Ladies and germs, I'm in San Francisco again. Got a wedding to go to—a friend of my girlfriend's is getting hitched. And while the GF was out having a "day of beauty" with the bride and her amigas, I was abandoned at the Powell Street BART Station like a litter of puppies no one wanted.
But that's OK, 'cause I like nothing more than being in an unfamiliar place, left to my own devices to explore the pizza on offer. Unlike previous visits, though, this time I'm a bit more organized—I came armed with a San Francisco Pizza Wishlist map and my new piePhone, which I'd programmed with all my stops.
Anyway, long story short, I wanted to check off at least two places on it yesterday afternoon, but these laid-back San Franciscan pizza-makers don't seem to get on the stick till 5 p.m. Well, thank goodness for hardworkin' gents like Tony Gemignani—at least he's got enough of a work ethic to fire up his oven so it's ready at noon.
L. A. Pizza Maven already went into detail about Tony's Pizza Napoletana in July, so I won't rehash much here. Suffice it to say that I took LAPM's advice and ordered the special Margherita pie (only 73 made each day) but had half of it topped with sausage.
The pie was pretty damn good, I'll tell you what. As I've said before, I'm always skeptical about the competitive pizza-tossing guys (and Gemignani is a giant in that world)—that they're all about the dough acrobatics and not about the flavor or texture of a pie. But Gemignani is as serious about the pizza as he is about the dough-throwing, and he made a seriously good pie for me yesterday.
I found what LAPM said to be true: The pie, though Neapolitan in style, is more crisp than the typically "wetter" Naples-style pizza. Mine was firm enough that I didn't see tip sag and definitely didn't need to resort to the knife and fork. The crust was tangy and flavorful with some nice crisp-chewiness to it, even if the medium-range hole structure left it a bit less airy and a bit more chewy than I would have liked.
Tony's Pizza Napoletana
1570 Stockton Street Union Street, San Francisco CA 94133 (at Union Street; map); 415-835-9888; internationalschoolofpizza.com
Pizza Style: Amazingly, all kinds
Oven Type: Again, amazingly, four different types
The Skinny: World Pizza Champion team member Tony Gemignani's combined pizzeria/pizza school is a veritable university or museum of pizza, with four different oven types to make an endless variety of pizza styles, from Neapolitan to New York to Trenton tomato pies, and more
See also: Tony's Pizza Napoletana: Pizza Paradise in SF [7/20/2009]
This was one case where I thought the sauce went a long way toward carrying the pie. It was very bright and fresh-tasting, pleasantly salty, and had just a hint of heat to it. In early July, the Epicurean Zealot noted that salt was sorely lacking on TPN's pies, but if my pie was any indication, Gemignani seems to have fixed that issue. (I do agree with a lot of the criticism he made in a comment on Slice, though.)
But what really got me was the sausage. It reminded me of the wonderfully porky, brilliantly spiced sausage being used at Veloce Pizzeria in Manhattan. It was at once a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, and its bite finished with a sagey, almost floral note. The waiter told me that Gemignani gets it from a Chicago-based purveyor, which would explain its awesomeness—Chicagoans know pork sausage like nobody's business.
From what I've had in SF so far (a very limited selection), it's comparable to Pizzaiolo and Delfina (the only other Neapolitanesque pies I've had here). And if the pizza were the only thing I was looking at, I'd have a hard time choosing. But as Epicurean Zealot gets at in that comment I linked to above, the atmosphere at those other places trumps the atmosphere at TPN, no question—they're both airy, energetic, and vibrant whereas TPN is very much dark and clubby feeling. You might take your aunt to TPN, but you'd take your friends to Delfina or Pizzaiolo. As far as service goes (one of EZ's other sticking points), I had no complaints. My server was friendly, attentive, and courteous. And since I didn't try any of the other food on the menu (I was saving room for Bi-Rite Creamery), I can't speak to his other complaint, either.
Anyway, it's getting on in the day, and I have to get ready for that wedding. It's up near Larkspur, so with any luck, I'll be able to convince the GF to let me detour to Pizzeria Picco. Anyway, I'll talk at y'all later.