I have a new favorite pizzeria. That's right, I couldn't contain myself long enough to not make a beeline to the very first night of service for Pizzeria Delfina (they actually opened for lunch only on Sunday, but who's counting). Some might think that's just asking for trouble, but with a pedigree like Delfina, how could you go wrong?
We were not disappointed. Luckily, my friends arrived promptly at 5:45 p.m., a mere 15 minutes after they opened, and snagged an outside table just before the entire place filled up, and a 45-minute wait ensued. The place is tiny, but maximizes the compact space with six tables inside along with counter seating (overlooking the pizzaiolos hard at work) and four tables outside. Although it was slightly blustery outside (the server informed us that heat lamps will be installed in the coming weeks), we quickly warmed ourselves with glasses of red wine.
Complimenting the Napoli-inspired menu, the wine list is a stunning assortment of Italian whites and reds, all priced below $45, with many offerings by the glass. Our server led us through the list of reds, describing their nuances and flavors, many of which are from the Campania region. We decided to try three Aglianico reds, two of which were made in the classic style and one modern. All three were delicious, with their own personalities. The pizzeria even offers a $4 glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, which our neighboring table (who we were happily swapping pizza stories with) tried and was very pleasantly surprised by.
The brief menu offers antipasti, pizza, and daily in padella (in the pan) specials. We started with the Insalata Tricolore, a simple salad of arugula, radicchio, and endive (in the colors of the Italian flag), which easily could have been overly bitter but the ultra-fresh young leaves were tender and mild, perfectly seasoned, and off-set by lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, and shards of grana cheese. Eggplant Caponata was perfectly piquant with tender pieces of sweet eggplant, buttery pine nuts, zingy capers, slivers of red onion, and ever-so-slightly crunchy celery, all glistening in a vinegary sauce.
But all that aside, what we were really there for was the pizza. With six standards, Pizzeria Delfina offers an intriguing array of pies, from the classic Napoletana (with anchovies, peppers, capers, and olives) and Margherita, to a housemade sausage pizza, a cherrystone clam pie, a quattro formaggio, and a garlicky broccoli rabe pizza studded with ricotta. The pizzeria plans to offer additional seasonally-inspired pizzas soon (right now they want to get the nuts and bolts down). We chose the standard-bearer Margherita (always my true test of a pizzeria) and the Salsiccia.
The Margherita, a simple pie made with tomato sauce, house-made "fresh-stretched" mozzarella, parmigiano, and basil was perfectly balanced with the crisp-chewy crust made in the Napoli style. The puffy cornichone (the edge or lip of the pizza) was airy and light, yet with a thin crisp exterior lightly sprinkled with salt. The only thing I wished for was more basil (there were only two leaves on the pizza, leaving four other slices, and us, wanting more).
The Salsiccia, with housemade fennel sausage, tomato sauce, slivers of red bell pepper, thinly sliced red onion, and mozzerella was fantastic, again a marriage of well-balanced, flavorful ingredients. Unfortunately, there was very little sausage on the pizza (believe me, I wasn't hoping for a meat-lover's pizza, but just a bit more of the amazing sausage) and the cheese was unevenly placed on only three out of six pieces, leaving some pieces a bit naked (and us vying for cheesy slices).
All in all, I really can't complain. This is truly, in my humble (but oh-so-opinionated) opinion, the best pizza I have ever had in the Bay Area. And I don't say that lightly.
To top it off, even though the restaurant was bustling, the server (who I have to say was really rocking the house especially for the first night of business) took the time to answer all of our questions in detail. The pizzeria uses local ingredients and even makes their own "fresh-stretched" mozzarella in-house. The reasoning behind this is true to Craig Stoll's unending quest for pure, excellent cuisine. Apparently, in Italy, true mozzarella enthusiasts prefer mozzarella di bufula that is not more than one day old. Meaning it is impossible to import the freshest quality ingredient in it's prime.
Upon trying the pizza we had to inquire about the sauce. It's so good. We were debating whether it could be fresh tomato sauce, and if so, how would the pizzeria achieve the near perfect balance of sweet yet tangy, fresh-tasting sauce in the winter. Our fears of not being able to reach these heights year-round were put to rest, however, by our ever-patient server, when he informed us that the sauce is made with none other than my favorite canned tomato product, 6-in-1 tomatoes (this brand was selected only after tasting countless varieties of canned tomatoes, and apparently they do a tasting every two seasons to ensure quality).
It's this kind of attention to detail that makes all of the food here sensational. Pizzeria Delfina will undoubtedly do extremely well, feeding a pizza-obsessed population. I, for one, plan to be a regular, if I can ever get in again.
3611 18th Street (between Dolores and Guerrero)
San Francisco, CA
Monday 5:30PM - 10:00PM
Sunday-Thursday 11:30AM - 10:00PM
Friday, Saturday 11:30AM - 11:00PM
Reservations not taken