Monday, August 31, 2009

Dish on Dining: Gialina Pizzeria

The Best Pizza … at Least in Glen Park
2842 Diamond St. (at Kern), San Francisco
Glen Park
PH: 415.239.8500
Dinner Sun.–Thu., 5–10 p.m.; Fri., Sat., until 10:30 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted, no reservations

This tiny pizzeria—whose landmark is primarily the Glen Park BART station—has developed quite a reputation. I’ve been meaning to try this place ever since Michael Bauer in his Pizza Friday series a couple of years ago declared Gialina as having the best pizza in the Bay Area.

My friend David wanted to try this place after he saw it featured on KQED’s “Check Please!”

So we met up on a Tuesday night for dinner. The restaurant is just a block away from the BART station. I was surprised to find Gialina (which doesn’t have a distinct sign out front) to be quite stylish. The décor was contemporary with a funky bent coming from the large funny black-and-white family photos on the walls. I was expecting an old neighborhood pizzeria, but it was like any hip restaurant you’d find in the Mission or Marina.

Gialina was opened by Sharon Ardiana, a chef who cooked at places like Boulevard and Slow Club. She named the place after her grandmother Lina, and kept the small restaurant charming and neighborly.

Our server seemed like he’d been there for awhile because he had a real authoritative tinge to his voice, giving us the low down on how the menu worked (it changes daily and is posted on the Web site), how we couldn’t combine two pizzas into one (but could do halvsies on an ingredient) and how we could get a taste of a wine if we’re interested. Whew, it was a lot to take in.

Eventually, David and I decided to split a couple of starters and zeroed in on the Potato Pizza, which was my suggestion because I love the comforting feel of potato on a pizza.

To start we got the Leaf Lettuce Salad ($9) with peaches, goat cheese and pistachio. The salad was lightly dressed and the ingredients were fresh. I especially liked the goat cheese, which was milky white and light. My only quibble about the salad was the pistachio, which I thought wasn’t the best nut to blend with all the ingredients. David liked the pistachio, although he conceded that there were maybe too many of them in the salad.

We also got the Little Meatballs ($9), which came out in a cute little casserole dish just oozing with melted aged provolone. The meatballs were indeed little, but they packed a lot of flavor in the meat and the sauce. I especially liked how the meatballs didn’t feel dense but were easy to bite into. I could eat a whole plate of this.

When our pizza arrived, half of it was covered with red onions and the other half did not because I’m not a fan of the red onions (and ironically two of the featured pizzas that night had red onions). Other ingredients on our potato pizza ($15) were applewood smoked bacon, rosemary and gorgonzola cheese.

First off, the pizza was really crispy and thin. I’d eaten thin pizzas in San Francisco before, but none as nicely crispy as Gialina’s. It had the puffy edges that you find often these days, and I liked the blending of the ingredients. However, the potato slices were too thin, IMHO, so I didn’t really get that comforting feel of warm potato slices. The pizza was overwhelmed by the applewood bacon, but that was fine because it was a nice smoky taste.

The one thing I didn’t like about the pizza, and some of you probably don’t care (like David), was the sheen from the oils. I have this thing about oil, which is why I’m not a fan of fried foods that has that slippery, greasy feel. Whenever I see oil on food, I just feel like I’m going to break out into an oil sweat. The sheen on Gialina’s pizza made eating it seem a bit oily, although I’m sure it was very healthy oils like olive oil.

Thinking the sheen might just be the pizza we ordered because it had the bacon, I took a picture of David’s takeout pizza, which he ordered at the end of our meal for his wife at home. (Yes, it was just a guys’ night out.) He ordered the wild nettle pizza with pancetta, mushrooms, onion and provolone and you can see it also has the shiny sheen of oil. Oh, wait, it has pancetta, so maybe it came from that? Anywho, I’m sure it tasted great. The sheen is a minor quibble.

I enjoyed the creativity of the pizza ingredients and the variety, and the place definitely was popular (our server came back often to check on us and in a way I felt like he was moving us along so we could empty the table). I would probably come back again, but I don’t know if I would consider this the best pizza in town. (I’ve been happy the few times I’ve been to Pizzeria Delfina.)

Still, if you’re on the BART and miss the 24th Mission St. station, just get off at the next stop at Glen Park and check out Gialina.

Single guy rating: 3.75 stars (Crispy and Tasty)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Gialina on Urbanspoon

Other pizza reviews:

Flour + Water: “The Personal Touch in Your Pasta”
Beretta: “Hip to Pizza and Cocktails in the Mission”
Pizzeria Delfina: “Showcase for Pizza and More”


Hungry Dog said...

I really like Gialina, although I wouldn't say it's better than Little Star. But it's very good. The wild nettle/pancetta one is my favorite--I always get that. Great review as always.

Kim said...

How DO you stay so thin, Single Guy??

David K. and Ann C.-K. said...

The wild nettles pizza I brought home was good, though it would have been better without the pancetta. What I loved about the pizza was the chewy crust that didn't get soggy -- perfect cold the next morning!

Single Guy Ben said...

HD, I still have to try Little Star!

Kim, I know yeah? Time for more cupcakes! ;-)

David/Ann, I think any pizza is good the next morning!

David K. and Ann C.-K. said...

As someone who doesn't eat red meat but who can't resist a good pork product...;), am going to have to disagree with my husband and say that I thought the pancetta made the wild nettles pizza...The crust however, I found to be bit too bready for my taste as am more of a fan of a thinner crust. Nevertheless, it made for a mighty yummy breakfast the next day...Thanks for thinking of me....=)

David's wife