509 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 (map); 415-255-1303
2119 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704; (map); 510-841-4035
Pizza style: New York-style
Oven type: Gas
The skinny: A solid no-frills slice shop
Notes: Half-baked pies and dough available for purchase. No delivery.
Price: Regular slice, $2.75; Sicilian slice, $3
These days, San Francisco is awash in delicious artisanal pizzas topped with all manner of creative, locally-sourced ingredients. But, you know, sometimes a fella just wants a slice. That's where Arinell Pizza comes in. There's nothing fancy about what Ron Demirdjian and his crew of heavy-metal-pizzaioli serve at Arinell. It might not be the Platonic ideal of the New York City slice, but it tastes pretty darn good.
The dough is made with Mondako flour and given a slow rise in the fridge of at least a day to develop some flavor. Pies are cooked in a gas oven until they're browned at the edge, lightly charred on the bottom, thin and crispy throughout. So thin and crispy, in fact, that slices sometimes come perilously close to drying out, especially after a reheat. Whole pies are more rounded squares than circles. When you divide up these pies, you get wedges that are extra generous, but they often have one side that's slightly longer than the other, which can make for an awkward fold.
The slices are sauced with Saporito tomato sauce that's been doctored up with some herbs. It's sparingly applied. The oregano comes through, but the tomato flavor itself is not at the forefront of this pizza. Low moisture, part-skim shredded mozzarella goes on top in a thin but full layer that intermingles with the sauce. Rich and tasty pizza-cheesiness is the dominant flavor on these slices.
Arinell certainly isn't participating in the local orgy of anything-goes pizza toppings. There's pepperoni, olives, onion, garlic, mushrooms, sausage, peppers, anchovy, or extra cheese. That's it. Toppings are so staid that, during my most recent visit, I was surprised to see them serving yellow peppers on slices rather than the basic green. In a move that is sure to raise some folks' ire, sausage comes in discs. Still, the sausage tastes pretty good, with a nice hit of fennel. You should note that it's only plain pies behind the counter, so if you want a topping, it's added after the fact and given a quick reheat.
You can also get yourself a Sicilian slice at Arinell. The bottom crust is thick and crispy at its base, with a relatively fine hole structure. If you're lucky enough to get a side or corner slice, you'll find a little bit of pan-grease baked into the crunchy edge. The cheese and sauce are much more thickly layered than on the New York-style slices. It can taste a little clunky, but it sure is comforting.
Sure, I can find flaws with Arinell Pizza, but the bottom line is that it's solid. Arinell has become my go-to spot for a quick slice, and we all need one of those.
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