The famed focaccia di Recco at Farina. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Well, buon giorno to you. I hope you had a hearty or at least mildly fulfilling lunch, because today’s fresh meat review of Gioia Pizza might make you a little hangry. I also have some 707 news for you and a ticket giveaway in the sugar mama. Meow.
I was lucky to be invited to the five-year anniversary party for Farina on Tuesday evening, celebrating the launch of their beautiful new cookbook, Old World New: Family Meals from the Heart of Genoa, and the unveiling of their new rooftop terrace. Take a peek in the chatterbox for details since I wanted you to have some good alfresco intel for the weekend.
Well, I have a million things I need to do right now before heading out the door, so I am just going to sign off now. Time is in short supply for me these days.
Here’s wishing you a fabulous weekend! See you tonight at SummerTini?
Now open on top of FARINA in the Mission is your new dream spot for an alfresco meal. Yup, the upstairs terrace is finally open. There are a number of tables (with wood benches) that are perfect for groups, protected from the wind on one side by large panels the color of the sea. And since this is San Francisco, of course there are powerful heat lamps. Brett Terpeluk was the architect, and Kyle Minor built the booths, tables, and other custom elements. The landscaping by Monica Viarengo is very peaceful, full of interesting plants.
The terrace seats 50 people and is open for dinner Friday, Saturday, and Sunday starting at 5pm, and is open on Sunday for brunch at 11am. Tonight is the opening night for the terrace, enjoy!
Farina - 3560 18th St. San Francisco - 415-565-0360
Ah yes, yet another pizza place in San Francisco. But GIOIA PIZZERIA has a different spin, calling itself “New York slice-inspired.” Yes, it’s a respite from all the Neapolitan joints around town, and for those who aren’t a fan of the Neapolitan wood-fired smokiness, these golden-crust pies should appeal (the pizzas are cooked in a deck oven). Plenty of folks in the East Bay are familiar with Gioia (open since 2004)—this Polk address is the first San Francisco location of the North Berkeley favorite from husband-and-wife team Will and Karen Gioia.
The duo are well schooled in the California canon, with Zuni Café, Chez Panisse, and Oliveto in their work history, mixed in with some time most recently at Roberta’s in Brooklyn. With their 50-seat location on Polk, the Gioias were able to make it more like a restaurant than just a pizza/slice shop, adding a number of dishes to the menu, like a seasonal dish of panfried soft-shell crab “almondine” ($13) on a bed of fennel and frisée (yeah, I might need to scoot back for that one before the season is over). There are four salads, including a well-executed Caesar ($9) with levain croutons that came on a chilled plate (always appreciated). But the promise of Sicilian anchovies was deceiving—nary one was draped on the romaine, just integrated in the dressing. Hey, I order a Caesar because I like anchovy. Where’s my fillet?
The main event are the pizzas, about eight in all, now available as a 12-inch ($17) or an 18-inch ($25)—they just brought the price of the large down a couple bucks and boosted the 12-inch by a buck. The locally focused kitchen uses Giusto’s flour and tomatoes from Stanislaus Food Products (no imported San Marzano rules to follow here).
A rotating special is the Julian, named after their son, who appears to have a temperament that’s sweet and spicy, as the menu proclaims with an exclamation point. One night it had thick slices of prosciutto cotto, red onion, aged provolone, parsley (the lightest scattering), garlic, and chile. The ingredients were harmonious, in fact, freaking perfect together. The cheese was as golden as the crust, which, true to New York style, you can easily pick up, fold, and enjoy. There’s a tender-yet-crisp quality to the crust, and writing about it makes me want to jump in my car right now and go have a slice.
My spice-loving partner in crime and I couldn’t say no to the housemade salsiccia (sausage), which came with house-pickled jalapeños that nestled deeply into the tomato sauce and cheese and pecorino. I have one word for this pizza (because my mouth is full): dude. There is also a pepperoni pie, a mushroom version with thyme and garlic oil, and prosciutto with arugula, and I am coming back for the Sicilian anchovy with chile and oregano. (Fillet, you will be mine.) FYI, this is not one of those build-your-own pizza places, just in case you’re a control freak or picky.
