The Pizza Place on Noriega
3901 Noriega Street (at 46th Ave), San Francisco, CA 94122 (map); 415-759-5777; pizzaplacesf.com
Pizza style: New York-style
Oven type: Brick-lined gas oven
The skinny: An enjoyable neighborhood spot with aggressively-topped pies. But eat fast, because these pizzas can go catastrophically soggy if they sit too long.
Price: Large pies, $21.50 to $27; slice, $3
The Pizza Place on Noriega is located so far out in San Francisco's Sunset district that it might as well be in the ocean. I imagine they get quite a few customers who have just peeled off a wetsuit after attempting to surf the riptides at Ocean Beach. The restaurant embraces this pedigree, with a laid back decor that includes a car with spinning pizzas for wheels, and a pie on the menu that they've dubbed The Spicoli (double cheese and sausage, of course), after one of film's most iconic surfer dudes. And if PPoN doesn't serve destination pizza, it's certainly a spot worth knowing about if you find yourself on this distant edge of the city.
When eating at PPoN, prepare for big. A large pie measures twenty inches across, but it sure looked bigger. And though the crust at PPoN is only as thick as your typical New York-style joint, slices look extra hefty because toppings get piled on with abandon. PPoN uses a brick-lined gas oven to turn out these sizable pies. It creates an endcrust that crackles when you bite into it and boasts just enough salt to go with a light, buttery flavor.
The best thing I ate at PPoN was certainly the Rotten Robby: sausage, mushrooms, jalapenos, and pesto over a raw tomato sauce and aged mozzarella. The genius of this pie came from the pesto, which PPoN treats as a topping, rather than as a replacement for the red sauce. The green dollops provided an herby accent to the already winning combination of the fennely sausage crumbles and the mild heat of the peppers. Order this pie!
The boys at PPoN exercise slightly less restraint when creating the Meathead. Zoe's pepperoni, sausage, ham, and Molinari salami all find their way onto this pie, forming a varied and somewhat impervious layer of pork product. Yes, it's overkill, but the tangy tomato sauce and the bite from some red onions provide just enough balance to transform this pie into an enjoyable pile of salty-richness.
As for the Margherita, it cuts a dashing figure, scattered with fresh basil. But the aged mozzarella had been piled on way too thick, pulling off in overwhelming mouthfuls once the pie had cooled a bit.
So, have fun with the slightly bodacious topped pies at PPoN, but be warned that a danger lurks beneath. Though the undercarriage of these pies starts life quite firm (see above), it can turn into a soggy catastrophe about halfway through the meal. My advice would be to eat your pizza fast to maximize enjoyment. If you've just spent the morning on a surfboard, getting buffeted by the waves—not to mention the San Francisco fog—I don't imagine this will be a problem for you.