In the past two years, I’ve dragged my tweenage daughters to pizzerias in all five boroughs of New York (the incomparable Denino’s being the Staten Island entry for inquiring minds who want to know). Not only does this fact establish my demented view of good parenting (I leave Broadway and the museums to my wife), but it also establishes my unhealthy obsession with pizza.
I’m of the opinion that the Bay Area has basically caught up to, if not surpassed, New York when it comes to the gourmet whole pie. But slices? Save for stalwart Arinell on Valencia Street, this place has been a wasteland. Until now.
The new Presidio Pizza Co. is a godsend for those of us who just want a good slice. The plain slice leans a tad toward the cheesy side, but not overly so, and features a barely tangy tomato sauce with a strong oregano aftertaste. Yet it’s the crust, thin and crispy but substantial enough that nothing flops, that should have Gotham transplants breathing sighs of relief.
Brooklyn-raised Frank Bumbalo is the counterman pulling the dough and, like his East Coast brethren, he makes a variety of pies throughout the day and reheats slices when ordered.
This is a put-off to some locals, who deem anything reheated to be a sin; yet, perhaps due to many childhood visits to see my grandparents in Forest Hills, Queens, I actually prefer a slice reheated for a few minutes rather than pulled from a fresh pie. The ingredients meld together a bit and nothing goes sliding this way and that.
Take the Frankie’s pizza, for example, with its sausage, rapini, garlic, onions and cherry peppers. Here, the quick reheat allowed the ingredients to settle enough so they didn’t go sliding off the edge, and the sturdy crust maintained the slice’s integrity. I’m not generally a multiple-topping guy, but this play of salty off of sweet really worked.
Bumbalo also takes on the Grandma slice, a rage for the past decade or so in New York but unseen here until now. Square shaped with a slightly oily, crackly thin crust, this specimen is capped with a generous slather of tomato sauce, a little bit less mozzarella, a few bulbs of garlic and, uniquely, a light swirl of pesto. One virgin bite had my friend wondering aloud why this style of pizza hadn’t already made its way West.
The current service setup is odd. At 2 p.m., with the restaurant empty, I was rudely instructed to sit down for table service even though I was just ordering a $3 slice. Then, my server asked me if my order was to go. Huh? During another visit, with no Bumbalo in sight, I observed a fellow customer’s slice burn to a crisp in the oven while two oblivious employees loudly discussed their social lives.
Let’s chalk that unprofessionalism up to growing pains. During a final family dinner, service was excellent in a packed dining room. My Manhattan-raised wife proclaimed the eggplant parm hero, a true West Coast rarity, to be near perfection mainly due to the layers of thin, perfectly fried cutlets. And our kids? They approvingly wolfed down a few slices and asked when we could head out on our next pizza adventure. I’ve raised them well.
Presidio Pizza Co.
Location: 1862 Divisadero St. (at Pine Street), S.F.
Contact: (415) 409-6672
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays Price range: $3 to $26
Recommended dishes: Cheese slice ($3), Grandma slice ($3.50), Frankie’s slice ($4), eggplant parmigiana sandwich ($9)
Credit cards: All major