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

tonysnapolitano

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 life. It’s not that I craved pizza, necessarily. But I felt that I was long overdue to revisit Tony’s Napoletana Pizza in North Beach. I had first visited Tony’s back in 2009, when the restaurant was still relatively new, and owner Tony Gemignani was fresh off his victory at the 2007 World Pizza Cup in Naples. Since then, Gemignani has added an impressive arsenal of pizzas to his menu, complete with notes on the various ovens and cooking temperatures (such details represent a level of pizza nerdiness that I can certainly appreciate).

Although I was tempted to explore some of the new additions to the Tony’s menu, I ordered the same classic Margherita, pictured above, that I ordered in 2009. A little predictable and routine, I know. But after a four-year lay-off, I felt as though I was starting over, and I always start with a Margherita, if possible. The elegant simplicity of the this particular pie reveals the true nature of any pizza, which wins or loses with the crust. The Margherita at Tony’s matched my notes from four years ago, with impeccable ingredients, and the supple, charred crust of traditional wood-fired napoletana pizza.

• • •

giordano

The Kielbasa All-In-One @ Giordano Brothers, North Beach.

I’ve always had great parking mojo, meaning that I can usually find a great spot, and not only that, I can parallel park my truck in one fluid, graceful motion, perfect spacing from the curb. My parking mojo is the closest thing I have to a super power. But in San Francisco, even I can’t take too many chances. I had secured a great spot on Grant and Filbert, so I decided to stay put for the day: I would revisit Giordano Brothers for an early lunch, do some record shopping at 101 Music, and then walk over to Tony’s in the afternoon.

I suppose that I go through phases, because it had also been about four years since I had last visited Giordano Brothers. Like Tony’s Napoletena Pizza, Giordano Brothers is relatively new to the venerable North Beach neighborhood, having opened in 2004. Essentially, Giordano Brothers replicates the famous, french fry-laden, all-in-one sandwich of Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh. As far as I’m concerned, the sandwiches are nearly the same: Honest, simple, and filling.

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