Pizzeria Delfina builds on Mission success in Pacific Heights.
Craig Stoll and wife Anne opened the first Pizzeria Delfina in 2005 in a prime Mission District location, sandwiched between top-tier Tartine Bakery and the couple’s other Italian restaurant, Delfina. This year, they opened a northern outpost in Pacific Heights off Fillmore. The experience is more dynamic than at the original location, and the pizza was better than I remembered from 18th Street, but this lunch was most memorable for sardines.
Pizzeria Delfina features daily market-driven specials in each menu category. Pesce del Giorno meant Grilled Monterey Bay Sardines ($12), the best sardines ever, crisp-skinned and oily to their cores, balanced by a salsa verde drizzle, a piping of whipped potatoes and tangy fried capers.
Insalata Tricolore ($8.50) was pretty far from my first choice, but this salad was a decent counter to some of the meal’s richer plates, featuring raw fennel and radicchio draped with salty Grana Padano and lightly dressed in lemon vinaigrette.
The “Cherry Pie” ($16) special hosted marinated cherry tomatoes with explosive sweetness, fresh basil, gobs of ricotta salata and extra virgin olive oil lashings. The toppings were so sensational that I didn’t miss the meat, but the crust wasn’t that special, especially at the edges where it was puffy and doughy.
Salsiccia Pizza ($15) featured nubs of house-made fennel sausage, tomato, strips of bell pepper, onions and mozzarella. The tomato sauce had good acidity and clearly incorporated tomatoes at the peak of their powers, but again, the crust limited the overall effect.
The Pizza cooks at 700 degrees on a stainless-steel plate in a brick-lined gas oven. The crust was doughy at the edges, but I don’t think that was a by-product of the oven. After all, De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies produces pizza in Trenton that’s about as good as it gets using a similar deck oven.
When you sit down, each table hosts a plate of whole-leaf oregano, grated Pecorino Romano and hot pepper flakes to pinch onto the pizza. The only accoutrement that added anything to the pizza was the oregano, which was aromatic and herbaceous.
Pizzeria Delfina isn’t an elite pizzeria due to the doughy crust, but the seasonal toppings are excellent, and those sardines are almost untouchable. If I lived in Pac Heights, Pizzeria Delfina would be a regular stop, but for out-of-towners visiting the Bay Area, Flour + Water, Pizzaiolo and A16 all produce better pizza, in that order.