San Francisco: Beretta
1199 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 (map); 415-695-1199; berettasf.com
Pizza style: California-style
Oven type: Gas
The skinny: Cocktails are the star at Beretta, but the pizzas with creative toppings make a nice sidebar to whatever you're drinking.
Notes: Open until 1 a.m. Makes a killer date spot.
Price: Pizzas $10 to $17
Since Beretta opened in 2008, much of the buzz has been about the cocktails. But even if they're not the main event, Beretta's pizzas are a likable piece in a winning overall restaurant concept.
The menu at Beretta features antipasti, a few risottos, and a pizza list that goes twelve deep (plus a brunch pie on weekends). All the touchstones of the San Francisco upscale pizza scene are here—potatoes, eggs, and all sorts of Italian cured meats find their way onto Beretta's pies. You can get cauliflower and pancetta on one pie; potato, gorgonzola dolce, and radicchio on another.
Supporting this cornucopia, the thin crust had a mild butteriness and a crispness that seemed to vary from bite to bite. The edges were crackery in a few spots, crisp-but-chewy in others, and just a touch soft elsewhere. The floor of Beretta's gas-fired Wood Stone oven left the undercarriages of the pies brown-spotted, but without char. These crusts were canvasses for the toppings more than the linchpin of the pizzas.
Beretta's Margherita is a fine pizza—it just needs more salt. Both the crust and the fresh mozzarella would have given off a good deal more flavor with a bit more seasoning. The lightly cooked sauce stood up on its own, though, with fresh tomato and herb notes. A splash of olive oil adds a light fruitiness to the mix.
The brunch pizza came sauceless, with bacon, two eggs, mozzarella, and Pecorino. Though the bacon seemed unevenly distributed on the pie, its rich hammy flavor permeated the pizza.
I also enjoyed the pizza topped with spicy salami, coppa, provolone, tomato, and diavolicchio. These devilishly-named peppers brought beads of sweat to my forehead, but the richness of the pie tempered the heat.
Seated around the communal table in the center of Beretta's dining room, patrons are all munching pizzas, but they're guzzling cocktails. Were I in it only for the pizza, Beretta wouldn't be at top of my list. But as a nibble alongside whatever spirits I happen to have in my glass, these pleasant pies work very well.