Daily Slice: Liguria Bakery, San Francisco
At Liguria Bakery, with no display case and almost nothing on the shelves, you could be forgiven for thinking that they don't sell anything at all. You'd almost be right. Liguria sells one thing, the same thing they've sold for exactly 100 years: focaccia. And people gobble it up. Though the sign behind the counter lists nine different types of focaccia, when I arrived at eleven on a Thursday morning, all they had left was Pizza or Onion. (The store closes when they sell out, often by noon.)
The women behind the counter at Liguria certainly don't crack any excess smiles as they wrap your focaccia in plain white paper and tie it off with a string. But that's okay, the focaccia is good enough that it requires no sales pitch, and these women—relatives of the original baker who opened Liguria in 1911—have likely been up since the wee hours preparing the contents of this package, so cut them some slack.
My Pizza Focaccia ($5) came covered in deep red sauce and studded with green onions. No cheese. The inside of the bread, redolent of olive oil and seasoned with salt, boasted such a light consistency that I could have used it for a pillow. The edges that had been pressed up against the oiled pan had developed an almost (and I can't believe I'm about to use this word) ethereally crisp skin. If the top of this focaccia looks bare compared to other "pizza," the rich and balanced sauce—both bright and sweet—carried the day, needing only the occasional sweet-tangy crunch of the green onion to spice up its landscape. I easily could have eaten the giant slab—approximately six inches by twelve—on my own.
Rumor has it that if you arrive early enough, you can get focaccia that's still warm from the oven*. Arrive late, as I did, and it may cross your mind to take your focaccia home for a reheat, but Liguria is located just across the street from Washington Square Park, a great place to stare up at Peter and Paul Church while you eat. That works, because you may have just found religion.
*And quite the oven it is—the same one that was originally there when they opened in 1911, though they switched over from wood to gas about fifty years ago. They wouldn't let me back there to take photos, but the woman behind the counter explained that it employs a contraption that literally spits flames into the mouth of the oven until it's heated to 1500 degrees. They then close the oven door and let it slowly cool over the course of the day so that it's at baking temperature—about 800 degrees—early the next morning when they are ready to begin cooking up the new batch of focaccia. Check out this pic from Me, Myself, and Pie.
1700 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94133 (map)