As with insane rents and the specter of venture capital getting into the coffee game, when the topic of pizza-by-the-slice comes up, the inevitable comparison is to New York. But while San Francisco has made admirable gains over the last few years with its pizza options, the fact that we have far fewer corner pizza joints might be what’s prevented a race to the bottom in prices. (The cost of New York’s slices is notorious for running neck-and-neck with the base subway fare, currently $2.75.) In other words: pizza here costs a lot more.
That’s the first thing I thought of when I encountered the $6 slices at Tony Gemignani’s new Slice House outpost inside The Market, the high-end grocery and food hall on the ground floor of Market Square. The second thing I thought of, of course, was holy damn, this is good pizza, worth every cent. The Sweet Grandma (like a Sicilian-style slice, but full of enough air pockets to keep it pillowy) comes with sliced Aiello cheese, a sweet sauce that’s added after the baking, sliced fresh mozzarella, sea salt, basil, oregano, Romano cheese, and a garlic sauce. I’d love to know the exact contents of that sweet sauce, which are pretty hard to tease out in the company of so many other strong flavors, but its honeyed presence remains the top note, and the fat blobs of mozz bleed together nicely.
[jump] The other slice worth recommending is the Purple Potato, which besides the potato comes with shredded mozzarella, “bacon or pancetta,” rosemary, pesto, feta, oregano, Romano, and garlic oil. Violet-hued toppings notwithstanding, the oregano keeps it firmly within the non-experimental category of pizza flavors. (As a side note: purple potatoes are trending harder than ever, hopefully owing to their regal beauty and nutty flavor, and not the semi-pseudoscience proliferating about its antioxidant properties.)
There are a number of 12-inch specialty pies in the $18-$23 range, like a tartufo (a white pizza with truffle oil), a spicier diavola, and a Jersey margherita pie for Asbury Park purists. For $35, there’s a whole fratellanza pie, which is basically a supreme that baked by capable enough hands so that the center doesn’t collapse in on itself when you scoop it up.
That’s because the 12-time World Pizza Champion Gemignani is of course San Francisco’s reigning pizzaiolo (although Matt Molina of Capo’s might be nipping at his heels). Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in North Beach isn’t selling the $100 “Super Gold Pizza” like it was in the run-up to the Super Bowl — relax, all proceeds went to charity — but it’s still tops. But this counter is a cousin to Gemignani’s other project, the Slice House at 680 Second Street that opened last year. While that one’s an enclosed sit-down restaurant, it’s not equidistant from a Blue Barrel and a café serving Four Barrel like the location in the Market is (the better to pep you back up after a lunch-hour spent devouring starches).
It might be priced more in sync with a Lyft than a Muni ride, but Slice House shows that The Market had room enough for another great addition.
Slice House, inside Market Square, 1355 Market St., slicehouse.com