Chef's Special Salad: assortment of specialty greens from Pauline's garden with a mixture of raspberries and nuts; Italian Pizza: salami, Pauline's Italian sausage, green onions, mushrooms and garlic; Wild Strawberry and Rosebud Ice Cream Sundae
Occupation: Middle School Teacher
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pauline's Pizza
Reviewed Pauline's Pizza: Tuesday, May 23, 2007
The small, lighted sign for Pauline’s Pizza looks like something you’d find outside of an East Coast pizzeria, circa 1979. Barely noticeable on this rather derelict block (there is a used-car lot across the street and the old Levi-Strauss building next door), the nondescript storefront belies the warm, homey atmosphere of a truly unique, and distinctly Californian, pizza restaurant. I return time and again for the feel-good atmosphere, the locally grown, organic ingredients, and the perfectly blistered, thin-crust pizzas.
Pauline’s Pizza is a local favorite for brick-oven baked pizzas. Pauline’s gracefully combines the plebian with an element of something special, offering white tablecloths covered with butcher paper and a supply of crayons, and serving the quintessential American street food dressed up with innovative toppings. In addition to its signature Pesto Pie, Pauline’s offers a variety of traditional and original pizza toppings. The restaurant features nightly specials including a meat pizza, and vegetarian pizza, a special salad, and a dessert. These specials reflect seasonal produce and herbs, most of which are grown in the owner’s Berkeley garden or at his Star Canyon Ranch in Calaveras Country. In fact, Pauline’s even produces and sells its own wine from the organic grapes grown at the Star Canyon Ranch.
I always start my meal at Pauline’s with a salad. Served with a house-made parmesan breadstick, the generous salads always feature the freshest organic greens. Unique greens such as endive, mesclun, and baby dandelion greens are studded with interesting veggies, fruits, nuts, and cheeses. The dressing is light and tangy, and the selections are seasonal and of perfect quality. On my most recent visit, the special salad was a mix of arugula and romaine with jicama, radishes, walnuts, and grapefruit sections tossed in raspberry vinaigrette. Pauline’s steeps its own raspberries in vinegar to make the dressing.
I love the pizzas largely due to the light, flaky, cornmeal dusted crusts which are topped with the perfect balance of sauce, cheeses, and quality toppings. I have enjoyed many traditionally-topped pizzas here, including the vegetable combo, and my personal favorite toppings of sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and goat cheese. However, some of the best pizzas I’ve had at Pauline’s are the nightly specials. These always feature topping combinations I probably wouldn’t think of on my own, and they are certainly pizzas you won’t find anywhere else. On my last visit, I had the special meat pizza which had kale, garlic, provolone cheese, and salami. The thinly sliced salami added a little bit of heat to the heartiness of the greens. This was one of the best pizzas I’ve had at Pauline’s.
While some detractors argue that the menu is overpriced for such commonplace cuisine, I feel that the prices are reasonable for such an innovative take on pizza. I also love eating at restaurants that pay attention to seasonality and sustainable growing practices, and I like to support local restaurants that rely on local ingredients. Pauline’s is a neighborhood favorite with consistently friendly service, a good vibe, and quality food.
Incidentally, Pauline’s sells its partially baked crusts frozen so that customers can create their own pizzas at home. Each package of three crusts comes with baking directions and suggested toppings and is quite a bargain at $6.50 a pack. This really beats delivery!
Occupation: Criminal Records Tech
Location: Daly City
Favorite Restaurant: Rotee
Reviewed Pauline's Pizza: Thursday May 31, 2007
Pizza is a personal thing. Thin or thick, New York or Chicago, deep dish or brick oven we all have our prejudices. What you’re used to and prefer is how you can judge a pizza place. Pauline’s specializes in “California Pizza” and in that respect it lives up to its reputation for organically grown, fresh ingredients. For my preference, however, I prefer more traditional thin Italian crispy, burnt-bottom crust, cheese-covered pizza.
There is a parking lot across the street for $6.00 that we used when we finally gave up looking for street parking. The place is small with high ceilings, which, of course, make the room loud. It has interesting artwork on the wall and packs quite a few tables into the space. The wait staff is young and all dressed in San Francisco black. The chefs are close by and one seems only to paint pesto and cut pizzas. The place has a few patrons on this early Thursday night and we do not have to wait for a table.
