Restaurants get started for many reasons. Some are passed through families, some spring from a few friends who like to cook, others are business ventures aimed at making money, and then there are the ones that are formed out of a pure passion. Una Pizza Napoletana is one of those that exists because of one guy’s passion. For the last 5 years, the owner Anthony has not only made every single pie that’s been served, but he’s done it his way. No salads, no reservations, no substitutions, the best ingredients, early hours (they are open until the dough runs out), and only 5 pizzas on the menu. A lot of people don’t like restauranteurs who set strict rules for the dining experience, but we feel that if someone has a vision, they have the right to carry it out as they see fit (especially if the product is fantastic).
The building itself is one of the more unassuming in SF, just a plain white block surrounded by other plain cityscape. Minimalism is definitely a theme inside the restaurant as well as out. When you enter, the center of the room is taken up by a single counter / prep station, and behind it a huge, custom built wood burning pizza oven. Other than a small service station for wine and beer, and about 10 tables, the rest is bare. Behind the prep station stands the owner, rhythmically patting out dough, topping pizzas, and deftly rotating pies through the oven. It’s fun to just watch him work, steadily making pizzas one at a time.
When we are eating Neapolitan pizza, we look for a few key things; crust, sauce, and distribution of ingredients. When the margherita comes out at Una Pizza it immediately passes the visual inspection. The crust is covered with those beautiful black blisters, the sauce is so bright red that you need sunglasses, and the cheese is scattered in small droplets and melted to perfection (plus you can see the glistening olive oil on top). While looks are important with food, taste is king, and this pizza rules. Those blisters add the perfect amount of smokiness, while the acidity of the sauce and the salty creaminess of the cheese just sing together. The crust isn’t too thin, so it doesn’t get sloppy in the middle, and the fact that the cheese is added in small droplets (instead of 3 or 4 big pools) means that you get a little in every bite. The basil on top is just the nail in the coffin of excellence.
We definitely loved it. Going to Una Pizza is an experience, and to fully enjoy it you have to be willing to do things the owners way, so it may not be for everyone. We had to stop ourselves from asking for pepper flakes (we put them on every pizza), and just trust that they know what they are doing. The waits are usually long, the pizza isn’t cheap (because it’s made with REALLY good ingredients), and there are no other dishes, but it’s worth it to go watch some very passionate people do what they love.
A & K