Thursday, January 24, 2013


"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore." ~ Jack Brooks, That's Amore[1]

Man can not live on bread alone... no, it takes some tomato sauce and cheese to complete it.

There are several different theories as to the origin of the word Pizza. One such explanation (from Wikipedia) is that it is from the Latin verb "pinsere", "to press", and from the Greek "piktos", meaning "solid" or "clotted", (see also: "pita" or "pitta"). Or (if you would rather believe Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language) another option is that it is an Italian variant of "pitta", perhaps ultimately from Greek; compare to "pétea" (bran), "pētítēs" (bran bread).

However, no matter how you slice it, I do not need to tell you that Pizza is the World's most ultimately perfect food (you are free to disagree with me, but would need to start your own damn 'blog to do so). A really fine Pizza can include all of your favourite ingredients or anything that your imagination desires. Pizza can be eaten for lunch, dinner, and even breakfast ~ just throw an egg on the bad boy half way through the cooking process… Et voila! ~ Breakfast Pizza! And as pointed out in one of my earlier posts (see 'blog-entry from July 5th, 2010), cold Pizza makes a great breakfastary repast, too.

Pizzas can be made in electric or gas ovens, but a wood-burning brick-oven Pizza is the best of all. It just cooks the Pizza the most completely and you get a great bubbly, charred crust and a nice molten cheese effect.

When talking about Pizza, there are many different types:

You have your Pizza Napolitana ~ which is one of the best and most classic versions of "da pie", usually made with tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese.

There is also the
Lazio style, which is the region in Italy that has Rome/Roma as its capital. These can be made in a rectangular pan and served in squares.

New York-style Pizza (which I feel is really the best kind of Pizza in 'merica; believe me or fuggedaboudit!) is very similar to Pizza Napolitana due to the fact that immigrants from Naples/Napoli created it in New York City in the early 1900's. Now not all Pizza that you buy in New York City is New York-style Pizza, and you can get New York-style Pizza outside of the five boroughs.

Chicago-style Pizza is a deep-dish Pizza. This is a very good Pizza (of course, there is really no such thing as "bad Pizza"), but New York Pizza is still much better.

For the more eclectic (read: bizarre) in taste and ingredients, there is California-style Pizza; very similar to New York Pizza, just with more exotic toppings. The above photo is from a place called Escape From New York Pizza, but don't let the name fool you, it's a California-style Pizza joint all the way; the slice pictured is a spinach, sundried tomato, artichoke heart, and Feta.

There is even Colorado-style Pizza. Beau Jo's is a Colorado-based small chain of pizzerias. The original restaurant is in Idaho Springs (which is about 30 miles west of Denver on I-70). What makes this Pizza unique is the way they make their extra thick crusts twisted/braided. The correct way to eat these is to save the crusts for dessert as there are bottles of honey on each table to pour on them and enjoy that way. It really does work.

Probably my favourite kind of Pizza has to be a Pizza Margherita. This is a simple enough Pizza Napolitana that will usually be made from tomatoes, basil, and Mozzarella, mimicking the colours of the Italian flag: red, green, and white.

These are some of my favourite Pizza joints in San Francisco:

Tommaso's Restaurant
They are one of the oldest pizzerias in San Francisco and have a great old wood-fired brick oven (in use since 1935). The really funny story is that the name of the restaurant doesn't come from some paisano named Thomas, it is named after the once long-time chef and past owner Tommy Chin. They make one of the best Pizzas in San Francisco. They offer many of the more standard Pizzas, and they also have a monthly special that usually has interesting toppings; the first time I ever ate there I had a Gorgonzola-Pear Pizza.

Pizzetta 211
This is definitely a California-style Pizza place. They only offer about six different Pizzas a day there. There are three Pizzas that are always on the menu, and they offer three weekly specials Pizzas that change with whatever is in season or whatever strikes their fancy. This week's alternative Pizzas: Farm Egg (see, told ya), Prosciutto (which would make this the perfect "Breakfast Pizza" ~ with bacon and eggs, Glen and Stanley), Crescenza (also known as Stracchino[2], is an Italian soft cow's-milk cheese), Walnut, Wild Arugula; Butternut Squash, Ricotta, Fried Sage, Brown Butter; and House Cured Bresaola (an air-dried, salted beef), Fennel, Olive-Citrus Tapenade[3], Red Onion. Caveat: if you are going to eat there, be advised that they are a very tiny place; there are probably only four or five tables total (and some are just two-seaters) and another three to four seats at the counter.