Want more carbs? There are a few pasta options ($17-$19) like spaghetti and clams, stuffed shells, or the rigatoncini, which came with a meaty bolognese studded with peas and pancetta and prosciutto bits. The pasta (they use Rustichella d’Abruzzo) was served at a definite al dente, each bite well coated with the sauce. The one meaty course is Five Dot Ranch skirt steak ($21), a cut you won’t see elsewhere (Gioia has an “in” with Five Dot). I adore skirt steak, and this presentation was spot-on, cooked to a pink perfection, the thick slices topped with salsa verde. I seriously want to get the recipe for the accompanying summer squash gratin—you can also order it as a side ($6), which I recommend you do.
For dessert, while I thought it was an excellent housemade cannolo, the $7 that I paid for it made me like it a little less. Or you can can get some gelato (not housemade), clocking in at $7.50. I’d rather have a side of meatballs for $9.
The all-Italian wine list has some good selections, and most are in the $10 range, although I’d welcome a few lighter picks with the reds, like a chilled Bonarda. There are also six quality beers on tap, like Linden Street Black Lager or Ommegang Witte ($4.50/$6.50).
Since Gioia is open during the day, you can come by for sandwiches like a Philly roast pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone, a chicken parm, and an Italian “muffaletta” hero. You can also just grab a slice or two (until 5pm), pointedly served New York style on a paper plate and wax paper.
The industrial-yet-rustic space is appealing (Karen designed it), with shiny subway tile, reclaimed wood wainscoting, concrete floors, and vintage touches throughout (like the huge metal farming tool on the wall that looks rather medieval). I don’t recommend coming in here with a big posse—this busy place doesn’t accept reservations, so you may end up waiting a long time (although they will text you when your table is ready). Gioia is definitely a “nicer” pizza place—the plates are handmade by Jered’s Pottery in Berkeley, although I found the cheap paper napkins an odd choice since I was spending upwards of $50 for dinner. It would be a fun date night location, sharing a salad and a pizza together. Then again, if you’re flying solo, there’s a long marble counter that overlooks the kitchen where you can happily enjoy your pizza and don’t have to share it with anyone. It’s that kind of pizza.
Gioia Pizzeria - 2240 Polk St. San Francisco - 415-359-0971
By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin.
On balmy spring nights, it’s not surprising to find more people outside the tiny GLEN ELLEN STAR than inside. With just eight dining tables and a handful of seats around the open galley kitchen, every inch is prime real estate. At the glowing heart of the restaurant is chef Ari Weiswasser’s 650-degree custom-built wood oven, which perfumes the entire block with its smoke. Combining classic French technique, razor-focused attention to detail, and exotic Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices in every dish, Glen Ellen Star hasn’t wasted any time getting up to speed.
On the menu: cast-iron quick bread with local feta and za’atar ($6); and spring pea soup with ricotta gnudi, mint, and mascarpone ($10) that’s the sweet essence of spring in a bowl. Tapping (dad-in-law) Mike Benziger’s biodynamic farm for produce, the wood-oven vegetables section is a revolving lineup of whatever is in season—from fava beans with brown sugar-bacon marmalade and golden beets with harissa crumble to fennel-crusted fennel with chili and Meyer lemon oil ($8). Pizzas steal the show and both the simple margherita ($12) and white pizza with guanciale and arugula ($16) easily feed two. If you’re up for something more substantial, brick chicken ($21) goes beyond the usual pallid poultry with tender meat and a crackling skin seasoned with urfa, a Turkish pepper. Roasted lamb meatballs, couscous with dried fruit, and a sweet-savory soffrito of tomatoes, onions, and peppers ($18) turns this Italian standard into something extraordinary.
Everything’s available for takeout, including dessert—half-pints of house-churned ice cream in flavors like malted milk, maple vanilla bourbon, salted peanut butter, espresso, and strawberry sorbet ($6 each). The wine list is well curated to reflect the food and ambiance and includes locals (Benziger, Imagery, Gundlach Bundschu), localish (Radio-Coteau, County Line, Copain), and a handful of Italian, French, and Germans. Expect this star to continue to rise. Open Sun-Thu 5:30pm-9pm, Fri-Sat until 9:30pm. 13648 Arnold Dr. at Warm Springs Rd., Glen Ellen, 707-343-1384.
