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A few months back we took a trip up to San Francisco to scope out some good pizza. Tony’s Pizza Napoletana was high up on the list from both Yelp and the pizza episode of Crave on the Food Network. We decided to give it a try. When we arrived we were told that it would be a 2 hour wait but luckily we got a table outside after 45 minutes. This review will not take the internal ambiance into account since we were outside but here is a picture I snapped on the way to wash my hands.
As we sat down they brought out a selection of breads and spreads which were the first inkling that we were in for an experience. The bread was freshly made, nice and chewy. They had three options for spreads. In the middle was a traditional olive oil which was tasty but the real treat were the other two. First, was a roasted red pepper in olive oil that was a little smokey in flavor and spread really smooth on the bread. My favorite though was the roasted garlic and honey combination that made my mouth water. If they bottled and sold that spread, I would have bought a gallon. It was just that good, I was worried that I would fill up before even ordering.
We took a gander at the menu and were shocked at the options. This place has almost every type of pizza cooked in a variety of ovens. The only thing they didn’t do was deep dish, though I don’t fault them for that. I would be surprised to see deep dish options in a restaurant that won the pizza world cup in Naples, Italy. You could order pizzas from a gas oven, electric oven, or wood fired oven, at varying temperatures and even a 1000 degree coal oven! The different temperatures and medium of cooking each provide a different type of crust, chewiness, and charred flavor to the pizza. So whether you wanted to be transported to NYC, Detroit, California Coast, Sicily, St. Louis, or even Naples itself, Tony’s had the option for you. Below is a sampling of the menu but you can go here to see the whole thing.
As a true test of their “World Cup Winner” status, I had to check out the original Margherita Pizza in the 900 degree wood fired oven. I have been to Naples and eaten at Pizzeria Brandi, the creators of the Margherita Pizza, twice! In fact, we have a picture of their 150 year old oven hard at work.
So, I will be the judge of this pizza. True to form the Margherita came out fast, the thin crust only needs 90 seconds to cook. Well, we dug in and after over a year since our trip to Italy, we finally found pizza that came close. Now, it wasn’t better than Naples, lets be clear, but it was probably the best Margherita pizza I’ve had in the USA. The crust was crispy and thin, you could almost see through it and the mozzarella and sauce were in perfect balance. The basil was cooked well and just a bit charred. You can see below the side by side comparison, they look pretty similar. The differences are that the Brandi is a individual while the Tony is larger so the crust isn’t as good and the cheese is less melted but those are minor issues in a great pizza.
I would come back just for that pizza but we weren’t finished. The Margherita was just the appetizer! For dinner we went back to our roots and traveled from Italy to New York City. We ordered the New Yorker, a mozzarella cheese pizza with pepperoni, Italian fennel sausage, ricotta, garlic and oregano fired in a 1000 degree coal oven. Literally everything I could ask for on a pizza. We waited patiently for our New Yorker to arrive, it took a little longer than the crispy Margherita but when it arrived we were speechless. This may have been the most beautiful pizza I had ever seen. Take a look and tell me otherwise.
Starting from the charred bubbles you get from a coal oven down to the chewy crust, the bread on this pizza was glorious by itself. But then you get to the toppings. The fresh pepperoni was spicy and cooked crispy and that paired with the thick slices of fennel sausage was eye closing good. The garlic was roasted and a little sweet coupled with the earthy flavor from the oregano. The last part in the toppings arena was the ricotta cheese. I had never had ricotta on a pizza before, only lasagna but the rich creamy texture and cooling flavor was just what I needed to balance out the other ingredients. A great idea and one I will repeat when making pizza at home. Lastly, just like the other pizza, the mozzarella and sauce balance was spot on. This New Yorker pizza was BY FAR the best thin crust pizza I have ever eaten and it came from San Francisco. So I apologize to my east coast heritage but when it’s the best you just can’t argue.
However, I did think that perhaps my pizza taste buds had been dulled by the five years of sad attempts I’ve eaten in California so I waited to write this review. I waited until my parents, who grew up in NYC, came to visit and checked out Tony’s. They got the same pizzas we ordered and on the New Yorker my mom said, and I quote via text “Omigod, that may be the best pizza I have ever eaten”.
So there we have it folks, if you are in San Francisco, run, do not walk, to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. A two hour wait for this pizza is nothing. Honestly, if you are a pizza fanatic like me, I need no reason to eat anywhere else in San Fransisco if you are there for less than a day. The service was great, ambiance seemed fun, and the food was ridiculous. It’s famous and lives up to the hype, Tony’s is for sure my 3rd perfect 10 restaurant. It will share that coveted space with only 2 others: Buddakan in Philadelphia and Scarpetta in Beverly Hills
Overall Review: 10/10
Check out Tony’s Pizza Napoletana here
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