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Jul 9, 2012 11:54 PM

Gioia Pizzeria in San Francisco

Sunday afternoon I wandered over to Gioia Pizzeria, the new kid on Russian Hill. I’d heard about the long waits for tables and figured that 2:30pm might be my best shot. Even at that hour, nearly all the tables were taken but I did get a seat readily for brunch service.

I tried the breakfast pizza, $18, Nueske bacon, sunny side up eggs, cherry tomatoes, Fontina cheese. Good quality toppings applied with a well-judged hand as well as some juicy red onion and a touch of herbs. A bit of chili powder sparked a fiery bite here and there. As good as the toppings were, the crust was nondescript. Boring, blonde-ish and thicker than NY-style, not a peep of personality or flavor emerged from this dough. Not tender, not crispy, not chewy, not scorched, not fragrant, not much of anything at all other than a surface for toppings. The plain jane crust was undersalted as well. Other than the bacon and what might have been a fine sprinkle of grated cheese, no other salty element could be tasted on this pie. With no salt shaker on the table, I asked for some. It’s extremely rare that I ever add salt at the table, but those ripe little tomatoes and fresh soft-yolked eggs deserved to be tasted at their best with some seasoning.

Since Gioia is a short walk for me, I’m sure I’ll be back to try a slice or order a sandwich or pasta some time. But this is not a pizza that I’d order again, let alone wait in line for. I’ve not been to the Berkeley shop and wonder how the San Francisco branch compares. Opinions?

2240 Polk St. San Francisco (415) 359-0971

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  1. I was wondering the same thing about SF. I go to the Berkeley branch all the time. I LOVE their pizza, and in fact find the crust to be far better than what you get at most other places (don't get me going on Zachary's). I particularly love the anchovy with chilis --though at one point they decided to start sprinkling fresh oregano on it. I like oregano, but just do not think it works on that pizza.

    Anyway, I had not realized Gioia SF was a more complete restaurant. I wonder how their "normal" pizze compare with the Berkeley branch. The pizza listing for SF is similar to the Berkeley branch. Their following is based on the (non-breakfast) pizza, so you might stop by for a slice of their mushroom or anchovy.

    1. I've always found Gioia's crust undersalted.

      1. I went to Gioia a couple of times back around when you 1st mentioned it weeks ago. They only serve sandwiches until around 3. I was a few minutes late, so ordered a whole Julien (prosciutto, aged provolone, red onion). It was quite good, but I think I prefer the Berkeley version. The SF prosciutto was leaner than I like. Also I think the sharpness of the provolone benefits from cooling a bit as would happen with a slice when you take it home, but not with a whole pie on site. Dr. Kayo liked it too, but likes his pizza hot.

        I returned a couple weeks later for the roast pork with broccoli rabe sandwich ala DiNic's in Philly. It was very juicy and again quite good. I somehow missed DiNic's on my Philly visit so can't compare, but I was quite happy with it. Dr. Kayo and Dr. Mooney gobbled up the one I took to them. On my 1st visit they also had a Muffaletta, but it slipped off the menu by my 2nd visit. Will Gioia told me that it just wasn't selling. They replaced it with a tuna confit sandwich.

        Have not made it there for dinner, but a welcome addition to a neighborhood I frequent.

        5 Replies
        1. re: chocolatetartguy

          Read you post more carefully and thought I would comment on Gioia Berkeley's crust. I am more of a topping person than a crust one, but I do enjoy GBerk's. I do think of it as being NY style crust, sometimes scorched on bottom and often bubbled at the edges. I often save parts of the crust to eat later with cheese. I would not call it cracker-line though. As far as a direct comparison to NY pizza, I was not eating pizza on my half dozen visits to NYC so no can do.

          The seasoning at GBerk is fine by me. The Julien has been my absolute favorite pizza variety since they introduced this version last year? The provolone is as sharp as what I recall having on hoagie's in Philadelphia. I was told that it is very stinky when it cooks and once it cools, it does have a sharp provolone flavor. The mushroom is dependably rich. They roast the mushrooms beforehand in olive oil. They should make a pasta sauce with it.

          I love Gioia Berkeley's pizza. Gioia SF's version doesn't seem that different to me.

          1. re: chocolatetartguy

            I popped over to the Berkeley branch for lunch. The crust on the cheese slice was so thin that you couldn't pick it up without the tip sagging. I didn't notice any lack of salt in the crust, but yes, it didn't have quite the nutty flavor of, say, Nizza's (they let the crust ferment for a day or two, not sure that Gioia's does that). Still, quite good slices in the true NY style.

            1. re: ernie in berkeley

              Thanks for confirming that Gioia's pizza is in fact NY style. And yes the crust barely supports the toppings that I love. I only had pizza once in NYC and it was at a neighborhood place on Columbus, hardly a good basis of comparison. Gioia's pizza is what I dream NY pizza should be. The ratio of cheese to crust is just right.

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                I haven't had a slice in NY in a very long time. Of course, I'm not going to like Gioia any less just because someone tells me in is in fact not exactly NY style any more than I'd like actual NY pizza any less because it is not true Napolitana (which, if there is a standard bearer, should be it).

              2. re: ernie in berkeley

                Thanks for the description. My pizza crust was considerably thicker than that as you can tell from the photo. No sagging at the tip, would have been impossible to flip. And lacked the mottled scorching and chewy resistance of NY style. Those are all the attributes that I was expecting to find since Gioia promotes itself as East Coast style, so my disappointment is understandable.

          2. I call this type of pizza "flabza". Thanks for saving me from a disappointing "pie". Sounds like Blondies SF.

            Always hoped that pizza was about the crust and the toppings

            1. Looking at the photos in Bauer's review, the crust has the same uniform blond to golden color as mine did.
              And looking around the room I spotted a couple that were darker, but they were uniformly a nutty brown. Not the scorching on the high points, just overbaking.

              It's interesting to compare what I saw and SFGate's pictures to the shots in Slice:SeriousEats' first look. These are much more appealing to me.