When you talk about pizza, there are so many options and types that it makes it really hard to choose what the BEST pizza place in the country is. But the Daily Meal did just that, listing the 101 Best Pizzas in America and as a pizza fanatic, I’d have to say it’s pretty much spot-on! I’ve managed to knock a handful from the top 10 but I was so excited to try Tony’s Pizza Napoletana during a visit to San Francisco. Owner Tony Gemignani has won a bunch of competitions for his pizzas and pizza making skills so it was time for a visit. When I lived in San Francisco back in the early 2000’s, I used to always complain about the lack of good pizza. Well, it looks as if that has totally changed in the city by the bay!
Head on over to North Beach and you’ll find Tony’s Pizza Napoletana on a little side-street of Stockton Avenue. A stone’s throw away from the beautiful Saint Peters and Paul church, this neighborhood is considered the Italian section of San Francisco but is pretty touristy at this point and time. I pop into the restaurant and it’s quite busy at even 3pm in the afternoon! Given I’m dining solo, I grab a seat at the bar and plan to do the best with my limited space. I’m handed over a beer list and large, multi-page menu which surprises me but I quickly understand why. While I’m sipping on my beer, I realize what Tony is trying to do here. As a pizza lover, the menu here at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana tries to cover ALL the different types of pizza out there under one roof! From Neapolitan, to NY, coal-fired, classic American, classic Italian, Roman, Grandmothers, Sicilian, Detroit and even St. Louis (cracker crust). Each section of the menu has a short description describing the pie and the oven used to cook it up in, wow! Shockingly there’s not Chicago deep-dish on the menu but I’ve heard that Tony has a separate restaurant devoted to that style!
Impressed by the diversity of za on the list, I try to stick to the basics and order up some meatballs and a margherita pie. While sitting at the bar and checking out the crowd, it feels like Tony’s Pizza Napoletana could be your neighborhood pizza joint, but its fame and accolades has brought in tons of tourists and visitors. My bowl of three meatballs comes out and it looks beautiful! Three larger balls covered in a bright red marinara sauce and sprinkled with pecorino cheese. I dig in and they are delicious! Showing off a fine grind of what I’m assuming is beef and pork, they are super-tender and cooked perfectly. I try to limit my meatball intake to save room for the main course!
Next up is my beautiful pizza! And while I was tempted to try the coal-fired pie, a margherita neapolitan is my measuring stick for great pizza and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana has done a stellar job here. The pie is splotched with bright white fresh mozzarella and adorned with dark green wilted basil. The sauce is bright and fresh with a bit of soft tang. And while the crust is scorched a bit more than I’d like, it holds up well and displays a tender bite. Really an excellent Neapolitan pie, kudos to the pizzaiolo! I really wish I had more of an appetite or friends with me so I can explore more of the menu but no-go for this visit!
So while San Francisco didn’t have a lot of good pizza when I lived here, things are definitely looking up. In addition to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, I’ve also heard great things about Flour + Water and Una Pizza Napoletana so maybe for my next visit! But I think I may have to work a bit further off that huge menu at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, I’ll need a little bit of help or starve myself for the day before. Which would be totally worth it, in my opinion! Thank you Tony for rocking it out in the pizza world, I’ll be back…