San Francisco, CA 94133
I had fully planned to do a two-part lunch today, starting with Pizzetta 211 in the
What's neat about Tony's is that the place boasts no less than four different ovens, each used for different types of pizza. The Margherita and Marinara pies are cooked in a domed wood-burning oven. "Classic Italian" pizzas are cooked in a gas-fired domed brick oven. "Classic American" pizzas are cooked in a
One look at Tony's menu and I was hit with a severe case of sticker shock. The 12-inch Margherita sets you back a whopping $18, the highest price I've yet seen for a Marg of that size. This pizza won the 2007 World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy, and pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani makes only 73 of these a day. Well, I thought, this better be worth it. The menu makes sure you know this is "authentic" Neapolitan pizza, describing the Margherita thusly: "Dough mixed by hand using San Felice flour, then proofed in Neapolitan Wood Boxes, San Marzano tomatoes DOP, sea salt, mozzarella fior di latte, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil from Campania."
It's kind of annoying how much they hit you over the head with this stuff as if no one else in the country makes this kind of pizza, but whatever, I figured if the pizza was good enough, they could write an entire novel on the menu and I wouldn't really care.
When the Margherita hit the table steaming hot from the wood-burning oven, it certainly had the visual of a Neapolitan pie down pat. The crust had a nice puffy cornicione and mild charring all around. Fresh from the oven, the chassis was still crisp and didn't flop when I picked up a slice (though that crispness soon faded). White islands of mozzarella floated in the bright red sea of tomato sauce and dark green leaves of fresh basil.
What I love best about Tony's Margherita is that it is properly salted. The sauce, cheese, and crust all have more salt than just about any Neapolitan-style pizza I've eaten, and I was grateful for it. The salt brought out the milky flavor of the cheese, the brightness of the tomatoes, and the rustic bread flavor in the crust. The cheese is a tad on the rubbery side, but as I said, the flavor is good enough that it doesn't really hurt the pizza as a whole.
Unfortunately, it is in no way an $18 pie. I don't know what reasoning Tony has for charging so much for it. Is it the ingredients? The location of the restaurant? Whatever it is, it's just too much to charge for this kind of pie. If it really is because Tony insists on importing all these Italian ingredients, well, the fact is I've had pies that are just as good (and better) made with cheaper domestic products.
The second pie of the afternoon was the Truffle pie (market price today: $28). Normally this white pie is topped with mozzarella, burrata, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam Triple Cream cheese, wild mushrooms, arugula, parmigiano, and Italian shaved truffles. Today, though, they were out of truffles (more would arrive in 3 weeks, we were told), and so they would be substituting them with truffle oil. We accepted that because Christa and I were both excited to see the
The finished product fell far short of our expectations. Don't misunderstand me: it was good, but it lacked certain elements that made it irresistible during the ordering process. The
Is the pizza at Tony's good? Yeah, you bet. It's great, actually. But for the outrageous prices they're charging, I'm finding the idea of recommending it hard to swallow.
OVENS: Wood & Gas