table by the end of the meal and had to take some home.

The only other pizzerias I've eaten at in San Francisco are Pizzaiolo and Blondie's. Blondie's was UGH, but I'd have hard time choosing which was better among Delfina and Pizzaiolo. Though, from memory, I'd give the edge to Delfina right now. I'd have to revisit both on the same day to do a head-to-head comparison.

And, yeah, I know there are tons of other places that I should have tried, but I only had so many meals out on my dance card while I was there, so don't rake me over the coals for missing your favorite or one that you think is better than Delfina. (Although you're free to leave suggestions in the comments here for my next visit.)

Pizzeria Delfina

Address: 3611 18th Street, San Francisco CA 94110 (near Guererro; map)
Phone: 415-437-6800
Website: pizzeriadelfina.com

Bonus: Star Trek's Mr. Data Plays Music

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