Potato Pizza Pie with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Red Onions, Rosemary and Gorgonzola; Atomica Pizza Pie with Tomato, Mushrooms, Mozzarella, Spicy Chilies and Red Onions; Housemade Ruby Red Grapefruit Italian Ice with Campari
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Gialina
Reviewed Gialina: Monday, December 1, 2008
Let me start by saying that over the approximately 20 times that I have eaten at Gialina, I have never failed to be impressed. I enjoy pizzas of all styles and quality, but Gialina is definitely the best gourmet thin crust pizza in San Francisco. Everything on the menu looks good, and they frequently change their offerings based on produce and items that are in season, so it is a good thing that I live just up the block, enabling me to try as many things as possible. I enjoy the neighborhood, family feel of the restaurant, and I am willing to brave the crowds (they don’t take reservations) for the excellent salads and pizzas. Despite the crowds and the high quality of the food, the atmosphere is relaxed and the service always helpful and appropriate, educating me on the variety of cured meats and chilies that are offered, as well as the Italian wines, when necessary.
On this visit, my wife and I started with a salad of sautéed beet greens with goat cheese, lemon, chilies, and breadcrumbs. The salads and starters are always wonderful. The greens are fresh and appropriately dressed, often served with fresh fruits in season and well-chosen cheeses. They also offer both a small and large size, so the salad can be shared with the table. As a fan of summer fruits, I favor the salads with peaches, nectarines, or heirloom tomatoes, but regardless of season they manage to offer a variety of options.
The back of the menu also includes explanations of different chilies and cured meats to assist those like me who know little of these things. We then had the sweet Italian sausage pizza with tomatoes, red onions, and aged provolone. Their classic pizzas are the Atomica with red sauce and mushrooms, and the potato/bacon, to which we often add an egg. My personal favorite is the pork belly pizza, but on this visit we decided to try something new, so we went with the sausage pizza. It was a nice balance of sweet and spicy with a very tasty red sauce. The crust was thin and crisp, and the one pizza was enough for the two of us to feel satiated. We then finished, as always, with Bi-rite ice cream. Bi-rite, I can tell you, produces the highest quality ice cream in San Francisco, if not the entire Bay Area, and Gialina usually has a selection of three or four flavors, though I usually order the mint chocolate chip.
Another big plus of Gialina is the selection of inexpensive Italian wines that they offer. They have five or six white wines, five or six reds, plus a sparkling or two, and they offer all by the glass or carafe, in addition to bottles. Admittedly, I know very little about Italian wine, but feel comfortable choosing a recommendation of the servers. They’ll even let you try a taste of some wines if you are not sure. One more thing: in addition to the salads and pizzas, they offer a daily roast. This is often chicken, pork belly, or pork shoulder, as well as other meats. So if I am not necessarily in the mood for pizza, I can order the roast and it is always good. I have and will continue to recommend this restaurant to friends. It is family friendly, can accommodate larger groups, and you can also call ahead and get your name on the waiting list to cut down on your wait time.
Occupation: Mother and Paralegal
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: The Old Clam House
Reviewed Gialina: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Having found a parking spot right in front of Gialina, we arrived in Glen Park a half hour before our friends were to meet us at the restaurant. My husband and I decided to walk around with our twin three-year-old boys and look into shops and restaurants in the quaint neighborhood prior to dinner. We found ourselves in a bookstore around the corner and had a great time chatting with the owner and picking out a few books. We meandered back over to Gialina and were greeted by the very friendly host.
We were a party of 6, with twin three-year-old boys, in a very small restaurant, but the staff could not have been more accommodating. Immediately I felt comfortable and relaxed. Our server was friendly and answered all of our immediate questions.
The wine list offers suggestive pairings of wine with items on the menu. That was a very nice touch. We started dinner with a bottle of Nero D’Avola, and ordered several appetizers to share. Our dining companions are vegans, and we let our server know this right away, and she took care to serve the cheese that is normally sprinkled on top of the garden salad, on the side. The salad dressing for the garden salad was tangy and simply to die for. The menu simple states “Garden Lettuces” but I was pleasantly surprised to find sunchokes thinly sliced and tossed into the lettuces. We also had the avocado salad with mâche, fennel, pickled beets, and farro. Again, the dressing was delicious and the combination of ingredients was fantastic. The salumui plate was much larger than I had anticipated and everything on it was delicious. The long cooked beet greens with honeyed organic ricotta and poppyseeds was mediocre. The ricotta was too sweet and didn’t seem to fit with cold beet greens.
For entrees, our vegan friends had the potato pizza without the applewood-smoked bacon and gorgonzola and the puttanesca pizza without anchovies. Of the two vegan pizzas, the puttanesca was far better. The sauce was spicy and delicious. My husband had the potato pizza with the bacon and cheese, and it was very tasty. My children had a "child's"-size pepperoni pizza, and both were fantastic. The server was considerate enough to let us know that they could make a smaller size pizza for the boys, which was not indicated on the menu, and I appreciated that. I had the Niman Ranch pork belly, which I’ve never tried before, served with warm farro, pumpkin, and oven-roasted tomatoes. I would not order it again, as I didn’t like the taste or texture of Pork Belly. My husband loved it and cleared my plate.
For dessert, we tried the house-made Italian ice -- ruby grapefruit with Campari -- and the chocolate truffle cake with whipped cream, both were perfect, but what really was a surprise treat was the complimentary chocolate-hazelnut dessert pizza that the server brought to us. To die for. It literally is a pizza, with a chocolate sauce on top with hazelnuts sprinkled on top and dollops of heavy whipped cream. It’s served warm. It was the perfect special treat to end the evening with.
The staff at Gialina was top notch. The restaurant is rather small and can be noisy, but not so that you can’t hear your dining companions. I will certainly return to Gialina in the future, and I will recommend it to my friends.
Occupation: Retired Art Teacher
Favorite Restaurant: Mustards Grill
Reviewed Gialina: Sunday, November 23, 2008
Being unfamiliar with San Francisco, I found Gialiana a challenging place to find, thankfully I brought friends, who were familiar with the city. When we first located the street, there was no sign in front of the restaurant, making it more difficult to find. Gialina is obviously a neighborhood restaurant, and you can see that it has a strong following.
When you enter, you find numerous black and white photos of Italian families together, eating or standing in front of historic Italian sites, which define the cuisine. We had no problem being seated and were quickly served by our waitress. She was very knowledgeable about the menu and gave us time to just look and discuss what was being offered. For a pizza restaurant, they have a very impressive and unique list of choices. We chose to start with the organic and beet, lentil, and mâche salad that was very fresh, and served all four of us by ordering the large size. We each ordered a pizza, and I chose the chantarelle mushrooms with wild arugula, thyme, fontina, and truffle cheese. I felt that it lacked a definitive flavor without one ingredient coming through. The crust was very good, made in a thin-style with a crispy edge. One of the members of our party ordered the Zucca, which was made of butternut squash, sage, and ricotta, which was absolutely fantastic.
There are several dessert items available, I chose the whipped organic ricotta with Fuyu persimmons, pistachios, and honey, however, it seemed to need more fruit on it to make it a truly persimmon desert. We also sampled a lemon moscato Italian ice that we found to be too sour for our taste and a truffle chocolate cake that was fantastic, very light with a great dark chocolate flavor.
Gialina has very good food, the prices are average for the creative food they produce, and we were able to walk away with leftovers. This is a family place, so noise level was high at times with children and babies in a tight small room. Service was excellent, the décor was modest but nice, but it was difficult to get to from out of town or other parts of the city.