Just Close Your Eyes and Open Your Mouth: You’re in Italy
In this age of online social networks, where communication is more possible than ever, I can’t help but feel (and I know I’m not alone in this), that we actually interact with one another less often, and in less meaningful ways, than we did back in the ol’ pen and ink days. For me at least, it is now more of an effort to connect with the people I care about. Fortunately, there is still one means of bringing people together that hasn’t failed me yet: food. And what food brings people together more than pizza? From office lunches to drunk munchies, you’re usually hard-pressed to find people who don’t like pizza. Everyone has their favorite toppings or styles, thin-crust or deep-dish, Chicago or New York, but pizza is pretty much as close to a universal food as you can get. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean its passé. There are few things more satisfying then finding your new favorite pizza place. Enter Pizzeria Delfina.
I had been hearing about this place for a long time, but never really felt like waiting in line for pizza when I thought about it. But when my mom, an all-things-Italian snob extraordinaire, came to visit for Thanksgiving, I decided there was no time like the present. We went to the new location on California and Fillmore. It was especially perfect since my lovely dog Emma was with us and we could sit outside. It was even more idyllic considering that it was somewhere around seventy degrees and sunny (in November?!?! In San Francisco?!?!). Despite this anomaly, there was no wait, and we were seated immediately.
Right away, I had a good feeling about the place. Allow me to let you in on one of my secrets: if a place has good bread (or chips and salsa or whatever), chances are their food is going to be just as good, but hopefully better. I haven’t checked the statistics or anything but, aside from Cheesecake Factory, this rule seems to hold up pretty well. Pizzeria Delfina was no exception: excellent breadsticks. Pay attention next time, you’ll see I’m right.
As we soothed our rumbling bellies with breadsticks, my mom and I perused the menu. It had all the things you would expect of an upscale pizzeria, but with some interesting surprises and unexpected ingredients. As the table next to us was busy stuffing themselves with what looked to be perfectly fried golden balls of arancini, we started with that, and boy, were those some perfectly fried golden balls all right.
For those of you who haven’t had the distinct oral pleasure of arancini, they are crispy balls of cheesy risotto. When they’re done right, the outside is buttered, crispy-fried bread crumbs, and the inside is piping hot, cheese-inundated risotto. Delfina’s were perfectly salted, perfectly hot, and like I said, perfectly fried. Washed down with a hefeweizen (the name of which I have forgotten ((SHAME))), these were an excellent beginning to a superb meal. Next out was the Big Eat’s featured Pizza Margherita.
As any pizza devotee knows, the simplest pizza is often the most difficult to get right, so a good way to judge a pizzeria is by their Margherita, the equivalent of an American slice of good ol’ cheese pizza. Immediately on the first bite of this one, we could taste the freshness of the ingredients: the basil was as aromatic and flavorful as if I had just bitten a leaf off the mother plant itself, the superb quality of the burratta mozzarella was evident by the omgawd-meltinyourmouth-timestop sensation, and the tomato sauce was obviously made by someone who knew exactly what they were doing. But the crust, which can easily make or break any pizza, was an art in itself. Thin as any authentic Italian pizza, absorbent enough to contain the flavors of the sauce while avoiding the icky sogginess that can be the downfall of even the most skilled pizzartists, and crispy and delicious enough on the outside that I was almost tempted to eat my way around the pizza, which, lemme tell you, never happens. This is the Pizza Margherita of dreams, people. And yet, the dream wasn’t over. Once we had tried one, we had to try another. This time we ordered one of the less traditional pizzas, a special which had “Funghi” Hen of the Woods mushrooms, panna, fontina, and nepitella. Don’t worry. I didn’t recognize most of those words either, but that is exactly what made it so enticing.
Now, doesn’t that look divine? The “Funghi” Hen of the Woods is a kind of mushroom that grows on trees, though you won’t find it looking this appetizing in nature. Panna is an Italian-style cream, fontina is an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk, and nepitella is an herb used frequently in Italian cooking, which is kind of a cross between mint and oregano. Combined, these ingredients created a flavor that I had never encountered in pizza, but definitely one that should be inducted into the canon. It was pungent, like mushrooms should be, but the cream and cheese served to balance out the fungosity of the mushrooms. If you’re brave enough to try this pizza, as I know many people are hesitant at best about mushrooms, definitely try it towards the end of your meal, since it is heavier on your palate than most pizzas.
So there you have it, folks. The best damn Italian-style pizza I’ve had outside of Italy. To be honest, I really wish I wasn’t posting this right now from my work desk (Hard Work All Day, E’ry Day), because my mouth is watering and my stomach is hankering for one of these pizzas. It doesn’t matter if there’s a line, or gangs of Marina-ites (or hipsters if you’re at the Mission location) plaguing the place, just go. Bring some friends (or buffers, however you want to look at it) and “connect” over some fairly priced, spectacular pizza. Just don’t forget the arancini, or you’ll be kicking yourself later.
I promise, you’ll never look back. Ciao.