Giorgio’s Pizzeria
This is not a fancy place in any way. It is your olde-timey, family Pizza joint (complete with fake grape trellises overhead), but they make some very good pies here. It's all in the sauce and dough (as it should be); neither of which has probably changed since they first opened many years ago. They are located in my neighborhood, and this is usually my "go to" place whenever I feel like a simple Pizza Margherita; they don't add the fresh basil until after the Pizza comes out of the oven (this keeps the basil from browning), and they never go cheap with the basil, either.

Goat Hill Pizza
One of Potrero Hill's (hence the "Goat Hill" moniker) oldest restaurants. What makes their Pizzas specifically "San Francisco" is that the crust is made with sourdough. I used to work just two blocks away and would go there a few times a month for lunch (and sometimes for dinner after work).

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
As the name would imply, this would be a classic Neapolitan Pizza place; however, they offer many other styles of Pizza (Romana, Siciliana, Classic Italian, New York, California, and even St. Loius), too. They are located in North Beach where there are many other great places for Pizza, but again the difference here is their wood-burning oven. Their award-winning version of Pizza Margherita is one of the best in San Francisco (and the price reflects that, too). They have limited themselves to making only 73 of these a day. (Why that arbitrary number? Immano.)

Cafe Zoetrope
Now, this probably isn't really one of the best Pizza places in the city, it's just one of my favourites and I like it as they make a very decent New York-style Pizza. This restaurant is owned by multiple Academy Award®-winner Francis Ford Coppola. It used to be called Cafe Niebaum-Coppola several years back. The first time I ever ate there was right after work in the middle of the week once. I arrived there just as they were opening and sat near the door. I happened to notice a table in the corner (just two tables away) that had a braided red rope across it; I jokingly asked my server if they were expecting Francis in that night, and he said that the table is usually reserved for the owners just in case they ever feel like popping in unannounced. Well, no more than five minutes had passed when who do you think walked through the door and made his way to the table?! Yes, that is right, I was dining just two tables away from the legendary Gustave Niebaum himself![4]

Now "When the Pizza hits your mouth"... that's truly "Amre", Dino!

Glen Bacon Scale Rating: Pizza ~ 7.0-8.5 (in general)

1. Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer del giorno, numero uno:

"Amore" is both the noun and verb for "love" in Italiano. Of course, we have the English words "amour" and "enamour" that comes from the same word root from French, ultimately from Latin "amor", meaning "love".

Several other languages borrow the Latin root for "love", too:

Catalan/Galician/Portuguese/Romanian/Spanish ~ "amor"
Esperanto ~ "amas"
Estonian ~ "armastus"

2. Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer del giorno, numero due:

"Stracchino" derives from the Italian word "stracca", meaning "tired/weary". It is said that the milk from tired cows coming down in the autumn from the alpine pastures is richer in fats and more acidic. The milk of such cows gives the cheese its characteristic flavours.

3. Stupid, useless cunning linguist pointer du jour, numéro trois:

"Tapenade" (which apparently is not recognized by the Spell-check/Grammar Nazis at Microsoft) comes from French from the Provençal word "tapéno", meaning "capers".

4. Another time I was eating there and saw the corner table unoccupied, so I kiddingly asked the server if we could sit at that table. To my surprise, he said that they weren't expecting Francis (nor Mr. Niebaum, I suppose) that night and that it would probably be okay. Unfortunately, I chickened out and didn't want to make it look like I was any kind of Hollywoodland big shot. Sorry, Beth-Ann, maybe next time.

There was another unseasonably sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon a few years back during the NFL Playoff season (I only remember this as I was planning on eating at another place that is a big Pittsburgh Steelers fans hangout instead which is just up the street, but the Steelers were in the Playoffs and you couldn’t even get near the door no matter how nebby you were) that I sat outside at one of their sidewalk tables and noticed an older, heavyset man with a big beard a few tables away. He was smoking a big, stinky cigar (it is illegal to smoke within twenty feet of a restaurant in San Francisco), so I called over the waiter and told him to please ask the guy to put out the olfactory offending tobacco product. The poor guy looked at me seriously and said "I can’t. He owns the place." I also made sure to point out to the waiter that the guy with the beard completely stiffed him on a tip when he left. (I even think he may have just "chewed and screwed".)

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