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Restaurant report: Pizzeria Delfina on 18th St

s
SouthToTheLeft Sep 8, 2010 08:25 PM

I don't get Delfina. I honestly don't. I've noticed this nasty trend in San Francisco for restaurants to take Italian-American cuisine, the likes of which can be found in any deli or bodega on the East Coast, and celebrate it as if it were the Second Coming. Despite the giant lines crowing the sidewalk every day, Delfina is not remarkable and it is almost certainly not worth waiting for.

While not attempting to engage in the perennial New York versus San Francisco food debate, Delfina would never receive the accolades that it does were it in the New York area. Simply, the food is plain, unimaginative, and not even well done. I have had pizza from Delfina twice, both here on 18th St and their location near FIllmore Street. Their dough and crust is just all right, but it is their flavors where they really fall short. The pizza is bland and boring.

Delfina also does not push the definition of pizza. Nothing new, nothing unique, nothing that can only be found at Delfina. By itself, that is fine! There's nothing wrong with taking classical dishes and doing them well. But Delfina manages to make everything taste bland and boring.

So now when I see the crowds waiting for an hour for a table, I can walk on by without any regrets.

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Delfina Restaurant
3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

  1. pane Sep 8, 2010 10:05 PM

    Now that you've gotten the name of the restaurant right, do you think you can add some specifics about what you tried and did not like? Which pizzas did you try that you found bland and boring?

    Taste is personal, of course, and but it would be great to hear more about what you ate, specifically, and how it fell short.

    3 Replies
    1. re: pane
      ChowFun_derek Sep 9, 2010 12:08 AM

      As a New Yorker..I would define the pizza and food as Neopolitan ...not Italian-American.

      1. re: ChowFun_derek
        l
        lapizzamaven Sep 10, 2010 03:56 PM

        As they dont even use a wood fired oven at Delfina Id say they are Neapolitan-influences and whatever other adjectives you can come up with...artisanal?

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        Delfina Restaurant
        3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

        1. re: ChowFun_derek
          Robert Lauriston Sep 10, 2010 04:58 PM

          Per the Web site, Delfina is Neapolitan-inspired, so it's not intended to remind anyone of NY Italian-American.

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          Delfina Restaurant
          3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

      2. a
        annabana Sep 9, 2010 01:21 PM

        I spent the first three decades of my life in NYC and recently lived there again for almost three years. Are we talking about the same NYC? One can find bad to mediocre Italian and/or Italian/American food on just about every street. Don't get me wrong, there's lots of good to great stuff in my home town as well, but you do have to know where to get it.

        In defense of my current home (Bay Area), the same holds true here. You have to know where to go to avoid the mediocre or just plain terrible. I have had good to great experiences at the Fillmore Delfina. Everyone has different tastes.

        1. kellylee Sep 9, 2010 04:21 PM

          Jeez! Pizzeria Delfina is one of my favorite spots. I usually order the Panna pizza and it is so flavorful and well put together that I am always tempted to take one more to go. I've tried many of the well-regarded pizzas in the Bay Area and PD is in the top 5, easy.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kellylee
            a
            abstractpoet Sep 9, 2010 04:48 PM

            The Panna is the only pizza I've had at Pizzeria Delfina (Fillmore location), and I thought it was just great.

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            Pizzeria Delfina
            2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

            1. re: abstractpoet
              v
              vulber Sep 10, 2010 06:09 PM

              that's probably their best one

          2. o
            OldTimer Sep 9, 2010 04:29 PM

            We have a strange custom in the Bay Area. When you don't like the food in a restaurant (no matter how good it may be for others), you may complain to up to ten people for no more than two hours, then do not eat there any more.

            1. augustiner Sep 9, 2010 05:37 PM

              two dishes stand out from my dinner at the original delfina pizzeria two nights ago. one was an appetizer of skewered deep fried mozzarella in anchovy brown butter. light years away from the gummy mozzarella fingers of red sauce italian american joints all over the country. the cheese was super fresh with a creamy sweetness, and the briny butter added depth and richness.

              the pizza amatriciana took that classic pairing of guanciale, tomatoes and onions and let it shine as a pizza rather than a pasta sauce. so it was classic, but different and it was deemed the most delicious dish of the night by my party. rich cured pork, bright tomatoes, sweet onions and cheese, nothing about it was "bland and boring" and it was certainly well executed.

              so what kinds of pizza have you ordered here and what about them did you find so unappealing?

