Text Size:-+
03.24.2004

Restaurant Review: Pizzetta, San Francisco

Recently, Ruth has been interested in finding some good Italian style thin-crust pizza in San Francisco, and so on a friend's recommendation we stopped by Pizzetta, a closet sized, super-cute little bistro out in the fog belt of the pizzetta.jpg Richmond District.

Actually we stopped by twice. The first time there were people lined up outside and there was a 60 minute wait! But what do you expect from a place that serves up mostly organic, incredibly savory, and utterly delicious pizzas and salads in a no-frills, friendly atmosphere?

On a warm day, Pizzetta can seat (by my rough estimate) about 30 people - 18 inside, and 12 outside. That includes five at the small little counter that faces the entirely open kitchen. Find any seat that you can, and then once you've looked over their brief menu, send a representative from your group up to the counter to order, and make sure to have them pick up silverware and napkins on their way back to the table. Then, relax for a few minutes and bask in the rustic-country-meets-art-deco interior of warm yellow walls and stained glass lamps while you wait. If you get bored looking at the decor, you can always watch whats going on in the kitchen, which apart from the giant pizza oven, might be the kitchen of some liberal arts college cooperative -- small, well stocked, and staffed with young Europeans who look like they spend their time outside the kitchen reading Kant and discussing post-structuralist critiques of modern society.

But before you can really decide if they are college students or simply cultivate the look, your food arrives. Maybe you've opted to get the artisanal cheese salad with organic radishes, country bread, and a couple of slabs of mild sheepsmilk cheese on a bed of organic greens; maybe you've just decided to order one of their weekly changing pizzas, and bask in the glory of fresh dough and amazing ingredients.

When we were there the menu included pizzas such as:

  • Rosie's Farm Egg, Baby Shitake, Crecenza, and Prosciutto
  • Baby Bloomsdale Spinach, Red Onion and Gorgonzola
  • Roasted Graffitti Cauliflower, Meyer Lemon, and Pine Nuts
  • Rosemary, Fiore Sardo Sheep Cheese and Pine Nuts

    Or you can opt for a more mainstream pizza like Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil. The menu also offers a daily special side dish (when we went it was roasted organic asparagus in a vinaigrette sauce) as well as a calzone, a couple of salads, and a cheese board.

    The pizzas are delivered right out of the oven to you (lets face it, they only have to travel about 20 feet to get to your table) and they represent all that is good about Italian style pizza. Light, crispy dough, fresh, juicy, sweet tomato sauces, or savory herbs and cheese. The real test for me in any pizza is whether I am compelled to eat the crust, and let me tell you, there was not a crumb left after either of the pizzas we ordered (each is big enough to feed about one person). This was a striking difference from Pauline's on Valencia, where Ruth and I went the week before, where the crust was leaden and dry, and by the end of the meal we had a sad looking pile of breadstick-like-things on the tray.

    Pizzetta is a restaurant where its better to bring your own wine if you'd like to drink with dinner. They offer 4 or 5 bottles of wine, including a Prosecco if you're looking for something bubbly, all reasonably priced and most of them Italian. All are available by the glass as well. However, with a corkage fee of only $10 why not bust out that Barbaresco you've been saving, or stop by Wine Impression on California Ave. on your way out to the Richmond and get a nice California Sangiovese to have with dinner?

    The folks that staff this little hole-in-the-wall are friendly, but it tends to be a bit of a madhouse unless you're there in off hours (see below), so be prepared for mostly a serve yourself environment. But its entirely worth it for the best pizza I've had in San Francisco without breaking the bank.

    Oh yeah -- two other little additions: they serve my favorite Italian fizzy water (San Benedetto - green) and they make daily fresh desserts. We had a choice between a Sharfenberger flourless chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream or a blood orange upside down cake.

    How Much?: Two pizzas, a salad, dessert and coffee (no wine) ran us about $50.

    Pizzetta
    211 23rd Avenue (between California and Clement)
    San Francisco, CA 94121
    415.379.9880

    No reservations accepted. Parking can be tough in that area, especially on Thurs, Fri, and Saturday nights.

    Open Wednesday - Friday 5PM - 9PM, Saturday and Sunday 12PM - 9PM. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

    I recommend going for an early dinner, as the place gets totally packed later in the evening.

    Comments (14)

    George wrote:
    03.28.05 at 12:14 AM

    The food is pretty good. The staff on the other hand: rude, rude, rude... The Richmond is very laid back with friendly down to earth people. This place however has bad vibes. I cannot recommend this place at all.

    Alder wrote:
    03.28.05 at 10:56 AM

    George,

    Sorry you had a bad experience. Service is not definitely something that one should go expecting to get at Pizzetta, but my personal experiences have never strayed into the zone of rude, though occasionally they could easily be categorized as indifferent.

    However, if you're prepared to deal with service that you might get at your local old-style diner, the food does reward your patience.

    plonk wrote:
    04.27.05 at 11:37 PM

    I used to live by this place and have been there 5-10 times. I must concur with the service comment about this place, as they more often than not seem to be 'put out' by your presence or order. It just doesn't seem to fit the place, as I would think they'd be super nice and want your business. I haven't been back in over six months but would give it another try because the pizzas are so good. I also think they had some well selected wines at good prices if you want to drink on the inexpensive side (european rose, barberas, dolcettos, cotes du rhone, etc)

    Kathy wrote:
    07.29.05 at 12:47 PM

    The worst service I have every experienced.....anywhere. I would NEVER go back to this place.

