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Jul 19, 2009 08:43 PM

Tony's Pizza Napoletana in North Beach is great

We went here today after reading about Tony and his approach to pizza. Their tagline is "respect the craft" and they live up to it in every way. By far the best pizza I've had in the area. He makes three categories of pizza (with various toppings for each), Neopolitan style cooked in a 900 degree oven, Italian style cooked in a domed brick oven, and American style cooked in a flat bottom New York style pizza oven. He also prepares different doughs for each using a variety of flours, from which he creates his own blends. He also uses a lot of high-quality imported ingredients from Italy, san marzanos, cheeses, flours, etc. We ordered a Neopolitan Margarita and an Italian "Cal-Ital" pizza. They were both fantastic. Margarita has great fresh flavors with the right amount of char and chew. Cal-Ital had a base flavor of gorgonzola with prociutto di parma, fig jam, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese; the flavors were perfectly balanced and again the crust had a perfect texture and a little more flavor than the other pie. If you sit in the back room you can watch Tony work one of the ovens and it's like watching a sculptor the way we moves each pie around the oven, sometimes holding it near the flame, sometimes lifting it up to the top of the oven, sometimes just spinning it around and letting it do it's thing. You realize you're watching a master craftsman at work, and you can taste it in the pies.

The place is in a great location off of Washington Square park. It's a casual restaurant with a modern feel. They have a full bar in the front room and additional seating in back where you can see one of the ovens and watch or catch Tony at his station. Tony is a very nice guy and was happy to answer all of our questions about flour types and pizza cooking. Also, the servers were all on the ball and professional. They get very busy at night, but we went around 4pm and walked right in. So go early or expect an hour wait or more, I don't think they take reservations.

If you like pizza, put this place on your must visit list.

There is a lot of good info on Tony on the web and info about his pizza cooking school, but it doesn't look like they have a web presence for the restaurant yet.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133

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  1. Interesting. I was there for lunch today and thought it was good but nothing worth going out of my way for. I prefer the pizza at Piazzolo in Oakland, Flour + Water in the Mission/Potrero or Pizzeria Delfina in the Mission to Tony's.

    We got the margherita pizza that won him his prize in italy (one of only up to 73 of those pies that he will make daily - a silly marketing gimmick). It had a thin chewy crust and is more flimsy style in that it will not stay flat unless you hold it. I felt it could use more salt.

    We shared a salad as well. They were out of both Peroni and Moretti, as folks were apparently thirsty last night.

    I had thought it would end up as a pilgrimage spot, but for my taste it is a when in the neighborhood spot.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Senor Popusa

      Well, after bbq, pizza might be the most polarizing topic on this board. The places you mention are excellent too. I totally disagree with you about the salt on the marg. pizza though. I hope people give Tony's a chance.

      1. re: Senor Popusa

        With all the styles of pizza how can you write it off after only trying one style ... and one that isn't the same style as the other two you mentioned. The 73 pizzas is a good luck thing for the owner.

        1. re: rworange

          The waiter suggested that we get that particular one and I tend to judge places by their margheritas - have had margheritas at all the other places I mentioned.

          The 73 good luck seemed like quite a shtick. He won on a certain date and he added up some of the numbers to get it. Its marketing. (I say this as a marketer.) A block away its not like Liguria says we only make 212 pizza or garlic foccacias per day.

          With all the rhapsodizing about this joint I expected a product that would make me swoon, what I had was just fine, but alas nothing special. With so many choices for pizza in this town, its hard to plan to give someplace a second chance when there are several other places I know I like...

          The restaurant business is tough - if people have a mediocre experience the first time they likely won't come back to get a second data point. Mine was perfectly fine, but very much not worth planning around.

          1. re: Senor Popusa

            But was it good for the neighborhood? North Beach is always so swamped with people looking for a meal, a decent restaurant there almost doesn't have to worry about competition from a place in Oakland/Potrero Hill/Mission.

            1. re: Pei

              I agree. As much as it would be great to have a destination worthy place in North Beach again, anything half way decent will succeed. It used to be you would decide you were going to NB for dinner, and drinks/dessert and it was almost secondary where you ended up eating at.

              I don't think anyone is serving destination worthy dinners down there now, but collectively the selection is improving.

              1. re: sugartoof

                Did you try Tony's? I think it's destination worthy if you are into good pizza. Although some people may not consider pizza worth going out their way for.

                1. re: Shane Greenwood

                  Nope. My comments weren't meant to imply a review at all, just to comment on the idea that being a destination pizza was even a big factor for them.

            2. re: Senor Popusa

              So what if he uses marketing? That's business. I'm not sure I get what your objection is. You had one good pizza but didn't think it was as great as some other places, fair enough, there several great pizzas around here. But do you think it's really fair to slam a restaurant after trying one thing? You said the pizza was "good". Not really sure I'm getting why you think the restaurant may be "mediocre". Also, give them a break for being out of Peroni and Moretti, they've been open for 3 weeks and are likely working through the kinks as they quickly gain in popularity, they have lots of options at the bar.

        2. After two dinners at Tony's in the last two weeks (3 for my husband who took visitors from India) with daughter, husband and in-laws, I enthusiastically second the sentiments of the OP. Tony's is great.

          For reference: we enjoy Delfina's, Tommaso's, Gialina, Flour + Water, and A16. As transplanted New Yorkers and tough pizza customers, the hubby and in-laws avoid most east coast style pizza in the Bay Area. Speederia in San Carlos is one exception.

