My friends and colleagues don't really like to bring up the subject of pizza in front of me. I have quite strong opinions when it comes to the topic, and some people might even think that I have a tendency to go off the deep end. Okay, well, most people. But truly, what is better than a perfect pizza? To me, when it's perfect, it is the perfect food.
A perfect pizza comes fresh out of the blistering heat of a wood- or coal-fired oven (often around 800F!) and should be eaten as soon as possible (while avoiding the burn!). I am partial to the Margherita pizza because I think it shows off the best qualities of a pizza: a crisp chewy crust, fresh tomato sauce, just the right amount of top-quality mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil. Of course, housemade sausage, roasted peppers, and sometimes anchovies are all welcome on my pizza too, depending upon my mood.
Over a decade ago I discovered this perfect pizza on a trip to New York City. John's Pizza on Bleecker in the Village became my gold pizza standard. (It is how I have described the perfect pizza above, although covered with crispy-edged slices of meatballs.) Unfortunately I live on the west coast, where finding a good pizza, much less the perfect pizza, is painfully difficult. Yes, you can get a great thin-crust pizza at Oliveto and Chez Panisse, but I'm talking about the real deal pizza place. A pizzeria. (And I'm not talking about one of those by-the-slice places. As far as I'm concerned, only a place that sells whole pies, no slices, is serious about their pizza. More on that in another blog.)
When I first moved here, I started looking for pizza. This was back in 1994. The best pizza I found back then, and which I still love to this day (although it has been surpassed as my ultimate Bay Area pizza), was Tommaso's. Tommaso's is a family-run Italian restaurant in North Beach that has been around since 1935. It's a great, casual, old-school kind of place. In the last few years, 3 other fantastic restaurants have opened that offer pizza as the main draw: Pizzetta 211 (well-known by any pizza hunter worth their salt), A16 (true Napoli-style pizza at its finest), and Dopo (beautiful thin-crust Roman-style pizza). I could go on and on about each of these places, the different styles of their pizza, how I love all three but for very different reasons, but that's not what I'm getting at here. I still want a pizzeria. A real deal pizzeria, old-school pizzeria. Like you find in NY, New Haven, Rome, and Naples. Must I go to the east coast every time I want this experience? Fly to Italy?