Delfina’s is probably the best place I’ve been in the city for Italian style pizza. They keep their ingredients list and range of pizza’s simple. Their dough is nice and floury and homemade. They throw it out really thin in an authentic way, so that it isn’t spongy and doesn’t overwhelm the toppings at all.
A lot of places get wood fired ovens, but don’t really know how to use them properly – under or overcooking the pizza so they’re too crisp or chewy. Delfina’s can’t be faulted on this. It pizza’s are cooked to the point where the dough bubbles up a little and gets slightly crisp, then they’re pulled out and whisked over to your table.
I like the way Italians stick to just a small list of ingredients on their pizza’s, using these to great effect. So, I had the Napoletana ($10), which came without cheese. It has just thick, bright red tomato sauce that tastes fresh and has a strong, earthy tomato flavor with hints of herbs. It important to have this, because otherwise the sauce would have been overwhelmed by the saltiness of the anchovies and capers, together with the soft fleshy black olives. All the ingredients tasted fresh and had strong flavors which made the whole pizza fairly striking. I would perhaps argue they could put a few less capers on to tone things down a bit, but that’s personal preference. Otherwise 8/10 with ten being the Italian benchmark.
Delfina’s also offers some slightly more unique toppings. My companion went with the Salsiccia ($13.25) which had really interesting tasting fennel sausage scattered across it. Although interesting to try, I didn’t really feel this produced such an exciting overall pizza. It went nicely with the soft, fresh taste of the bell peppers. I was also pleased to see the use of fresh mozzarella, kept in moderation so that it didn’t overwhelm the other ingredients. This, together with the sausage, made the pizza a little more watery than ideal but not so much that it was really damaging. Overall, the pizza was strikingly fresh and simple in a way I really liked. Probably around 7/10 for me.
I was pleased to hear the waiter explain to the table next to us that the couldn’t make a pizza with half one topping and half another. “This would affect the cooking time,” he explained politely. I’m all for chefs asserting their authority / wisdom over the food they prepare and this, for me, showed that Delfina takes its pizza seriously.
The service was always friendly and the waitress took the time to explain some of the different Italian wines on the menu even though the restaurant was pretty busy. The restaurant has a lively, fashionable atmosphere, but felt a little cramped to me. Why don’t I give the whole restaurant five stars? Largely because its still not (quite) as good as the pizza’s in Italy and I want to keep a star left to strive for.
3611 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110