There's not much that could inspire me to schlep all the way to Glen Park except perhaps a bourbon convention, a hot Greek Aussie, or the rumors of damned good pizza. ~GIALINA~ just opened about a month ago (Jan. '07), and I'm here to report, the rumors are true: there's gold in them there hills! It's about a stone's throw from the Glen Park BART station, but if you've got wheels, make sure you've got your coordinates down, Maverick, because it's crazy confusing over there (my sh*t got hella lost). Print out the map on the site, yo.
Chef and owner Sharon Ardiana was formerly at Lime (AKA HQ for buckets of mimosas on the weekend), but her time at Boulevard and Slow Club are what surely sealed her love of seasonal ingredients. Oh, and that Italian upbringing. She has opened a little spot that is near and dear to her heart, even naming the place after her nonna, Lina. It has a clean design, with charming little personal touches. Huge family pictures adorn the walls: black and white photos of grandpa with a mini-hat on for his birthday (you gotta see it), or family posing in front of the leaning tower of Pisa.
Service is personal and friendly, and the place will be literally hopping. Read: slammed. The neighborhood is in love with this joint. And then there are people like me who don't even live in the 'hood who will be clogging its precious tables. Yes, it's amore. You might need to cruise up the street for a drink or a stroll before your table is ready, because it is shoebox-sized (40 seats). Folks who live nearby are seriously lucky with the takeout option.
Ardiana has been working like mad with a friend on perfecting the recipe for the dough, and with all the pizzerias opening in this town, she has still managed to turn out a pie that is nothing like the others. The toothsome crust is Neapolitan-style, and hits just the right amount of chewy and moist, with a hearty cornicione (try that on for size: it's the lip around the edge of the pizza, i.e. the crust) that you actually want to eat. Carb-phobics: stay away. Hints of sour, and sweet, and toastiness. (She professes to be a fan of the pizzas at Zuni and the Chez Panisse Cafe.) It tastes homemade and looks handcrafted, and in spite of not having a brick pizza oven, they are doing a nice job.
So let's get to the pies. Hands down, just like a good hooker, the puttanesca ($11) left me begging for more. I'm gonna be back for additional visits with that hot little number, let me tell you. It's not a pizza for everyone, but I find the combination of dry-cured black olives, anchovies, capers, and chili pure alchemy. Everything you need for an impassioned roll in the hay is there. And what a sauce. Deep tomato flavor. Yes, I'd like one hour alone with the pizza, thank you.
We also tried the tangy dandelion greens with sweet house-made Italian sausage and Fontina ($13). I know, dandelion greens, like, yum. I drizzled some chili oil on top and this pizza went to 11. We customized another, the wild nettles with spring garlic and pecorino (plus some provolone and Fontina) ($14), but instead of the portobello mushrooms, Sharon was cool to swap in some pancetta instead. The next morning I warmed up the few leftover slices, poached an egg and voila, breakfast of champions. (Or pizzaholics.)
You can also get a classic Margherita ($10), meatball ($13), or the Atomica ($12) with mushrooms, red onions, mozz, and spicy chilies. Gourmet goodies abound on the menu, like butternut squash, pecorino, ricotta salataâ¦ you can even get an egg, anchovy, or prosciutto added to your pizza. (Note to self: I totally should have ordered the wild nettles pie with an egg.) Ardiana also does a roast of the day, like pork or brisket. I had a Vulcan eye lock on the pizza, however. (And no, I am not a Trekkie.)
Starters include some juicy meatballs ($9), made with veal, beef, and pork (the holy trinity?), and the salad of mixed chicories, arugula, shaved egg, fennel and Italian dressing ($8/$14) really lets the ingredients speak for themselves. When it comes to salad dressing, I do like a light hand. And it's presented in a lovely Heath bowl. Nice!
The wine list is all-Italian, with eleven types available by the glass, quartino, or bottle. Yes, viva Italia. We started with the Adami Bosco di Gica prosecco ($27/bottle)--thanks to some friends (E + R!) at another table who sponsored our bottle! It was a nice reminder how fab it is to have someone buy you a glass of wine, or a drink. Or, bonus, a bottle. Super!
Our chipper server steered us to the powerful Magliano Morellino di Scansano ($34), which held up to the puttanesca for sure. Mano a mano. For the record, it's also the most expensive bottle on the list, so it might have been a veiled up-sell, but it was also strongly recommended. Fine.
Now, dessert. Ardiana is some kind of pizza freak (high-five, sister), because she has actually created a dessert pizza ($9). Pazza! Think Nutella with crumbled amaretti on top and a dollop of mascarpone. And because she's all hooked up with the gourmand set of SF, she has the only joint in town that features Bi-Rite ice cream on the menu ($6). Hello honey lavender. She's also had the mint chocolate chip and brown butter pecan in there too. But I'll be back to try the homemade ices ($6). The ricotta cheesecake ($7) was also lovely, with little hints of citrus.
So, as expected, the gourmet hootenanny for three was not cheap. But this is how we roll in SF. Truth be told, we could have done with only two pizzas, but when you're out with the tablehopper, well, this is what happens. Lunch will be happening here soon. And my return visit for some more hot puttanesca action.
2842 Diamond St.
Cross: Kern St.
San Francisco, CA 94131
Hours as of July 2012: Sun-Thurs 5 pm-10 pm; Fri & Sat 5 pm-10:30 pm