Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pizzeria Delfina - San Francisco, Ca

My good friend Randy's birthday. He works in SF and I figured I'd take him out some place nice. And pizza is of course delicious.

Me and Good Friend Randy.

The Space:
Store front space on 18th street just off Valencia (next to the esteemed Delfina restaurant). Compact interior with a handful of tables on 18th street another 6 or so banquettes inside and a counter with seating along one side of the kitchen. Industrial but stylish. Just as a note, the pizzeria is open all day (except Monday--dinner only) serving their pies and antipasti dine-in or to do.

The Wine:
No wine. Though I had a nice iced tea. Should be noted that Pizzeria Delfina caused a minor sensation when it opened and barred the bringing of wines from customers' personal stashes. Small, well-priced list.

The pizzeria's menu features antipasti, pizzas, one piatto del giorno, and dolce--that's it. No pasta, no long list of entrees. I like it--I think that a place like Pizzaiolo falls flat more often than not when it strays from what it is set up to make--motherfucking pizza. The Pizzeria has a nice selection of antipasti to add a a little more depth to your meal. We opted for one, the spicy cauliflower. Tender florets were sauteed with capers, spicy chilies, and garlic. This dish was strongly flavored, oily, and perfectly cooked. Simply great.

Tried two pizzas--one was a signature pie, the salsiccia with homemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions, and mozzarella. The other was a special that day of pancetta, grilled treviso, pecorino, and hot peppers. Both were damn tasty. First of all, this was the best pizza crust I've had--very thin but very crispy (only the very middle of the sausage pizza was a bit floppy). The edge of the crust is worked up into a nice chewy doughy ring. The pizzas are thinly and evenly sauced and cheesed with a smattering of delicious evenly spaced toppings. While like Pizzaiolo, the Pizzeria could've used more toppings--at least at Pizzeria Delfina the toppings are strongly flavored traditional Italian toppings and not mild and bland California Cuisine bullshit. The pancetta and treviso pizza was treviso-heavy (almost the entire pizza is covered in a single layer of the chicory) and the pancetta needed to play a more prominent role, but the entire package was excellent. The salsiccia pizza was fabulous--the homemade fennel sausage was plumper and stronger than that which I'd had on a similar pizza at Chez Panisse Cafe. The other toppings were well-balanced and complimentary. Both pizzas were perfectly sauced and cheesed--nothing was too gooey or drippy. It should be noted as well that all the pizzas on the menu sounded great (including a clam pizza and a broccoli rabe pizza).

At the suggestion of our server, we opted to try their cannoli with Bellwether ricotta. Nice crisp shell with a smooth, not overly rich filling. The shell could've been a little flakier for my tastes, but then again I don't pretend to be a judge of authentic cannoli. Pretty damn good.

In Conclusion:
Big, strongly-flavored, and well-priced pizzas (with an even better crust) combined with an extensive selection of strongly-flavored antipasti makes Pizzeria Delfina the anti-Pizzaiolo. Where Pizzaiolo is the place to go for people who want a seasonal garden on a crust, Pizzeria Delfina is the place to go to get an actual pizza. The bonus is that unlike other great pizza joints (Lanesplitter comes to mind), Pizzeria Delfina also uses ingredients that are on par or exceed the quality of Pizzaiolo's. And, even though the crust is far and away the best part of a Pizzaiolo pie, Pizzeria Deflina's was better--crisp and charred and doughy and soft all at the same time. Even without a wood oven.

I'll be back to Pizzeria Delfina many many times--I want to try all the antipasti and all the pizzas. That in and of itself is enough of an endorsement. It's nice to dine at a restaurant that understands that fresh & seasonal and big, bold flavors can (and should) go hand in hand.

Pizzeria Delfina
Cuisine: Italian/Pizza
Price range: Antipasti $2.75-$7.75; Pizza $10-$16
HFF's cost for two (one antipasti, two pizzas, one dessert, one iced tea, tax, and 20% tip): $60
Reservations: No.
3611 18th Street
San Francisco, Ca 94110

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