A few years ago someone handed the Pizzetta 211 business card to me and said, "go here." I couldn't help but think how smart this was. When I like a place I tell all my friends to go there. As a restaurant professional my word gets taken seriously, but I also know that eateries survive on word of mouth. Press from the biggies is nice but what a place wants is regular customers, not merely who go to the "in" place of the second.
Pizzetta 211 is a tiny place on 23rd avenue right off California. A big willow is planted directly in front and benches have been built around it's base. They don't take reservations or plastic. You can't buy just a slice and takeout is based on how they are feeling when you call. There are 4 tables, and four or five chairs at the tin counter. Napkins, silverware and water are self serve. The menu changes everyday and I have rarely been disappointed.
I am completely and delusionally in love with the space. It's tall, narrow and the details are well placed and also random. Hand painted tiles are in the floor, shallow terracotta bowls line the walls, and the specials are hand-written on a pizza peel. Everyday there are about 6 pizzas, a few salads, a vegetable side, house cured olives, hand picked cheeses, and a couple of desserts. I once had an apple crisp with chantilly there that made me very very quiet. The fruit was the pink of a child's cheeks, barely sweetened so that the nature of the apples were revealed quietly and subtly.
Today we had a fennel and fennel salame pizza with arugula and the side of broccoli de cicco (similar to broccoli rabe, but not as bold). Although this meal was not outstanding I really like going here when I'm in the area. Today the salame was sliced so thin and the fennel was few and far between, (also they chose to put it on the pizza raw so it just steamed under the cheese, never getting to cook enough to concentrate it's flavour. Me myself I would have roasted it a bit first), it was more esoteric than delicious. And the side wasn't striking enough. There were so many pinenuts I had trouble tasting the greens. They peppered it with red chili flakes, (something I wouldn't miss if they disappeared tomorrow), when in fact the actual vegetable needed to be treated better. I could write a thousand posts on how vegetables and fruit are murdered buy many a brilliant chef because they view them as 'the colorful thing next to the protein.' And I don't mean overcooked. I mean that the actual vegetable's individual character is not being paid attention to.
The crust on these pizzas are yummy. Really crunchy, a little burnt (color is flavour) and it has a taste all it's own; it is not merely the conveyor of the topping. Today the dessert was an olive oil cake I would have loved to have tried but SF was experiencing a hot day and I wanted something cold and icey.
Pizzetta 211 is an authentic neighborhood place. I feel like I'm in Greenwich Village when I'm there. I like what very small kitchens look like. Lots of things to see in the nooks and crannies. And it's worth going just to see their bathroom. It's decorated with a 10 gram dose of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover. There's an eency weency theater, complete with little velvet curtains, that plays a fast b&w film and mysteriously invisible speakers play unexpected music. Being a fellow who likes to keep others' on their toes, details like this are what will keep me courting this neighborhood joint far far from my own neighborhood.