San Carlos, CA: Locanda Positano
3617 Laurel Street, San Carlos, CA 94070 (map); 650-591-5700; locanda-positano.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan-inspired
Oven type: Gas
The skinny: It seemed like the Margherita should have gotten us excited, but it somehow lacked a bit of magic
Price: Pies, $14 to $17
Or, if you're of the mind that only a wood-fired oven can turn out a high-quality Neapolitan pizza, then you'd blame my disappointment on that. I actually almost didn't realize that Locanda Positano cooks their pies with gas. Their Valoriani oven looks* more or less like any number of other rigs you'll find in the area until you get close enough to see the line of gas jets inside. No matter the fuel, it doesn't have a problem creating heat—the temperature gauge read 397 degrees Celsius (that's 747°F) when I walked by.
You could blame it on the fact that we let our pies sit on the table a few minutes too long before eating as I tried to convince my camera to take a reasonable picture. Maybe that's why the crust struck me as a bit dense in spots? Still, with a not-quite-spotted lip and tiger stripes of charring underneath, it came out nicely crisp, with a pronounced tang.
I can't come up with any specific excuse for their Margherita. The fresh mozzarella seemed creamy enough, and the tomato sauce had a nice bright flavor. I'd have taken a bit of salt, or maybe I should have asked for some hot pepper?
Okay, so I can confidently blame my disappointment with their sausage pie on the sheer quantity of toppings. From the coins of fennel sausage, to the sliced mushrooms, to the bits of broccoli, there was just a lot of everything. It seemed somehow an incongruous presentation for a pizzeria that styled itself as upscale-artisanal.
As for their ripieno fritto, the fried calzone, that one I understand as well. Just too much fried-ness. The ricotta, mozzarella, and salami inside didn't stand a chance against the amusement park exterior.
With certain pies I can pinpoint my gripe, but I still can't completely explain why I found myself with a case of the blahs even after eating Locanda Positano's Margherita. It might have been their bad day, or it might have been mine. It seems like I should have liked it better, but for the time being I'd point my car in another direction when asked to pick just one Neapolitan-style pizzeria on the Peninsula.
*Besides the garish paint job.
About the author: David Kover is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and food enthusiast. He occasionally gets his tweet on as @pizzakover.