          Will try and avoid redundancy, but yes, the Margherita and Cal Italia are both fantastic. And yes, it's endlessly fascinating watching Tony and team work their magic in the beautiful 900 wood fire oven.

          Other highlights
          Starters: Deep Fried Green Beans - delicious and not as heavy as they sound. Nice Bruchetta. Lardo (my fav) with crostini, honey and walnuts. No, not the Boccalone...Tony said he gets it from Utah. The Meatballs are outstanding and a great value at $5 for 6 meatballs.

          Pizzas: We had pies from 3 out of the 4 ovens. My New Yorkers were in heaven! In addition to the Margharita and Cal Italia, we had...
          The Bronx (my fav, if I have to pick one) - thin crust topped with large paper-thin slices of Columbus Toscano Salami.
          The Original Tomato Pie - New Jersey De Lorenzo style with sausage. The collective group favorite.
          Classic Cheese - nuf said!

          And after 18 years in SF my husband finally found a calzone that he loves - the Manhattan with mozzarella, garlic, meatball, and ricotta...marinara on the side, of course!

          Next time, Sicilian style.

          8 Replies
          1. re: lovebitessf

            i have to say it's genius that he covers so many styles to suit tastes or moods.

            1. re: sugartoof

              So true. And let me underscore that point even more...

              There are no less than 7 varied and interesting salads which can be enjoyed family style or as an entree (add chicken to any for $5). The Classic Caesar is very good. I like mine with more pronounced anchovy-ness, but I have no doubt I could ask for that next time.

              And if pasta is your wish, they have good variety including Angel Hair Pomodoro, Rigatoni Bolonese or Pesto, Lasagne, Ravioli. My daughter had the Rotelli w/ pesto, sundried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, mozzarella and parmigiano. (we all tried it. Yummy.) Want chicken with your pasta? No problem. Prefer whole wheat pasta? They have that, too.

              And they have a kids menu making it very family friendly.

              My only complaint? Pepsi, no Coke. Bummer. But my Maker's Manhattan (up) was perfect....and they have Chimay Red.

            2. re: lovebitessf

              Ooh, thanks for the tip on the Bronx and the calzone. Will have to try those soon. Glad you gave a shout out to Speederia too, it's the closest to Manhattan style by the slice you'll find around here. I used to live three blocks from John's in the West Village. Now I live three blocks from Speederia and it's just as good for a slice.

              1. re: Shane Greenwood

                John's doesn't sell slices, only whole pies. You mean Joe's?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Nope. I don't mean Joe's, original Joe's, famous Joe's, famous original joe's original, or any version of Joe's. There was a by the slice place called John's at Bleecker and Carmine when I lived in the Village. After looking at Google I see that it is no longer there.

                  1. re: Shane Greenwood

                    I think there may have actually been a slice takeout place, not far from Joe's with the name of John's that tried to catch some business from name confusion. The real John's, of course is further over on Bleecker, closer to 7th, and it's a pie only place.

                    For what it's worth, Joe's used to be at the corner of Bleecker and Carmine until recently, and sold slices.

                    1. re: sugartoof

                      Yep, that's the place. That corner has flipped business a few times. It's a little fancied up now from the by the slice days. When it was Johns it was my favorite slice in the hood. Speederia in San Carlos is similar. Tony's is more like the other (more famous) Johns up the block.

                      1. re: Shane Greenwood

                        I am going to Tony's next week! :)

                        I am looking forward to comparing it to my new fave in NYC-Keste! Yesterday, I went to Pepe's in New Haven--different beast, but what flavor!

            3. Here's my review:

              Tony's only makes 73 of their World Pizza Cup winning Pizza Margheritas a day so you know when you're there for the first time and it's in stock, you gotta get it. This winning pie uses San Felice Flour (apparently that's special) and cooks for only 90 seconds in a 900 degree oven. 90 seconds!

              So while waiting 90 seconds for our pie, they served us complimentary house bread with 3 dipping sauces. The first was olive oil with chopped raw garlic, the second was plain olive oil, and the third was olive oil with some pesto. The garlic one was the big winner. The house bread was fantastic and consisted of two types - a focaccia which had a nice flavor and big slices of something like pugliese.

              I have to say the pizza looked beautiful with lots of bright red tomatoes, big splotches of fresh mozz, and basil leaves. The crust texture was perfect but was a little on the bitter side. (That crust bitterness reminded me of Lombardi's in New York.) Overall the pie was actually a little bland. I prefer shredded basil to get better basil coverage and thus more basil per bite. Oddly enough even though it was a little bland, there were some bites that were overly salty. These are minor criticisms because I thought the pie was very good on the whole. I just see ways for improvement. FYI: The Marg is $18 and on the small side for feeding two people. It only comes in one size.

              The server was really friendly and knowledge about their pizzas. I didn't like that the busser refilled our glasses by lifting them up by the top where we put our mouths.

              They obviously put a lot of care and respect into the pizzas and ingredients and I really would like to come back. There are THREE award winning pizzas on Tony's menu (the Marg, the Sicilian, and their Cal Italia), but next time I would definitely want to try their (non-award winning) New York or New Jersey style pizzas.

              My Top 6 Pizzerias in the Bay Area:
              1) Little Star, San Francisco
              2) Pie in the Sky, Berkeley
              3) Zachary's, Berkeley/Oakland/Castro Valley
              4) Patxi's, Palo Alto/San Francisco
              5) Speederia, San Carlos

              6th best! Pretty good!

              1 Reply
              1. re: katya

                i heard a top 10 pizza in US list on mark and brian and one was in SF. i didn't get the name and couldn't find it online. does anyone know where it was?