              6 Replies
              1. re: augustiner
                m
                mrs bacon Sep 9, 2010 05:46 PM

                I had the same fried mozzarella the other night -- I loved it and the anchovies really gave the dish a lift that sent it to another level of deliciousness. In fact, I've never gone wrong with the little fried things here. We had the classic Pizza Margherita, which is always a good bet, although they don't offer the mozzarella di bufala "upgrade" anymore. Our second pizza was a special -- hen of the woods mushrooms with panna. Very nice and went well with the margherita.

                1. re: mrs bacon
                  t
                  TopoTail Sep 9, 2010 10:54 PM

                  I can't resist piling on here to say that I have found Delfina's margherita the standard against which I judge all others. The nice chewy crust, the perfect balance between tomato and cheese, the intensity of the flavor. I'm about to leave for Naples and am really curious to see whether I will find a better margherita. Of course, Delfina doesn't have a wood fired oven, and I suppose that should give Da Michele a leg up.

                  The "Cherry Pie" pizza is also brimming with intense flavors, and I never tire of the Insalata Tricolore.

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                  Delfina Restaurant
                  3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                  1. re: TopoTail
                    Windy Sep 9, 2010 11:07 PM

                    The tricolore is one of the best salads in the city, rivaled by Delfina's campagna with radicchio and walnuts and parmesan. Both seem like salads I could make myself and yet....

                    That said, Pizzeria Delfina is not the place for someone looking for a NY slice. I like their red sauce and the size of the pies, and pretty much anything they cook in a ceramic dish in the oven.

                    SouthToTheLeft doesn't have to like it or go there. That's also no reason for picking a fight over some faux coastal rivalry.

                    -----
                    Delfina Restaurant
                    3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                    Pizzeria Delfina
                    2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                    1. re: Windy
                      l
                      lapizzamaven Sep 10, 2010 04:03 PM

                      Ive eaten at both pizza locations and have had very good experiences everytime...a reg Margherita and a Margw/sausage added were very flavorful...at least bc of the oven, though, i have to say i prefer Picco(btw...anyone been to Bruce Hill's 00 in the City?) and Pizzaiolo to Delfina...I think i would put Gialina a bit ahead of Delfina though it also uses a gas oven...

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                      Gialina
                      2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                      Pizzaiolo
                      5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                      Delfina Restaurant
                      3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                      1. re: lapizzamaven
                        Windy Sep 10, 2010 04:51 PM

                        I love Picco too. But I think Gialina's crust is like cardboard.

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                        Gialina
                        2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                        1. re: Windy
                          tvham Sep 11, 2010 12:14 AM

                          I agree with Windy...I thought Gialina's crust so horrible that I will never go back. My favorite bay area pizza's are A16, Pizzeria Delfina and Pizzeria Picco.

                          I've been to both locations of PD a combined 10+ times and have never had a bad meal.

                          -----
                          Gialina
                          2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                          A16
                          2355 Chestnut St., San Francisco, CA 94123

                          Pizzeria Picco
                          320 Magnolia Ave, Larkspur, CA 94939

                          Pizzeria Delfina
                          2406 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

              2. mariacarmen Feb 20, 2011 10:40 PM

                I had a near perfect lunch at PD today (my first, finally; had only been to Delfina before). Fried sand dabs with aioli, spicy roasted cauliflower, and the pizza margherita, finishing with the best cannoli ever. waited outside with a glass or two of wine to assuage, then finally sat at an outside table on a cold, sunny day. The sand dabs were perfectly fried, crispy, tender, still delicate, with a lovely, creamy, light aioli, followed by a warm crispy, caramelized, cauliflower, sprinkled with capers and chili peppers.... and then the pizza... juicy in the middle, blistered at the crust, really light and yet rich flavor.... as good, or better, as Pizzaiolo's. Served with dried but very fresh oregano, shaved parm regg, and dried chili flakes. Then, a shatteringly crisp cannoli with an orange-water (maybe? maybe zest)-flavored cream.... utterly, decadently delicious. really a great meal. i don't know why i said NEAR perfect - it was a PERFECT lunchtime hedonistic experience. We started out with a glass of the Insolla from Sicily for me, and the Salice Salentino for my friend, and both were delicious. We ended up with a bottle of the Salice - soooo good and smokey, i feel a fool for not having been before, waiting be damned. can't wait to go again.

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                Pizzaiolo
                5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                Delfina Restaurant
                3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                1. e
                  epop Apr 24, 2011 06:30 PM

                  hands down the best pizza I've ever had, including all the best places in Rome, New York, Los Angeles. Not Phoenix. The margherita was a disappointment but the clam pizza and the neapolitano were a dream. Perfect char, airiness, the thick sauce, the mellow anchovies. Wow.

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