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Mar 20, 2009 08:17 AM

Pizzanostra -- opening report

As it's in the nabe, we decided to check out the new Pizzanostra on their opening night. This is the latest offering from the folks who brought us Chez Papa, Chez Maman, etc. They've gone Italian/French Riviera this time with a pizzeria/osteria in the former Cafe Colour space, having brought on board a pizza guru who supposedly has been a high scorer in the Neapolitan pizza competitions in Italy each year.

While I don't have personal comparisons to A16 or others who claim Italian pizza genes, the Reine pizza we shared (like a Marguerita but with the addition of ham) was certainly the closest thing to the pizzas we also shared in Rome. There are quite a few choices, as well as two rolled versions called tronchetto and several others without cheese that sounded good, like a Marinara version that included tomato sauce, tuna and capers. The pizzas come out very quickly from the very hot 565 degree oven -- we sat at the counter by the oven and watched the procession of pies, which generally took about 4 minutes of firing. Crisp and delicious.

This place isn't just about pizza though -- there is a separate kitchen crew working on a whole range of antipasto, salads, vegetable sides and a few pastas, including a fresh clam linguine and a gnocchi that looked and (according to the guy next to us) tasted perfect. We enjoyed a generous, tasty and perfectly cooked frito misto with fennel, calamari (wonderfully tender) and fish -- delicious Italian tempura. Oh -- and cheese and salumi plates are available too. As well as house made gelato and sorbet, plus a couple other dessert items.

And for those hooked on Chez Maman burgers, this place has one too -- with gorgonzola.

Wines are all Italian and based on the Sardinian vermentino we enjoyed, excellent value ($7 a glass, but only $28 for the bottle -- needless to say, especially as we were on foot, we enjoyed the bottle at that price!)

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  1. Thanks for the report! I love vermentino -- so food friendly, even with foods not traditionally paired with white wine.

    Pizza Nostra
    300 De Haro St, San Francisco, CA

    1. Thanks for the heads up. I drove by at the beginning of March and they were still installing equipment.

      1. Thanks for the recommendation! We swung by here tonight and were very impressed. We also sat at the counter.

        The gnocchi was very good with a great sauce. The pizza (we had the parma one) was also great. The tronchetto also comes in a dessert variety -- we had one with nutella and bananas.

        They have an amazing cheese selection there and really nice service. It's a great addition to the neighborhood.

        1. We had lunch today to establish a baseline for Pizzanostra. We both liked it quite a bit: pizza easily worth going back for, and a smart, accessible menu of appetizers and simple dishes.

          Our pizzas were:

          the cannibale (or cannibal, I think -- the menu is in whimsical Italglish, without being patronizing): red sauce with copious ground beef (described as Bolognese, which is a term used in the U.K. and shortened there to 'bol'; not much to do with traditional sauce from Bologna), mozzarella, an egg, and lots of oregano.

          pizza "pescatora": red sauce, mozzarella, lots of parsley and oregano, some minced herbs, and a lovely spread of squid pieces, manila clams (in shell). another small clam, shrimps, and octopus legs. Lots of parsley and some minced garlic.

          Technical comments: the pizzas (we looked around the room) all have a rim, which is standard in the Italian south and in the U.S. northeast (especially Naples, Amalfi, New Haven, New York, Ridgewood, N.J.). Roman pizza occasionally has a rim, but rarely. Again, according to more frugal Italian standards the cheese, sauce, and toppings were laid on thick. But the cheese was pleasantly light.

          In Roman or Neapolitan measure, the crust is medium -- not thin, nor crispy. I think Joan's temperature reading should give an indication: most pizza in most places is cooked at about 500 deg F, and sometimes at 550 deg F. A licensed Neapolitan pizza napoletana provider must cook their pizza above 900 deg F (technically, at 485 deg C). Yes, a pizza oven will melt both lead and tin -- and it shouldn't be used for the purpose. I think the best description for Pizzanostra's pies might be "American-style pizza with a central Italian feel".

          Nothing on the menu or served at the tables around us looked pretentious or fussy. Rigatoni, octopus salad, chick peas, cold cuts (inevitably labelled salumi), marrow bones with gremolata -- really just straightforward lunch food that will please most people and threaten few. Pizzanostra seems to have locked onto the fashion of the past decade for straightforward Italian food and wine. Good for them.

          Joan's comments on the wine are apt: a range of wines that suit the food (no powerhouse Barolos or super-Tuscan wines), just nero d'avola and vermentino and general eating-reds and -whites, with bigger markup by the glass and modest markup by the bottle.

          For dessert we had two scoops of pistachio ice cream. Strong pistachio flavor, completely smooth and a fine livery green.

          Coffee was good quality but pulled long, exemplifying the maxim that coffee is an activity best left to specialists whose minds are uncluttered by food.

          Pizzanostra is not for scrimping -- count on $30 a head with wine and tip, although you could keep this down by sticking to starters, sharing a pizza, buying your wine in a bottle, and skipping coffee.

          1. Attached is their menus.