We ordered the special Caesar salad of the day, made with baby Romaine from their gardens in Berkeley. They said it was a “classic” Caesar dressing, but I doubt you could find a raw egg or an anchovy in there. Even worse, some of the artfully placed Romaine leaves were actually dry, devoid of all dressing. The croûtons seemed stale and too hard for my taste.
The house red wine was very nice and we almost finished off the bottle while we were waiting for our pizzas. I felt it was a bit too long a wait for pizza in a restaurant that was filled to less than a third of its capacity. We did have one glass apiece left for the pizzas and the wine was lighter than Chianti and went very well with their pizza.
When the pizzas arrived, we were underwhelmed by their signature pesto pizza. It had little pesto sauce, and only a smattering of cheese; most of all, it is lacking taste. The Italian Combination pizza was good, but their homemade sausage was dry and, again, lacks taste. The pizza’s crusts have too much cornmeal on the bottom, and they taste like a cross between a cracker and a hard biscuit.
All in all, Pauline’s Pizza is not a bad place for California-style pizza, but it is not my style.
Occupation: Residential Realtor
Location: San Jose
Favorite Restaurant: La Forêt Restaurant
Reviewed Pauline's Pizza: Saturday, June 2, 2007
Pizza lovers have got to try Pauline’s Pizza. Perfect for the health conscious folks, it offers an array of delicious pizzas with topping from Pauline’s own organic garden. My 20-year-old-son, a self-proclaimed pizza expert, gobbled down a medium Italian combination faster than ringing a cable car bell five times. My wife and I viewed The Chef’s special salad from the next table and had to have one. It was an assortment of specialty greens from Pauline’s own garden with a mixture of raspberries and nuts, served with a delicious dressing that complemented all the ingredients. We also shared an Italian combination pizza; it had salami, Pauline’s Italian sausage, green onions, mushrooms, and garlic. The crust is thin and made from Pauline’s handmade dough. It is perfect, stayed firm, and didn’t get soggy with the Italian toppings, like at so many other places. Customers can actually buy pizza crust from Pauline and store it in the freezer. (We going to give that a try next time we’re there.) The menu gives a patron the opportunity to build their own pizza with many eccentric choices of toppings, such as, roasted red bell peppers, roasted squash, Kalamata olives, Danish Fontina cheese, and five different types of sausage, to name just a few.
The décor is not found in the average pizza restaurant. The tables were covered with nice linen and cloth napkins. The room was very bright and light and the walls were decorated with renditions of Picasso’s work (Blue Period), set against nice yellow walls.
The staff met us the second we walked in the door and sat us immediately. Within seconds, we were greeted with a smile, menus, and water, and then the difficult decisions process started. Within a few minutes, the friendly smile came back and helped us with our questions, as we ordered a bottle of Pauline’s own Merlot wine from her farm. It was very smooth, we could taste a hint of plum and berry, and it went perfect with our entire meal. A couple of minutes later the salad arrived. It took 20 minutes for the pizza to be brought to the table, which was timely, because we had just finished our salads and the kids were hungry. Not only did my 20-year-old devour his personal medium pizza, my three-year-old enjoyed it too, as evidenced by all of the pizza ending up in his mouth, instead of his typical picking the stuff off the top. Unfortunately we were all too stuffed for dessert, but the menu does offer some tantalizing options. Their specialty is chocolate mousse, but they also have butterscotch pudding, and other choices, like sorbet trios and banana splits.
We found the price to be very reasonable, and when compared to the popular pizza places in town -- who also offer so-called fresh ingredients -- it’s actually a better price and value and dining experience.
The restaurant is open from 5 -10 pm, and if you get there prior to 6:00, you’ll need to bring change to feed the meter. We had no problem parking close by, and since we got there at 5:40, we only had to put a little change in the meter.
There’s also a large room upstairs reserved for large parties, seating up to 26 people.
So to sum it up, this is one of the finest pizza establishments I have been to and I can see why it is someone’s favorite place to go.