The Fata Morgana cocktail.
Green onion, guanciale, and egg pizza (sorry, it was dark).
Before the saturation of San Francisco with quality pizza places hit its current all-time high, I’d have to make the trek to Pizzaiolo every time I was craving one of Charlie Hallowell’s thin-crust, wood-fired dreamboat pizzas. Of course I’d always get distracted by dishes like meatballs, pappardelle, and kickass salads, and order way too much food. Again. And again.
In a way, the menu at ~BOOT AND SHOE SERVICE~, his latest restaurant on Grand Avenue, is a bit of a relief—it’s simpler, so I can do less carb damage. (Yeah, right.) And you also can do all kinds of cocktail damage, because this little hideaway has an awesome full bar in the back. In fact, it’s where I want to eat, sitting at the marble counter, in delightfully dangerous proximity to refreshing bourbon cocktails like the Fata Morgana, which I still dream about, made with blood orange, Amaro Nonino, dry vermouth, and cardamom. Many choice ingredients behind the bar, like the rest of the non-liquid menu.
The place is freaking cool. And fun. It offers a melee of well-chosen (and a bit loud) music, tattoos, friendly staff, a cool modern-rustic look with local art from Creative Growth on the brick walls, a mixed bag of diners, and a wine list that is a pleasure to read. Oh, and about the name: it’s just a tip o’ the pizzaiolo cap to the space’s earlier incarnation as a shoe repair shop—although some will remember it was most recently Di Bartolo.
There are about 10 thin-crust and wood-fired pizzas to choose from, rotating with what’s in season (all the ingredients really shine), and the option to add toppings like sausage and egg (or both). One night I had a pie with tomato ($15), little pieces of anchovy, cured black olive, red onion (not listed, but it was still welcome), and fat flakes of Calabrian chile. The flavors were so balanced, and reminded me of the Southern Italian pizzas I love and miss when I visit my relatives in Calabria. Another pie was with green onion ($16), salty and crispy guanciale, and a runny, decadent egg nestled in a perfect allotment of melty cheese. (I was ready to crawl in it and take a power nap.) Don’t be afraid of the carb/starch embrace of the potato pizza ($16) (and throw an egg on that bad boy), and for clam pizza ($16) lovers, you’ll find a good one here.
These are not the kinds of pizzas you want to share. Sure, they’re pretty big. But you will want to eat the entire freaking thing yourself. With one bite of the lightly charred and elastic crust (with just a touch of bready sweetness), the piggy part of your brain gets fired up, and the next thing you know, you’re not even talking to your dinner guest because you just want to eat the pizza, even if it’s burning the roof of your mouth with the still-damned-hot-from-the-wood-burning-oven cheese. Chew chew chew. “What did you say? I was distracted. Sorry.”
Apps range from chicory salads to burrata to a fritto misto with a thick and rich aioli, while dessert is about keeping it simple (Straus soft-serve with olive oil and fleur de sel, cannoli, pot de crème, and the like). The apps can be a bit spendy (like $12) if you’re trying to watch your boo-jay. It’s hard to get out of there without spending $100 for two (well, unless you share one pizza, but that sure as hell isn’t happening if you’re eating with me). And as we all know, good ingredients and nice cocktails and wines don’t come cheap.
Bummer, no reservations—but bonus, they can take your cell and you can go have a cocktail at the nearby Grand Tavern (or perhaps a divier place on Grand) while you wait. Boot and Shoe might be a little too dark and rowdy for some (if that’s the case, I guess you’ll want to take advantage of their to-go menu), but for the rest of you, party on, Wayne.