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Usually my omnivorous friend Robert is quick off the mark when it comes to a well-recommended new eatery, so I have no idea why he still hadn't been to Little Star, a new pizzeria on Divisadero, six weeks after he'd e-mailed me about it. "My boss is crazy about it," he'd written, and he must have mentioned the place to me half a dozen times after that. (Apparently said boss was so enamored of Little Star that his wife had put him on a diet: No eating there more than three times a week.) "So let's go," I'd replied, half a dozen times, but somehow we hadn't gotten around to it.
846 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
Region: Haight/ Fillmore
Deep-dish sausage $15/small, $19/large
Thin-crust combo $17/small, $21/large
Broccoli rabe pizza $10.50
Funghi pizza $13
Egg, nettles, and lamb sausage pizzetta $13.75
Pepperoni, tomato, and mozzarella pizzetta $10
Little Star Pizza, 846 Divisadero (at Fulton), 441-1118. Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Reservations accepted for parties of eight or more. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 5, 24. Noise level: moderate to high.
A16, 2355 Chestnut (at Scott), 771-2216. Open for lunch Wednesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Reservations accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult, except valet parking on weekends. Muni: 28, 30, 43, 76. Noise level: low at lunch, very high at dinner.
Pizzetta 211, 211 23rd Ave. (at California), 379-9880. Open Wednesday through Friday for lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner from 5 to 9 p.m.; open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. No reservations. Bathroom not wheelchair accessible. Parking: difficult. Muni: 1, 2. Noise level: low to high.
When it came, the fateful dinner was arranged quickly enough. I was reading the April edition of the excellent food magazine Saveur, a special issue devoted to American artisanal cheese (one of my favorite subjects), and after I'd gotten over my irritation that the editors hadn't seen fit to include either Farmstead Cheeses and Wines in the Alameda Marketplace (1650 Park, Alameda, 510/864-WINE) or Cowgirl Creamery's Artisan Cheese Shop in the Ferry Building (1 Ferry Building, No. 17, 362-9354) in their list of 20 top places to buy American cheese -- but had included the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, whose secret slogan, I decided in the years I warily shopped there, is "We Will Gladly Sell Cheese Past Its Prime" -- I read that Ed Levine's new pizza book, Pizza: A Slice of Heaven: The Ultimate Guide and Companion, had just been published. I was out the door and at the nearest bookstore in a trice. The lovely Asian guy with hair down to his waist smiled beatifically as he rang the book up, telling me about a transcendent pizza experience he'd had in Brooklyn, right by the bridge.
You know Ed Levine. He's the guy whose pieces in the New York Times always begin, "In the last two months I have eaten three million bagels/pastrami sandwiches/burgers, averaging 50,000 a day ..." (I'm hyperbolizing only slightly), and his pizza book, I was delighted to find, contains this line in its introduction: "Over this last twelve months I have consumed at least a thousand slices of pizza (roughly three per day) in twenty states as well as Canada and Italy."
I'd barely started to glance through it when I called Robert, who agreed to break bread, or anyway pizza, with me that night. As we drove toward Little Star we talked, in the manner of food-obsessed people everywhere, about pizzas we had known and loved. I came to pizza relatively late, thanks to a boyfriend who considered it the perfect food (unlike Levine, who merely calls it a perfect food), and who introduced me to the delights of cold pepperoni pizza for breakfast. My family lived in an area where pizza delivery was unknown, and though we sometimes ate it out, there wasn't a family fetish for it -- as there was, say, for Chinese food. (My father occasionally favored a jarred Italian antipasto for breakfast, carefully picking out and discarding the pearly pickled onions, but I don't remember any cold pizza in the morning.)
When Robert and I entered the place, he was taken aback by its rather hip (though minimal) décor: He'd envisioned a fluorescent-lit dive, but the lights were low, the bar was topped with wine bottles on display in chic shadow boxes, and the jukebox was loaded. We were led to a comfy table for four, and were reading the menu when Robert noticed that his informant, Matt, was sitting at a deuce directly opposite us, despite having eaten there just the night before. This time he was with his wife, Noreen, and they were well into what appeared to be a hefty deep-dish sausage pie.
It looked good to us (despite our recent conversation about disappointing Chicago-style pies outside of Chicago), so we ordered a small one, along with a small thin-crust Italian combo (after being disappointed that the pie called White did not feature clams, but mozzarella, feta, zucchini, tomato, and garlic olive oil). We started with a nice large mixed salad -- organic field greens, cherry tomatoes, minced red bell peppers and onions, chopped walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese in a good vinaigrette. Robert loved it ("I'd be proud if I'd made this salad"), but if I'd made it I would have added more Gorgonzola and more of the tiny tomatoes.
The deep-dish pie arrived first. It wasn't obscenely deep, and was full of sausage, fresh mushrooms, green bell peppers, onions, and a chunky tomato sauce, in a cornmeal crust that stayed crisp under its juicy burden. I liked it a lot, but Robert really went nuts for it. I was also very happy with the thin-crusted combo, prettily topped with pepperoni, salami, thin rings of white onions, green bell peppers, black olives, and the touch that lit up the mouth, pale green slivers of spicy pepperoncini. Robert pointed out that there was a lot of liquid accumulating in the middle of the pie, yet the crust -- which wasn't as puffy or blackened in bits as I like -- stood up to the onslaught of toppings. Matt and Noreen joined us after they'd dispatched their dinner, recommending the house-made cheesecake, which was slightly sour and extremely creamy atop a tender graham cracker crust. Lovely.
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