    Alder wrote:
    07.29.05 at 4:02 PM

    Kathy,

    Thanks for your comment. That certainly seems to be the consensus these days. Damn shame. Hopefully they'll read all these comments and try to do something about it.

    Alder

    Dimitri wrote:
    10.03.05 at 8:12 PM

    I live in the area and never realized that this little gem was here. We enjoyed the food immensely, and the owner was very nice to us (maybe because I'm also Greek? Dunno.) The workers behind the counter weren't rude... just indifferent. (But who cares? They're cooks, not waiters!) Great pizza, great sides, great deserts. A little on the expensive side, but definitely worth a visit.

    steve wrote:
    10.08.05 at 7:23 PM

    Haven't had the same bad experience some of the reviewers have indicated. Been there twice now and they were quite helpful in telling me about what the appetizers i was interested were like, and what they thoughtwas particularly good. I didnt realize it was do-it-yourself silverware, etc the first time, but the guy who brought my food noticed and went and got it for me. I did notice that they were fussy about not letting people occupy a table until their whole party was assembled, but considering they only have a few tables, that's quite reasonable in my opinion. Good food, excellent desserts and appetizers, and much better pizza than anywhere else i've eaten so far (the toppings are more in line with what you'd get in Naples, rather than in the U.S., thank goodness. The crust is better than most, but not up to the best East Coast (or italian) standards. All in all a very good place, with a small selection of reasonable wines.

    Ben wrote:
    11.30.05 at 7:08 PM

    Have to say we thought this was a fabulous place, INCREDIBLE PIZZA!!! Great atmosphere and our service was excellent - even brought us a blanket. We'll definitely be back.

    Bruce Olitzky wrote:
    01.06.06 at 4:17 PM

    While the food may be very good over the years we have eaten here the service remains unacceptable. Since the restaurant is so small they won't seat anyone unless the party is complete. With parking non-existant someone is always missing while looking for a parking spot. The staff would rather seat a party of two at a table that accommodates four then wait for the fourth person to arrive. Then the foursome can wait forever to get a table. Why don't they just take names? They don't have any problem watching a party of three walk out because they gave a table for four to a twosome. We are not going back, we have put up with the rude staff long enough. The owner never seems to be there any longer. She needs to come back and see what chaos her employees are creating.

    Lance J wrote:
    01.21.06 at 3:24 PM

    I have been patronizing Pizzetta211 since it opened 5+ years ago. Although I myself was never the victim of rude service, I somewhat understand but do not agree with the comments on this & other sites. Over the years there have been several employees that could be terse & acerbic. Over the past 8 months or so I've noticed that none of these staff are still employed & their replacements are far more congenial & service minded. The atmosphere at Pizzetta is better than ever!

    As for not seating incomplete parties the issue is a no brainer to me. I have rarely been there for more than an hour even with friends in tow. Incomplete parties can linger for 1.5 to 2 hours ordering & waiting & socializing. This is a very small place. Put your name on the list & chances are you'll have a table in 10 to 20 minutes. They do take names & try to make you comfortable with a glass of wine while you wait. If you are so needy that you can't wait like everyone else then this is not the place for you. Those who do wait however will be rewarded with a delightful experience.

    This is one of my favorite restaurants in town. & that includes the likes of Gary Danko & Rubicon, both of which are very high on my list.

    By the way, Pizzetta211 is now open for dinner on Monday's & they serve an amazing roast poussin. The preperation changes each week & I have dined 6 or 7 times, each time being as good or better than the previous. The Monday thing is relatively new so if you're too impatient to wait at prime time, go an a Monday. It's not as busy. Not yet anyway!

    Lance J

    Alder wrote:
    01.22.06 at 4:32 PM

    Lance,

    Thanks for the comments. I have also noticed the changeover in staff, and had a very pleasant server last time I was there.

    Hanni Forester wrote:
    04.06.06 at 9:13 PM

    The food was fabulous and the service absolutely adequate. It's a little hole in the wall and not Gary Danko, so you don't expect Danko's service. I'll go back as often as possible.

    Leigh wrote:
    03.13.07 at 3:56 PM

    Whatever the staff turnover at this place, there is still one fellow (who seemed to be in charge last night) who told me and my four thin friends that we absolutely would not fit at any of the four inside tables, nor could we use two tables. He was adamant that we sit outside, and then proceeded to seat even larger parties at the tables inside. This arbitrary treatment seemed pretty rude. Good food, but with all of the great food in San Francisco, why reward this kind of behavior. Seemed silly.

    Bruce Neil wrote:
    06.12.07 at 2:02 PM

    The food is great but did anyone notice that the people handling the food also handle the money without a thought about washing their hands. Also the desserts they serve are uncovered on the bar about a foot from where you are eating. One good sneeze, well you get the picture.

    Comment on this entry

    (will not be published)
    (optional -- Google will not follow)
    Yes
     

    Type the characters you see in the picture above.

  • Pre-Order My Book!

    small_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

    Follow Me On:

    Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

    Most Recent Entries

    Taste Washington Day One in Brief Vinography Images: Trailing Vine Checking On Some Older CA Pinot Noir Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vinography Images: Tuscan Garden IPOB - The Tasting That Became a Movement Does Vine Age Matter? Vinography Images: The Future Vineyard A Little Vinography Housekeeping 2014 Rhone Rangers Tasting: April 6, Richmond, CA

    Favorite Posts From the Archives

    Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

    Archives by Month

     

    Required Reading for Wine Lovers

    The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.