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Jul 17, 2011 01:57 PM

Cupola @ The Westfield Shopping Center

I have to admit I was leery of going to a shopping mall for the sole purpose of having dinner, and I'm
no a fan of restaurant chains either, but I'm a sucker for true Neopolitan style pizza so I had to give it a shot.

It turned out to be a huge disappointment. My husband and I started off with the fresh pulled to order mozzarella. When it was delivered it looked more like burrata, there was no real structure to it at all,
Just a glop of white swimming in olive oil. It had a funky "chew" to it, almost like a wad of gum.
At $11 it was a pretty meager portion too.

We then had two pizza's. The Margarita and the Arabiata. Both came to the table pale and limp, with no char or crunch to them at all. Their only saving grace were the toppings. The sauce was fresh and bright tasting and the pancetta was of good quality.

After dinner my husband went to talk to one of the cooks manning the impressive pizza oven. He asked how hot the oven was and the cook took a look at the thermometer which was attached to the side of the over and said it was almost 700 degrees. Now I'm no pizza oven expert but I do know that these oven's usually cook at a much higher temperature. Why invest so much money on such a beautiful oven and not use it to it's most potential? I just don't get it. There is no excuse for making such a lackluster pie when you have the benefit of an oven like that.

The only saving grace of the evening was that the wine was half off (a special for the month of July)
All in all I don't think I'll be heading to the mall for dinner anytime soon.

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  1. A traditional Neapolitan pie should have some scorch, but the crust is supposed to be tender, not crunchy.

    If you want a traditional pie, try Una Pizza Napoletana or Tony's. I believe they both run their ovens at around 900 degrees. (Note that Tony's has four ovens, it notes on the menu which are cooked in the Italian wood-burning one.)

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

    Una Pizza Napoletana
    200 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    4 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Una Pizza is actually our go-to for pizza, we like Tony's too but we don't get out to North beach as often as we would like.

      I wasnt really looking for Cupola's crust to be "crunchy" but to have a "bite" to it, we just found it to be flaccid and tasteless, almost like an underdone frozen pizza.

      1. re: Kristine

        My first visit was better than my second. The crust was charred and chewy. Second time, it was a bit too thick and doughy. I think they are still working on consistency.

        That said, I like Delfina and Tony's better. Haven't been to Una.

        1. re: DezzerSF

          Delfina's pizza is among the best in town, but it's not a traditional Neapolitan pie. They use a gas deck oven, the crust is crunchy, and they often use cheeses other than mozzarella. "Naples meets New York," as they put it.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I'm with Robert on this. LOVE Delfina's Margarita because the crust is chewy. Waited two hours at Da Michael in Naples only to be served this limp, soft pizza that I didn't like at all. Crust was the same elsewhere in Naples. So a real Neapolitan pie is not a selling point for me.

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

    2. Here's a picture of my margherita with charred crust. I thought it was a good pie. I liked the Arabiata better than the margherita, it had a good spiciness to it.

      1. Michael Bauer's review in yesterday's Chron says it's VPN-certified.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          According to VPN guidelines posted at , "The real Pizza Napoletana must be cooked in a wood-fired dome oven operating at roughly 900ºF."

          Wow... it costs $2000 + $250/year renewal to get VPN certified, and you have to pay the cost of travel for the initial inspector's visit. They don't specify that you'll ever get reinspected, so I imagine it would be difficult to enforce quality control.

          1. re: hyperbowler

            There's no specific temperature required for VPN certification so long as the inspector is satisfied with the characteristics of the pizza. 700ºF probably wouldn't cut it.

        2. My first visit the week it opened was forgettable, but a few days ago I went and the pizza was well charred and quite good...I'd also add Ragazza to a Neopolitan/California list.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ChowFun_derek

            I went on Sunday. Was in the neighborhood and had just read the Bauer review. I had the more expensive of the two Margarita options (I forgot what they called it). I, too, enjoyed it and found it to have a nice char.

            1. re: ChowFun_derek

              We were at Cupola end of October. Had a lovely meal. Had the Feast of Feasts deal. The portions LOOKED small, but by the time we left, we were stuffed. I thought the Dome Salad was especially good.

            2. As a general rule, I would never patronize a restaurant or hotel within a month or two of its opening. If I did, I would certainly not post a negative "review" on Chowhound. To a great degree, restaurants and hotels are serviced based. They need a little time to mature and come up to their expected standards. The kitchen needs a few hundred repitions to consistently produce the anticipated results.

              On Black Friday, I dined next door at Lark Creek Steak. After leaving Lark Creek, I had a chance to view some of the pizzas sitting on the tables adjacent to the mall. Any one of them could have been used for a photo on Cupola's website. Next time I am in the area, my restaurant of choice is Cupola's.