Until my July 5 visit to Glen Park, I’d never even heard of the neighborhood, which resides south of The Mission and Noe Valley in south central San Francisco. The best known restaurant in the community is undoubtedly Gialina. Chef-owner Sharon Ardiana opened her corner Italian restaurant in January 2007, naming it for grandmother Nonni “Lina,” who’s in evidence in black-and-white wall mounted photos. Gialina is part of a new breed of Bay Area restaurants featuring hand-crafted pizzas and Italian small plates made using seasonal California ingredients, with other contenders being Pizzaiolo, Flour + Water and Pizzeria Picco. Gialina features one of the strongest roster of starters, and while the pizza wasn’t the best of the bunch, it was certainly good, albeit different.
The glass fronted space features red walls with blonde wood accents. Seating is limited to a handful of four-tops, banquettes against the east wall and a trio of seats at the counter, overlooking the open kitchen. Gialina doesn’t accept reservations, so show up before the restaurant opens at 5:30 PM, or you could be in for a wait.
The generously portioned Antipasto ($12) platter featured three selections from Fra’mani Handcrafted Salumi: salametto picante, a firm, spicy salami; nostrano, a fatty, mild salami; and Rosa, a silky pistachio studded salami similar to mortadella, seasoned with coriander, white pepper and mace. The platter also hosted satisfying but (not so) “fiery” hummus, tangy goat cheese folded with crushed pistachios and soft triangles of pita-like flatbread. We were supposed to receive olives. We didn’t, and they may have helped cut the meat’s richness.
Instead of the obligatory meatball starter, we opted for Pork Belly ($10). The twin slabs of meaty, ideally textured hog stomach were plated with spigarello – a variety of broccoli – tiny currants, a drizzle of balsamic and a hint of spice from Calabrian chilies.
Gialina prepares 9 different “pies,” all cooked in a gas deck oven. We received plenty of interesting options. My father isn’t a lamb fan, so we skipped my first choice, lamb sausage pizza with Upland cress, spring onions, goat cheese and yogurt. Not that we suffered.
Wild Nettles ($16) proved to be an inspired pizza topping. The crispy, spinach-like leaves featured a nutty flavor and were complemented by thin-shaved Portobello mushrooms, crispy streaks of pancetta, red thin-shave onion and molten Provolone. The pizza featured a crispy, cracker list crust. I prefer a Neapolitan-style crust with more give, like you’d find at Flour + Water, but Gialina’s superior toppings helped to achieve a winning balance.
We had to get one pizza with tomato sauce, so our second pie was loaded with crusty chunks of Sweet Italian Sausage ($15), zesty tomato sauce that coated the width of the crust, more red onions and Provolone.
Gialina offers a roast of the day. Unfortunately, during our visit, it was lowly roast chicken instead of a more interesting beast. For dessert, we were tempted by ice cream from nearby Bi-Rite Creamery and the pistachio cake, but we were on the hunt for more of the city’s culinary treasures, so we drove north.