Cinecitta Ristorante & Bar
663 Union Street, San Francisco CA 94133 (map); 415-291-8830
Pizza Style: Thin, Roman-style
The Skinny: Meticulously crafted Roman-style crusts shine with all topping combinations; the ones that showcase Cinecitta's stellar ingredients are the real winners.
Price: $12.50 for Di Capra; $11.75 for Margherita; $11.75 for Fabreterius
It's incredibly easy to find yourself eating sub par pizza in North Beach. Walking down Columbus Avenue, stumbling over tourists and beseeched by men in storefronts to come in and try "the best pizza in the city," it can be tempting to give in to your low blood sugar and their promises of free wine and "roses for the ladies."
Push forward, Slice soldier. Up past the carnival of mediocre Italian fare sits Cinecitta—a small storefront on Union Street serving up square cut Roman-style pies with shatter-thin crusts. Pies are all 12" individually sized and cut into four pieces, but since the menu offers a generous selection of topping combinations, it's best to order a few and share with your dining companions.
All pies are made on the same square shaped crust, made with flour imported from Italy (owner and chef Romina declined to tell me which kind, "I don't share my secrets!" she said) and olive oil. The ingredients are all locally sourced, save the cheese which is also imported from Italy.
Cooked in a 500-degree oven, the resulting underskirt of the pizza shows golden brown blisters, with some char cropping up along the corners of of the crust. This works well—because the crust is so thin, any more charring on the undercrust would take away from the flavors of the toppings.
"Everything is fresh," Romina declared. After tasting Cinecitta's tomato sauce, I'm inclined to believe her wholeheartedly.
Simple and bursting with the sweet flavor of tomato, the sauce is perfectly showcased on the Di Capra ($12.50), a combination of goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, and roma tomatoes. The piles of tangy, creamy goat cheese take this variation on a Margherita to a new level of richness; combined with that tomato sauce, the flavor is incredible. Still, the mozzarella holds its own—stretchy and sweet, it adds texture and another dimension of flavor. This is a pizza laden with toppings, so don't be afraid to bust out your knife and fork.
The Margherita ($11.75) is more a standard cheese pizza than anything, but the shredded mozzarella was well-proportioned, nicely blistered, and salty. And really, anything with that tomato sauce is going to be good. We would have liked a bit more shredded basil, but the simplicity of this pizza allowed the flavor of the crust to really shine.
Any visit to Cinecitta necessitates ordering the Fabraterius ($11.75) (pictured at the top), perhaps one of the best potato pies I've ever had. The combination of rosemary, mozzarella, and marscapone topped with the crispy, creamy-interior potatoes is like eating your favorite home fries on top of a buttery, cheesy crust. The rosemary is applied conservatively, preventing it from dominating the other flavors but adding a decided touch of richness. Be sure to have plenty of wine to accompany this one—it's so salty, and so good.
Cinecitta manages to preserve an air of neighborhood authenticity in a neighborhood that can often feel like a Disney-fied version of Italian culture. As I found myself breaking off bits of cracker-crisp crust ends to swab leftover drops of tomato sauce, listening to Romina's rapid-fire Italian coming from behind the bar, I realized I wouldn't have been terribly surprised if, upon leaving the restaurant, I found myself face-to-face with the Colosseum.