Revisiting San Francisco’s North Beach: Tony’s Napoletana & Giordano Brothers


The Classic Margherita @ Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, North Beach.

In my line of work, I probably eat about five pizzas per week on average. It’s one of the perks and pitfalls of working at an Italian restaurant: On most days, pizza provides a quick and easy “family meal” for the kitchen and restaurant staff. The downside to eating pizza for family meal is that I don’t think I’ve eaten any other restaurant’s pizza for over a year now, the lone exception being a deep dish pie at Gino’s East in Chicago (my late-night dinner at Gino’s East capped a one-day road trip where I ate breakfast at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and lunch at Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis). Even then, I devoured that Geno’s pie way back in April, so it’s been a while.

Today, I finally decided to allow other pizzas into my [… read more …]

Scouting Bay Area Sandwiches, and a Couple Other Half-Formed Thoughts

Brazil Fresh

Hella Tasty: The Tri-Tip Sandwich with “The Works” (#84) @ The Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe, Berkeley. In this case, “The Works” includes fresh cheese, grilled onions, pineapple, jalapeño, lettuce, tomato, and cilantro-garlic sauce. One of the great sandwiches of the Bay Area, for sure.

Personally, I don’t think the apocalypse is upon us. If the world didn’t implode when Sandra Lee prepared her infamous Kwanzaa cake in 2003, then I think we’re probably good through 2012, and well beyond. However, with December 21st less than a fortnight away, it’s still as good of a time as any to clear out my “to do” folder. And why not? A couple of these photos have been in turn-around for months, so it’s time to finally give them some daylight. Other pics were part of a sandwich run-down that never really developed a decent angle or hook. So, yeah, I just [… read more …]

Servings by the Slice @ Rotten City Pizza, Emeryville

Pepperoni pizza and cheese pizza can coexist.

Pepperoni pizza and cheese pizza, coexisting.

I stopped by Rotten City this afternoon for a couple slices of their delicious thin-crust pizza, which is pictured above. When I’m out on the road, I’m a big proponent of the by-the-slice format, since it enables me to eat as much pizza as I want, without having to deal with leftovers, which don’t typically fare well after a day in the car. Even better yet, ordering pizza by the slice feels much more like a snack than a meal, even if I somehow end up eating four or five pieces in one session (over-snacking is also much healthier than over-eating, at least in my mind). At Rotten City, it’s usually pretty easy for me to over-snack, since I find their crispy, cracker-thin crust to be somewhat addictive. In fact, Rotten City might just be my favorite by-the-slice option in the East [… read more …]

The Buongiorno Pizza @ Diavola Pizzeria, Geyserville

Diavola oven.

Diavola Pizzeria’s awesome oven.

Rarely would I preempt a food pic with a kitchen pic, but the oven at Diavola Pizzeria in Geyserville is worth top billing. While most wood-burning ovens prove a bit more utilitarian in nature, modest little brick houses, the inset mantles and monkish figurines of the Diavola oven, along with its racy red exterior, certainly set this beast apart. But it’s not all for show, mind you; there’s also the pizza to consider. During my last sojourn to Sonoma, I ordered Diavola’s Buongiorno, which is pictured below. As its Italian name implies, the Buongiorno (that’s “Good Morning,” here in the Golden State) is an ode to breakfast, with strips of bacon, herbed new potatoes, creamy onions, and of course, a farm-fresh egg, cooked sunny-side up. In the interest of complete disclosure, I should mention that the Buongiorno pizza isn’t an everyday staple at Diavola, [… read more …]

Lunchtime: Pizza @ Arizmendi Bakery, Emeryville

Pizza @ Arizmendi Bakery, Emeryville: Housemade Tomato Sauce, Kalamata Olives, Spinach, Parmesan and Garlic-Herb Oil.

Arizmendi Emeryville lies in the shadow of Pixar Animation Studios, and although the bakery may not provide the ideal venue for a high-level power lunch, it certainly must be a welcome oasis for those who don’t occupy Pixar’s corner offices. And that’s the point, really: Arizmendi Bakery is steeped in the ethos of the everyman, an owner-operated cooperative and a spin-off of the famous Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley. Since its initial launch in 1997, the Arizmendi Bakery has expanded to four locations in the Bay Area, which may give the illusion of rampant franchising. However, each Arizmendi Bakery remains a unique entity in terms of its cooperative ownership (there’s actually no person named Arizmendi behind the scenes; the four bakeries take their common name from José María Arizmendiarrieta, a Basque labor organizer [… read more …]

Lunch: Thin-Crust Cheese Pizza @ Little Star, Albany

Cheese Pizza @ Little Star, Albany.

For the most part, Little Star Pizza trades on its reputation for baking one of the Bay Area’s best (albeit few) deep-dish pizzas. That certainly isn’t a bad thing, although in my opinion, deep-dish pizza is barely analogous to thin-crust pizza (same flavors, yes, but so much different in nature). Being a West Coast native, my sensibilities naturally lean towards a more Neapolitan-style pie, and Little Star’s thin-crust alternative, pictured above, is a pleasant and competent offering. Without being specific, or overly back-handed, I’d probably rank it near the bottom of my Bay Area top 10. That seems about right.

During my last visit, I also began with Little Star’s caprese salad, which is pictured below. I’ll admit that the following observation might be a little bit of out left field, but I usually take notice of knife cuts, and the basil [… read more …]

Pizza @ Emilia’s Pizzeria, Berkeley

Planned Pizzahood: The Margherita @ Emilia's Pizzeria, Berkeley.

I’m not an actual resident of Berkeley, so I don’t claim to know all of the subtleties of ordering a pizza at Emilia’s on Shattuck Ave. But I do know that Emilia’s is not your typical drop-in pizza joint like, say, Cheese Board, or Gioia, or Blondie’s, or Fat Slice. Unlike most other college-town pizzerias, eating at Emilia’s requires some planning: To begin with, the restaurant itself seats less than 10 people, and is only open from 5pm to 9pm, Tuesday through Saturday. It’s friendly, but it’s geared for take-out. That being said, the phones at Emilia’s open everyday before service at 4pm, and people call to schedule their orders accordingly.

I called Emilia’s a bit before 4:15 on a Wednesday and, after four or five busy signals, was able to secure a pizza for a 5pm pick-up. Although I [… read more …]

Tuesday’s Pizza @ The Cheese Board Collective, North Berkeley

Two slices, and then some: Mozzarella and Montalban cheese, red peppers, Kalamata olives, garlic olive oil. Please click the photo for a full-screen view.

Two slices, and then some: Mozzarella and Montalban cheese, red peppers, Kalamata olives, garlic olive oil. Please click the photo for a full-screen view.

To say that I’ve rediscovered pizza isn’t exactly accurate — I’ve never really gone too long without a slice. Let’s just say that my appreciation for pizza has been deepening for the last couple months. After a long week working in the kitchen, I woke up this afternoon with pizza on my mind. With a little motivation, I arrived in Berkeley just ahead of rush hour, and stopped by the Cheese Board Collective for their daily pizza special, pictured above. Since the restaurant offers just one type of pizza each day, Cheese Board pizzas are always vegetarian, which is actually okay with me, although I do also love the pepperoni pizza at Gioia. Part of the Cheese Board’s charm — aside from its grassroots [… read more …]