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Best Pizza Place for Birthday

anneliesz Jun 11, 2009 11:43 AM

In planning a 30th birthday dinner, I'm trying to find the perfect pizza joint in San Francisco. The criteria are as follows: group of 8, not over the top expensive, thin crust / wood-fired / cracker crust, good wine / beer list. Reservations are a plus and your help is deeply appreciated!

  1. anneliesz Jun 15, 2009 01:07 PM

    Thanks everyone. I talked through the recs. with the birthday guy's mom who was wanting to host the dinner. She ended up getting us reservations at A16, but given that Msr. Birthday and I are on a mission to find the "best pizza" according to the criteria stipulated in the original post, we will definitely check out Tommasso, Flour + Water (which I've heard good things about from other foodie friends) and Pizzaiolo.

    4 Replies
    1. re: anneliesz
      Robert Lauriston Jun 15, 2009 01:14 PM

      Be sure she asks for the (enclosed) back patio at A16. The rest of the place is so noisy that half the table wouldn't be able to hear the other half.

      1. re: anneliesz
        Cicely Jun 15, 2009 09:43 PM

        My friend Daveena had her birthday dinner at Pizzaiolo and swore she'd do it there every year from now on. Apparently the food for the group dinner was better than she's had at smaller-scale dinners. I wouldn't describe the pizza crust as cracker thin, but the pizzas were quite good, especially the Monterey squid with aioli. They had a set group menu and there was plenty of food. Not a private room, but a semi-private long table in a small back room.

        1. re: Cicely
          Robert Lauriston Jun 16, 2009 07:38 AM

          A16's crust is thin, it's just relatively soft and tender a la Naples rather than crisp and crackery a la Rome or New York. Sometimes the kitchen loads them up with too much stuff and they get soggy.

          1. re: Cicely
            daveena Jun 16, 2009 08:23 AM

            Yeah, that dinner was off the charts good. I never got around to writing it up, but printed out the menu when I got home aftererwards.
            I think there were 15 people in our party? We had no choice in the menu - they decided what to send out, after checking to make sure there were no vegetarians. Luckily, they sent out pretty much everything I would have ordered anyway.
            We had:
            Punterelle, sunchoke, treviso salad with anchovy, lemon and grana
            Winter citrus salad with red onion, black olives and parsley
            Umbrian lentils with lacinato kale, beets, prosciutto, and fresh ricotta
            Crostini with chicken livers
            Spaghetti with manila clams, green garlic, and housemade sausage
            Pappardalle with black trumpet mushrooms
            Marinara pizza
            Broccoli rabe and sausage pizza
            Wild nettle and pecorino pizza
            Squid and aioli pizza
            Black trumpet mushroom, leek and gremolata pizza
            New potato, guanciale, rosemary and fontina pizza
            Speck, arugula and prosciutto pizza

            It was a *lot* of food, all beautifully done. I don't think the per person cost was that high either... at least, not before drinks and dessert. Maybe $35/pp? The only catch was that to score a weekend evening 8 pm table, I had to call exactly 1 month in advance, to the hour.

        2. r
          rahir Jun 12, 2009 02:13 PM

          It may not fit everything, but I'm a huge fan of Pauline's, and I've never had a problem with the service.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rahir
            Robert Lauriston Jun 12, 2009 02:21 PM

            Pauline's takes reservations and specializes in large groups.

            Tommaso's doesn't take reservations and the wait for a party of 8 could be an hour or more.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              larochelle Jun 15, 2009 01:15 PM

              Another vote for Pauline's, they are very good with large groups and have good pizza although the crust is probably not thin enough for you.

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              Pauline's Pizza
              260 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103

          2. Robert Lauriston Jun 12, 2009 09:30 AM

            I don't think the combination of in SF + wood oven + thin, cracker crust + good wine and beer list exists. Even three out of four is tough. That thin, cracker crust a la Rome or New York coal ovens isn't so much in fashion in SF, most places are going for more of a Neapolitan style.

            1. Windy Jun 11, 2009 10:58 PM

              A16, if you could get in?

              I recently had quite good thin crust pizza at Pazzia on Third St. Although the crust was significantly better reheated.

              Does it have to be in the city? You could sit outside at Pizzeria Picco and enjoy a warm summer night in Larkspur.

              I like Pauline's much more than Tommasso, both in terms of food and atmosphere. Service at Pauline's can be a crapshoot though. And as noted, depends on how much of a purist you are for style.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Windy
                Robert Lauriston Jun 12, 2009 09:26 AM

                A16 is classic Neapolitan somewhat soft / tender crust. People who think crust should be thin and crisp often complain bitterly about that.

              2. s
                saffrongold Jun 11, 2009 04:47 PM

                I second Tommaso's. The pizza is good and you will be in a fun neighborhood to walk and drink afterwards.

                1 Reply
                1. re: saffrongold
                  tvham Jun 11, 2009 08:56 PM

                  I'm a fan of Uva in the lower Haight.

                2. wolfe Jun 11, 2009 04:21 PM

                  Recent post with wood-fired pizza.
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/621763

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                  Flour + Water
                  2401 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: wolfe
                    Robert Lauriston Jun 11, 2009 05:20 PM

                    Going by "thin" and "cracker", I think flour + water's Neapolitan-style crust is (like A16 and Pizzaiolo) softer than anneliesz wants:

                    http://beerandnosh.com/photos/photo/3...

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      wolfe Jun 11, 2009 05:30 PM

                      Could you add a positive from your wood-burning thin crisp crust file?

                  2. m
                    Munching Mark Jun 11, 2009 03:13 PM

                    Tommasso's?

                    1. Robert Lauriston Jun 11, 2009 12:16 PM

                      I can't think of anyplace with that combination.

                      Amici's has wood ovens and the right crust but the atmosphere is sort of generic chain and I don't remember the beer or wine selections being very good.

                      Tommaso's has a wood oven and good wine (not sure about beer) but the crust isn't thin.

                      Pauline's is great for parties but no wood oven and the crust isn't thin.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        calvarez Jun 12, 2009 04:55 PM

                        I'm going to dissent against Tommaso's. My memory of them from years-ago was quite good, but we re-visited it about a month ago and it was embarrassingly mediocre.

                        Tasteless, gummy cheese, sauce that tasted fresh from the jar, and too much garlic (and that's tough to make something too garlicky for me!)

                        1. re: calvarez
                          tvham Jun 12, 2009 11:49 PM

                          I still think Tommaso is a great option for pizza (especially the meatball) but agree that it's probably not the best place for a large party since they don't accept reservations.

                      2. s
                        skwid Jun 11, 2009 12:13 PM

                        Pizzialo in Oakland is what you are looking for. If it is a nice evening ask for seating on the back patio.

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                        Pizzaiolo
                        5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

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