Day 1 (part 2): In San Francisco, there are hoards of Italian restaurants…really great Mom & Pop Italian spots, the kind that you know holds some tried and true family recipe passed down for generations. It’s a little overwhelming to choose which one you are going to dine at without any indication as to what makes Italian spot #1 better than Italian spot #34.
*It’s important to note that this was the night we were celebrating Halloween. We picked out our costumes earlier in the day, had a party to go to, makeup and hair done…we were ready! Turns out San Francisco wasn’t ready for us because first we couldn’t find any parking near the party…then we tried calling 3 different cab companies but NONE of them ever showed up (!)…2 hours later, exhausted and famished, we finally decided to ask ourselves if this was a sign??! (Secretly, I was happy that we decided to go to a nice dinner instead because chips and salsa is not exactly my ideal meal when visiting a new city.)
Enter Tony’s of North Beach (aka San Francisco's Little Italy)…which Jason had been eyeing for some time but had yet to try out. A busy restaurant is always a good sign…lines around the corner don’t hurt either...and it was close to the house...sold!
A little history lesson: Tony was the first ever American and non-Neapolitan to win the award for best Pizza Margherita at the World Pizza Cup 2007 in Naples…kind of a big deal! The restaurant’s Pizza Margherita is made in the same imported Cirigliano wood burning oven that Tony won with on that fateful day back in Naples.
A special flour is used to create their award winning Pizza Margherita and is not used in any other pizza on the menu. There are only 73 made per day…and they sell out VERY quickly!
As the story goes…Tony won on June 13 (6/13), so they added “6” and “1” together and kept the “3” to end up with 73. (Read the complete story at the bottom of their menu online here) We were dying to try this pizza!!! I have to be honest…by the time we got there, they had already sold out of it for the day (so sad...I wanted to be able to report back to you guys!) BUT our waitress cut us a deal and said they could make us the infamous Pizza Margherita but with a different dough…every single thing about it would be the same, except for the dough...we went for it!
Can I just say that the dish that the pizza was served on was fantastic! The ceramic, the colors…this pizza pedestal was like piece of art!...and the pizza (!!) So simple, so direct, so fresh!...the large globs of mozzarella were begging me to take my first bite! It’s amazing how a pizza with such simple ingredients can take your breath away. Mozzarella fior di latte, Sea Salt, fresh basil, San Marzano tomatoes dop (Italy’s most famous plum tomato), and extra virgin olive oil…does that not sound like a true Italian pizza pie!...and it should as all ingredients are imported from pizza capital of the world, Napoli.
In addition to our pizza, we each branched off and chose a few other items…Ashley ordered the Gorgonzola Con Mele with arugula, mixed greens, imported Italian gorgonzola, candied pecans, fresh apples, and dried cranberries with a house made apple vinaigrette. A lite and fresh mix that proved to be a great alternative while gorging yourself on heavy Italian food.
Jason, in typical man form, ordered the old classic Spaghetti & Meatballs (I mean, someone had to get pasta right!) I really don’t like meatballs but they insisted that I taste these and I was surprised at how tender they were…you can also taste all of the herbs mixed into the ground meat. I always prefer meat sauce over meatballs but with these I think that if you decided to mash all of the meatballs up…you could probably create a pretty killer bolognese sauce!
Tony’s also has one of the best marinara sauces I have tasted in a while…not too sweet, not too thick, just perfection (at one point I was practically drinking it with my pizza crust…tiny piece of crust, spoonfuls of marinara)!
I am absolutely obsessed with anchovies…but not the over-salted canned kind, I prefer fresh anchovies…they still have a salty flavor but it’s not as off-putting.
I really enjoy salads that include anchovies, usually that ends up being a caesar salad with anchovy dressing or on occasion a caesar salad with a few chopped up anchovies tossed in (let it be known I ONLY eat Caesar salads when either of these two things are in the recipe…otherwise, not really a fan).
As soon as I saw the Anchovy salad, I knew that I had to have it! I didn’t know they made salads dedicated to just the awesome flavor of anchovy (!) I silently prayed that it would taste as I imagined…slightly salty, maybe a dash of lemon, pinch of pepper and some sort of citrus-y/olive oil dressing (I can’t stand creamy salad dressing!)
Let’s just say my prayers were answered and I couldn’t believe that what I had envisioned ended up materializing in front of me!
Once we were all in red, white, and green heaven…Jason realized that the waitress had forgotten his appetizer of Goat Cheese stuffed Picquante Peppers with sliced prosciutto di parma and piave cheese. It took the place of dessert as we were filled to the brim by then…but still so curious as to what this dish would taste like. It’s a very sociable platter…you take the stuffed pepper, wrap the prosciutto around it and top with a shaving of the piave cheese. The pepper tastes just a tad sweeter than a roasted red bell pepper and when paired with the prosciutto and cheese, the flavor is very mild and pleasing...I know my Dad would enjoy this!
It's going to be really hard for me to try out new Italian spots on my next San Francisco visit knowing that Tony's is a certified home run! (but I'll do it for you guys!)
Here are some pics of our costumes:
Jason was “Where’s Waldo”, Ashley was a Flapper, I was a Grecian Warrior Cowgirl (don’t ask…let’s just say my costume had an identity crisis!), and their little dog Moses was a Tiger grrrr!
1570 Stockton St San Francisco, CA 94133