Much ado about Napa with three major shake-ups reported this week. First up is the official shutter of celebrity chef Tyler Florence’s ROTISSERIE AND WINE, according to the Scoop. The restaurant lasted only a year, going on “hiatus” last winter after several critical pans, a failing grade from the health department, and the early departure of former Ubuntu chef Jeremy Fox. Florence plans to focus on his other restaurants WAYFARE TAVERN and EL PASEO.
Speaking of UBUNTU, the much-lauded vegetarian restaurant that also went on hiatus last winter: the restaurant may be changing hands. Grubstreet leaked the news that Terra and Ame owners Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani are in discussions to take over the space. So far, there’s no final word from owner Sandy Lawrence as to Ubuntu’s future, but stay tuned.
Meanwhile, if you’ve got a cool $35 million burning a hole in your pocket, the Friedensreich Hundertwasser-designed winery QUIXOTE is up for sale. Wine legend Carl Doumani’s 42-acre Stags Leap property also includes a lakefront home, according to NapaLife.
Sooie! Barbecue in Windsor is once again smoking as JADED TOAD BBQ & GRILL opens for business this weekend. On the menu are baby back ribs, barbecued chicken, sliders, corn bread, steamed clams, salmon, and panfried frog’s legs, according to owner Leo Tocchini, who took over the former Mamma Pig’s Barbecue. 275 Windsor River Rd. at Honsa Ave., Windsor, 707-838-8336.
The 707 puts its own spin on mobile dining with a fleet of food trucks roaming the vineyards (and beyond) this summer. SIMI WINERY hosts Keep on Truckin’ Wednesdays the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, pairing their wines with everything from tacos to cupcakes. Each week features a different cuisine, but the winery’s own truck (featuring wines on tap and small bites) rolls up Wednesday June 13th with former Gary Danko executive sous chef Kolin Vazzoler on board at 16275 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, 707-433-3686.
Other food-truck stops to check out in Wine Country: Food Truck Fridays at IRON HORSE VINEYARDS from 11:30am-3:30pm every Friday through September, 9786 Ross Station Rd., Sebastopol, 707-887-1507; Totally Truckin’ Thursdays from 11:30am-2pm every Thursday at 1005 Gravenstein Hwy. N. at the O’Reilly & Associates parking lot, Sebastopol; and Park-N-Eat each Tuesday from 4pm-dusk at the boat ramp at SPRING LAKE PARK in Santa Rosa.
Spend an elegant evening at the Ferry Building with other local food, wine, and cocktail devotees at CUESA’s Summer Celebration. Taste seasonal hors d’oeuvres from more than 40 of the city’s best restaurants (such as Cotogna, flour + water, Locanda, and Range); drink delicious Napa Valley wine, artisanal cocktails (from Bourbon & Branch, 15 Romolo, Rye, and more), craft beer, and soda. A whimsical photo booth, live music, and a carving station from chef Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats will enliven the night. And you’ll even find the tablehopper at her own table—be sure to hunt her down!
Meet the faces behind your food while providing much-needed support for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture’s ongoing education programs, including free cooking demos, kitchen skill-building classes, Schoolyard to Market youth entrepreneurship program, and sustainability scholarships for farmers.
Two lucky tablehopper readers will each win a pair of tickets to CUESA’s Summer Celebration. All you need to do is forward today’s tablehopper newsletter to one friend (but even more would be so very fabulous), and add a note to your friend(s) about the event. Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Tuesday June 12th at 11:59pm. We’ll notify the winner on Wednesday.
Don’t wanna bet on your luck? Purchase tickets online, and get an early bird discount of $25 off the $125 ticket with code “tablehopperearlybird” until June 22nd.
Sunday July 15th • 6pm-9pm • San Francisco’s Ferry Building Marketplace