It was the season of sauce, it was the season of toppings. It was the spring of onions, it was the sausage of despair. We had pies before us, we had crusts before us.
No lesser authority than The New York Times says artisanal pizza is on the rise. Just last week, the Gray Lady blew the trend up, making a case for the elegantly appointed pizzeria as a cost-conscious diner's best bet amid rotten economic circumstances. In San Francisco, this sub-genre of the pizza form is currently encroaching on the Mission District's once-fior di latte-less expanse with great success. Pizzeria Delfina and Beretta are delicious examples of what's sizzling in Burritoland, though only the former would probably describe itself as a pizzeria first and foremost. Flour + Water just opened on Harrison in the last few months, serving pasta, salumi, and a familiar stripe of 'za: smallish, thin-crusted rounds decked out in classic and occasionally inventive combinations of toppings with a traditional bent and heavy, local-centric nods to seasonality. As if that weren't enough upscale crust and cheese to blanket a few square miles of coveted real estate, Pi Bar will soon start slinging (whole pies and cheese slices for, ha ha, $3.14) on Valencia near 25th, at a renovated space once home to Suriya Thai.
You might not have heard, but in Fall of 2008, Pizzeria opened its doors on a humming stretch of Valencia Street, not far from its intersection with 18th. As of press time, the establishment has garnered 45 reviews on Yelp, most of them quite positive. Yet, for all the times I've wandered past its wide windows, I've never seen a customer populating one of the dining room's handsome circular wooden tables. I've stared at the menu. I've contemplated the helpful photographs of Pizzeria's offerings pasted to the front window. I've watched cooks bustle, a waiter mop, and a manager meticulously refill and reposition jars of red pepper flakes on the long counter, but, never, not once, have I witnessed a person, sitting down, napkin on lap, actually tucking into a plate of anything.
And I've always wondered why. Location could not be the problem. Valencia is a major thoroughfare for night-time revelers and day-time shoppers. The product itself is not immediately suspect either. It's pizza, after all; everyone likes it. Unlike Beretta and Flour + Water, and to a lesser extent, Pizzeria Delfina, purveyors of an ostensibly fancier kind of pizza, the vibe is not glamorous. Apart from the wood oven used to bake them, the wares are not authentic but fairly pan-pizza in approach, though, in this age of hyper-fusion frenzy, that shouldn't deter the masses. You won't find habaneros, chicken tikka masala, or barbecue on pizza in Naples, but, these days, in the United States, thanks perhaps to the influence of California Pizza Kitchen, they're not exactly unusual toppings, and perfectly appropriate in the right context.
Pizzeria is also Halal. The pig is on a big muddy pedastal these days, and there's a chance the absence of house-cured prosciutto, guanciale, and an occasional trotter special throws potential customers off the scent. In addition, Pizzeria sells no alcohol. One Yelper reports brown-bagging some brew, but the restaurant doesn't specifically recommend doing so. Unless you're willing to ask and perhaps plead, the closest thing to a dinner buzz or a perfect pairing you'll get here will have to come in the form of a $2.50 soda. For many, this will prove a bigger sticking point than the pancetta non grata situation.