San Francisco: Clunky Toppings Undo Several Pies at the Otherwise Lovable Piccino
1001 Minnesota Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 (map); 415-824-4224; piccinocafe.com
Pizza style: California-style
Oven type: Montague gas oven
The skinny: This lovable pizzeria has the potential to turn out pleasant pies, but went astray with its toppings on this visit
Price: Pies, $10 to $18
In May, Piccino moved from its miniscule blue storefront to a much larger yellow building up the block. If the size of this pizzeria no longer matches its name—piccino means "tiny" in Italian—the restaurant remains as lovable as ever. With the bright hue of the facade, and the airy, high-ceilinged interior, I can't imagine a more inviting place to eat. No wonder it breaks my heart just a little bit that the pies they serve, thanks to some clunky toppings, don't quite live up to the vibe.
The very thin crust on Piccino's pizzas lacks some heft, but this is not the source of my disappointment. These pleasantly-flavored, pleasantly crisp rounds of bread provide a base that could support all sorts of pleasant pies.
This certainly holds true on the Margherita. Though I wished the mozzarella had received a bit more salt, a hearty sauce accented by a scatter of fresh oregano made for a simple pie that could happily satisfy its role at a lunch of salad, pizza, and a glass of wine.
Yet, for a restaurant that I associate with a California-style approach to cooking, my topped pizzas simply missed the mark.
Sausage should be a slam-dunk to improve most pies, but the pork atop Piccino's Salsiccia had been ground too fine. The result was sausage with an almost sandy texture, somehow dry despite the fact that several chunks of meat appeared pinkish-raw at their center.
In the Rosmarino pie, I had hoped for something that would disprove the notion that squash can't work on a pizza. The combination of delicata squash, gorgonzola cheese, fennel, rosemary, and pickled onion sure proved visually jarring when it arrived at the table, but despite packing an individual punch, none of the other ingredients could really stand up to the funk of the cheese.
Aside from enjoying our Margherita, we found ourselves raving about a salad of garden lettuces that should have been too simple to taste that good. Indeed, reviews of the full menu make it sound like there are quite a few reasons beyond the pizzas to bask in the glow of Piccino's yellow building. So maybe I'll stick to the other offerings, or maybe, as their menu changes with the seasons, I'll even be inclined to give Piccino another shot at topping a pizza for me. I really do want to love this place!
About the author: David Kover is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and food enthusiast. He occasionally gets his tweet on at @pizzakover. Or, you can check out the details about his latest venture at Schmendricks.com.