For years now I've suffered the shame of never having experienced Anthony Mangieri's pizza magic. Those days are over.
I arrived at Una Pizza Napoletana at 7:30 p.m. and expected to face a 45-minute wait outside and another long wait for the pies. But since it was a cold Thanksgiving Eve when I arrived, there was only a 30-minute wait and the few of us in line fit comfortably inside the pizzeria. The fairly optimal conditions allowed me some time to truly absorb the entire UPN experience at a leisurely pace. I was even able to introduce myself to Mr. Mangieri, who proved to be a smiling, friendly host.
As I gazed around the restaurant, my eyes settled on a rather bizarre sight. On my neighbor's plate sat a pile of orphaned crusts looking as pitiful as the street urchins in a Dickens novel. I couldn't help but ask him if I could snap a picture: I needed evidence that someone did not fully enjoy the most highly touted quality of Mangieri's pies, the crust. [See also: Types of Crust Eaters »]
Barely 30 minutes after I ordered, one incredibly beautiful pie was set in front of me. The bold green, red, and gold colors swimming atop the crust mesmerized me. But as I reached for the pizza that would transport me to pizza paradise, I froze. This pie was uncut! I had forgotten this idiosyncratic aspect of Mangieri's pies. Fortunately, I was provided with a sharp, serrated knife.
The first bite transported me right through Ghiberti's Gates of (Pizza) Paradise. A very generous portion of the creamiest, perfectly melted buffalo mozzarella graced my tongue. A hint of garlic balanced the sweetness of the fresh cherry tomatoes. Bits of emerald basil swam in a golden pool of extra virgin olive oil.
Visually, the crust exhibited all the desired qualities: a bubbled and charred lip and a nicely darkened bottom. The softness of the crust, though, surprised me a bit. It was lacking the highly prized initial crispness; I expected a bit more crackle and resistance to the tooth. But the crust was perfectly giving and pillowy, with just the right density. I luxuriated in every flavorful bite.
Once all traces of the pizza had vanished from my plate, a waiter inquired if I'd like a short Neapolitan coffee. How could I resist? He returned with the coffee and a couple of sweet chocolate treats, as well. Then a limoncello was offered as well. I happily accepted this fortifying digestif before venturing out, thoroughly satisfied, into the cold San Francisco night. And when the bill finally arrived, I realized these last treats were complimentary. A very thoughtful and much appreciated gesture.
My first UPN pie was unequivocally the equal of the very best pizza I've ever eaten. It truly left me in a transcendent, meditative state. Not bad for a 12-inch round of minimally topped dough. I have read some SF Chowhounders complain about the $20 pie price, but I can enthusiastically state that Mangieri's pizza was well worth the Jackson.