Rave: Pizzeria Delfina

Naturally, one reason we’re visiting Italy is the food. Our trip is taking us to three regions of Italy, Emilia Romagna, Liguria and Tuscany, each with its own local specialties.

Our itinerary was influenced by food we love in San Francisco. We’re heading to Panzano, for example, because that’s where Taylor at The Fatted Calf trained with Dario Cecchini and we’re devoted to The Fatted Calf.

Florence beat out Rome and Venice as a destination for our first trip to Italy once we heard that Craig Stoll of Delfina named his restaurant in homage to Da Delfina, a restaurant just outside Florence. Whether that’s actually true, we don’t know but the mere rumor was enough for us.

We love the food at Delfina, but we’re far more likely to be eating next-door at Pizzeria Delfina. The pizzeria has become my favorite restaurant in San Francisco. It never disappoints — the food is consistently delicious and although the menu is small, there’s always something new to try. It’s also reasonably priced, fairly close to home and a stone’s throw from BiRite Creamery, another favorite of mine.

It’s not the fanciest place to eat. It’s small. Tables are pretty tight and overflow outside onto the sidewalk especially on mild nights. Aside from a great mural of SF on one wall, it has a pretty utilitarian look.

It’s also decidedly discovered and doesn’t take reservations so expect a wait at peak times. I opt to go right after work which almost always guarantees a seat. You may also avoid a wait by going mid-day since the pizzeria opens at 11:30am Tuesday through Friday (at noon on the weekend).

Of course if it’s a busy time, you can still get your fix by calling in a pie and picking it up, although I haven’t found that the pizzas are as delicious as they are in the restaurant, hot out of the ovens. But take-out makes for a great picnic. A week ago, we called in a pizza and ate it sitting at the top of Dolores Park, taking in one of my favorite views of the City.

We end up at the pizza fairly often. We may simply be in the neighborhood, picking up bread at Tartine or groceries at Bi-Rite, when we see that there are seats available and meatballs on the menu.

It’s hard for me to resist their meatballs, which are only offered as a special. They may be served with marinara or tucked into a calzone. Mr. WholeHog says these meatballs are the closest he’s found to those his Italian grandmother makes.

The specials are usually worth ordering. It may be little heads of escarole stuffed with anchovies and capers and braised in tomato sauce, or we recently had a special fritto of fava beans. It was a preparation I’d never encountered before: the entire fava bean pod was fried and eaten. This delicious dish changed my whole concept of how to eat fava beans. I had no idea that the actual pod could be eaten or that it could taste so good.

If you’re lucky, the special pizza will be one with that includes an egg. (Although if you don’t love eggs — specifically egg yolks — you probably won’t be into this pizza). I consider it one of the world’s best combination, up there with bread and butter or bacon and eggs. The rich egg yolk, the salty cheese and the bright tomato sauce make for an incredible pie.

I can only hope we find pizza as delicious in Italy.

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