It’s pretty remarkable that a place that has been around for years and one that has branches across the city continues to knock out some of the best pizza in the area while offering the definition of a casual dining experiencee. Credit Craig Stoll or whoever he has managing this project. They know what they’re doing and anyone running or opening a restaurant should conduct a thorough study.
The trip that prompted this impression was nothing special, a quick lunch with my parents at the Fillmore location where we were seated expeditiously on a Sunday. It’s a clean well lit place for pizza – all of their locations give you that vibe – and the entire operation hums along around you. Good music, great people watching, a kitchen moving to the beat. Cooking as entertainment as well as consumption.
But the food is the thing and Delfina figured out how to maintain focus from the get go. It starts with the crisp breadsticks – lean, simple, a great intro to the meal. They really only cook a few pizzas, salads, and classic appetizers like tripe or fried anchovies that fulfill a longing for trattoria food. There are usually specials like spaghetti and meatballs that make sense even if you wrinkle your nose at their presence. I mean, who orders pasta at a pizza place?
And that pizza is a marvel. It’s chewy and charred, strong enough to hold some rather significant toppings like cream and guanciale. The toppings hew to tradition with some Californian variations. When in doubt order the lightest thing on the menu just to taste the wonder of the gluten in this dough. We always spend a lot of time watching the pizzaioli working in the back because the dough is so elastic and yet comes out so chewy that we know we have eons to go with our home pizza oven.
Lest we forget dessert the short list has always managed to find the traditional dish that resonates while being far too easy to overlook. The Zeppole are really fried pieces of pizza dough topped or slathered with creme anglaise which represent a nice compromise between the classic idea of fluffed dough stuffed with cream, interpretation, and ideal delivery in contemporary restaurants. The cannoli in the Mission location occupy the same position – I’m not an authority but I have yet to find anything as good in the U.S.
Then there’s the wine list which is admirably edited to a page while introducing Americans to still, lamentably, unknown Southern Italian wines. There are fantastic deals, incredible diversity of tastes, oh and they know how to run a wine program. If you don’t know what you want not only will your waiter give you a taste, usually they’ll give you two or three in order to compare. Just don’t be that idiot who insists on an unknown bottle, engage with and appreciate the experience of your wait staff.