I have a soft spot for chefs who run arrogantly illogical business models – the combination of attitude, confidence and passion can lead to some great eats.
So when my trustworthy foodie friend told me about Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco that is only open Wednesday-Saturday from 5 p.m. until the dough runs out (usually about 9/10 p.m.) – I had to check it out.
The back story: Chef Anthony Mangieri makes Naples-style pizza and his restaurant (by the same name) in NYC had a cult following. At one time it was ranked #3 by NY Times, #2 by New York Magazine. He is obsessive over his pizza, surly and considered a preeminent pizza god. But just days after a glowing profile in New York Magazine, he packed up shop and moved to the west coast for a more relaxed lifestyle.
Mangieri’s SF pizzeria followed his NYC mantra – the only food items on the menu are a few pizzas, there are no substitutions or changes allowed, the pizzas aren’t cheap, and only he makes the pizzas.
If you don’t like that? Don’t come here. There are plenty of other people waiting in line who are more than happy to take your spot.
(The pizza dough goes through a long fermentation process, which takes about 48 hours, so once the dough is out the restaurant closes.)
We arrived Saturday at 7:15 p.m. and only had a 20-minute wait (tip: call ahead to get a gauge for the line). This place is a pizza temple. Front and center in the cavernous, minimalist room is the pizza oven with Mangieri busy at his small work station nearby. His wife and baby are often hanging out in the area to the right. Tables are clustered on the left and a railing separates waiting guests from Mangieri and his stage (a bit zoo-like, no?).
I expected “soup nazi” type treatment, but they were more than pleasant and let us order wine while we waited. Once seated, there were six pizzas to choose from – only one with meat on it, the Apollonia, created in January and named after his baby (oh, and did I mention it’s only available on Saturdays?).
The individual-sized pies are pricey – $20-$22 each and the Apollonia is $25 (guess those diapers are expensive).
We got the Apollonia, Filetti and Margharita, and agreed our favorites were in that order. The Apollonia was hearty, flavorful and interesting. The Filetti and Margharita were somewhat similar, but the Filetti more interesting because of the fresh tomatoes.
The ingredients were undeniably fresh, but the star of the show was the dough, which I didn’t find too dough-y or “raw” as others have suggested. The crust has a thin crunch to it that turns into a tender chew. The slight char from the fire adds even more interest and flavor. And just as you finish your bite, you get a quick catch of sea salt.
Well played, Mangieri. Well played.
Una Pizza Napoletana, 210 11th St @ Howard St (SOMA neighborhood), 415-861-3444, open Wednesday-Saturday 5pm until out of dough, www.unapizza.com