When faced with less than 48hrs in San Francisco, and many of that consumed by meetings and predetermined activities, I knew there was only one thing I should do with my limited free time: find the best pizza in San Francisco.
Both the internet and recommendations from friends led me to one place – Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, in the heart of North Beach. This place is no joke. Forbes has previously named it as the best pizza in America. Owner Tony Gemignani is a 12-time World Pizza Champion. Their menu, one of the most extensive I have ever seen, boasts not one, but five, award winning pizzas, and many pizzas that are in such high demand that their daily quantities have been limited. Needless to say, I agonized over this menu for days leading up to my visit, unsure of how I could ever make a choice with such a breadth of pizza styles and flavours.
But the day came and a choice had to be made. I stuck to my guns and went with our standard pick for reviews – the World Pizza Cup winning Margherita Napoletana. The fact that only 73 of these were made per day solidified my choice. (Although I am still pondering why they couldn’t make two more to reach an even 75, but I digress.) At $20, these pizza isn’t winning any awards for value, but their notoriety and location make it an understandable cost. The pizza itself was quite good – fresh, fluffy dough, olive oil drizzle, fresh mozzarella, and tasty sauce. But once again, I was overwhelmed by burnt spots. I would have enjoyed cheese in every bite, but luckily the sauce was so good that it was ok that a few bites lacked cheese. If Sara had been there, she would have wanted more basil, but I certainly didn’t miss it. It was definitely a very good pizza, and I was not disappointed, but it was not the BEST pizza I have ever had.
My overall opinion of Tony’s is that a proper review requires eating more pizza. Generally I am of the belief that trying to do too many things makes quality go down, and it’s better to perfect a limited number of items. But the awards don’t lie – Tony’s has figured out how to be good at many styles of pizza – I just wasn’t hungry enough to eat them all. Special guest and SF resident Carissa ordered the Cal Italia pizza, which was a sauce-less classic Italian pie, featuring a variety of cheeses, prosciutto, fig preserve, and balsamic reduction. I tried a slice and found it delicious, confirming my theory that one needs to eat many pizzas here to review it accurately. Carissa echoed my opinion, saying “My pizza was delicious. It was the perfect mix between crunchy and not too crunchy, and perfect balance of salty and sweet.” Our second special guest Annie, who did not order a pizza (gasp), also agreed on the Cal Italia, saying “It was a really awesome white pizza and I don’t like white pizza.”
At the end of the day, I chose to rate Tony’s based on the Margherita alone, and would like to come back again in the future to sample more styles for a more holistic review. With that in mind, this pizza receives a 4 out of 5.