3611 18th St.
Cross: Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
AUGUST 5, 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO Can it really be that ~PIZZERIA DELFINA~ is
already three years old? While I like to imagine every San Franciscan
has tried the scrumptious pizza margherita here at least once,
one of the city’s better deals for $11.50, I know that’s
not the case.
just say it: the lines can be frustratingly long—but
that’s what happens when you’ve got Delfina in
your name, you don’t take reservations, and you open
a tiny 24-seat joint in a former used furnishings/junk store
(with a name that will make me chuckle forever: Krims Krams
Palace of Fine Junk—and
there’s still a location rocking it on Turk Street in case
you feel like you missed out).
eight counter spots overlooking the kitchen and array of antipasti
are good ringside seats to watch the hipster kitchen staff
crank it out—it’s almost like sitting at a
sushi bar, allowing you to look longingly upon all the ingredients.
There’s a bit of a New York vibe to this place, considering
how tightly packed and functional it all is. The close tables
in the front are best for those on a date, but the coveted outdoor
seats under the heat lamps are like the holy grail; there are
only five tables, so you consider yourself a chosen one if you
ever score a spot outside.
past two times I’ve had lunch here, I’ve been
really, really lucky: no wait. And at 12:30pm on a Thursday and
Friday, positively freakish. (Don’t let this encourage
you.) But if you are one of those freelancer or self-employed
or late-riser types, this place is ideal for “linner” (late
lunch meets early dinner) since it’s open continuously
look is simple and functional, with shiny white tiles, a packed
kitchen, a blackboard menu, and stacks of pizza boxes which
I think are best reserved for leftovers—unless you
live a block away or plan on shamelessly scarfing your pizza
in your car out front, I don’t see how these pies can hold
up in a box for more than a couple minutes. If you can, eat ‘em
here, piping hot and crispy out of the oven. Admittedly, there
is a dark side of me that wished they did slices, but the chaos
would be like something out of Revelations.
the Neapolitan-inspired pizzas here are really, really good
(you can take your pick from nine or so), I am equally a fan
of the antipasti and rotating specials of the day, made with
stellar seasonal ingredients. This place functions best when
you have a partner in crime, so you can share at least a few
dishes and split a pizza.
folks can’t pass up the fresh-stretched mozzarella
($8.25) with a drizzle of olive oil, but I like saving up my
cheese/caloric allotment for my pizza. The Venetian-style sardines
in saor ($7) have been on the menu as long as I can remember,
and their sweet and sour preparation takes me right back to my
favorite enotecas when I was living in Venice.
you had the spicy cauliflower ($7)? Uh, like, yo. I adore this
dish, it reminds me of Southern Italy—an explosion
of flavor with garlic, Calabrian chili, capers, plus the crunchy
texture of breadcrumbs, all playing off the browned tenderness
and sweetness of the cauliflower. And there’s a somewhat
unhealthy dousing of oil—I say bring it. I’ve tried
the recipe at home a couple times and it didn’t quite hit
it. I guess I need to make it every day for a year or something
before I can even come close to this version.
let’s talk carbs: you’re definitely going to
fill up on the delicious breadsticks. You might think they’re
made in heaven, but they are actually from neighboring La
Cocina Community Kitchen.
yes, the pizzas. I’ve found the pies can be a little
inconsistent, but are always pretty darned delicious. Sometimes
the crust is a sporting a bit too much char, but the flavor of
the dough is always so pleasing. I love how thin it is, and yet
it has a substantial and blistered cornicione (lip) that you
can really hang onto. And chomp.
tomato sauce here has that divine balance of sweetness and
tang—so fresh-tasting. Don’t pass up the experience
of a margherita ($11.50) at least once. And while the fior di
latte mozzarella is the traditional cheese to have on it, you
can also considering swapping it out for the supplement of the
creamy bufala mozzarella ($13.75)—because you’re
worth it, baby.
can always sprinkle on a bit of the dried oregano, grated pecorino
cheese, and feisty red pepper flakes that are provided
on each table, but I’ve actually never used any of these
condiments. Wait, I lied: I put that chili on anything I can.
Although I draw the line at the baba au rhum (a fabulously boozy
dessert that’s like an adult cream-filled donut doused
almost always try the pizza specials—they tend to vector
me right in. I haven’t stopped dreaming about the special I had
in the springtime called the Gricia, a spin on a Roman pasta
dish, made with spring onion, guanciale, panna (cream), and chili
($16). That pizza was just sick. Creamy, spicy, salty, acidic.
I’m pining for it like some long-lost Italian boyfriend.
other pizza that haunts me was yet another special: the Purgatorio,
with spicy tomato sauce, pecorino, and two perfectly runny
eggs. What a pizza—a combination that sets the benchmark
for delicious. My grandmother used to make me “uovo in
purgatorio” for cena (a light dinner that’s served
on the later side) when I’d
visit her in Calabria: a couple eggs with those decadent orange
Italian yolks, cooked in her wonderful leftover tomato sauce
from pranzo (the main meal served at lunchtime) earlier that
day. She’d never make her sauce that spicy—my nonno
couldn’t handle the heat—so it was always a treat
to get my own version at night with a little chili kick added
in. (Thank you Grandma Rose, mi manchi…)
I know Bi-Rite Creamery is beckoning just down the street,
whispering its salted caramel siren song. But if you pass up
the cannoli ($5.25) here, what can I say, you’re missing
the boat (to Sicily). The crisp and flavorful shell is stuffed
with a creamy Bellwether ricotta filling and the overflowing
ends are then dipped in pistachio. Uh huh. In a town with a
dearth of good cannoli, you gotta get a good one when you can.
I’d drive to my
hometown of San Mateo for one from Romolo’s, but luckily
my mother buys them from time to time for post-family dinners.
So as far as cannoli in the 415 are concerned, these are top
notch in my book.
get super fired up on the wines by the glass here, too—there
are something like 11 whites and eight reds. And bless them:
not only are they served at the right temp, but true to pizzeria
style, there are a couple glasses of red for $6.25 and under.
They don’t have to do that, but they did, so bravo.
let’s do the math: you and your honey can get a substantial
dinner of the spicy cauliflower, a salad or some other antipasto
of your choosing, split a pizza (I’m figuring a margherita
with the bufala supplement here because I like spoiling you)
and a cannoli, and each get a glass of wine, for a total of $45.50.
Figure in $1.25 each for the SF Health Care Ordinance (yup, they
charge it here), and a tip for your hopefully friendly/with-it
server, and you’re outta there for about $60. Not too terrible
for a bougie and rather delicious date night out.
about the upcoming Pizzeria Delfina opening in Pacific Heights?
I know I’m not the only one.