Tony’s Pizza Napoletana It seems counterintuitive that a North Beach restaurant that has won world championship titles for its pizza also would feature original and engaging cocktails. But that’s what you get at Tony’s. Bar manager Elmer Mejicanos has created a rotating list of concoctions that pair very nicely with a margherita pizza on a spring day, looking out on Washington Square. 1570 Stockton St., S.F., (415) 835-9888, www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com
How long have you been tending bar?
I’ve been here about a year and took over as bar manager about six months ago. Before that, I was at DiMaggio’s for five years. I’ve opened up at least eight different restaurants and I’m also a bar consultant. People call me when they need someone to open up the bar side, train bartenders and set up a drink program. I started bartending right after I got to the states eight or nine years ago. At my first job in a restaurant, the bar always caught my eye and I never left.
What do you like about bartending?
Everything. Being behind the bar, talking to people and making people happy. I wanted to be more than a beer-and-shot bartender. I’m more interested in flavor profiles. When I took over here, I created a drink program that would complement food. We’re known for the food, but not for the bar. I wanted to try something different.
How do you come up with the drinks? I’m always thinking of different ideas — things that might not sound like they would go well together, but they do. We’re not trying to change the world with one cocktail, but we’re certainly trying to make it better.
What do patrons like here?
We do a lot of bourbon and gin. A lot of people also like fine cocktails. One of the best-sellers is Door No. 3. It just came on the menu a few months ago. We make the Honey Bee from honey we get from the rooftop. Tony has a pizza made with honey called The Honey Pie, and he wanted me to make a honey drink as well.
What pizza do you recommend?
The margherita and the New Yorker.
Where and what do you like to drink?
Gin or bourbon. When I’m out at a bar, I will take a shot of Fernet and a beer, or a Sazerac or Manhattan.
What’s the concept behind the drinks here?
I like taking a classic cocktail and making it newer, more exciting. I’m always trying to stay fresh and interesting. That’s the way Tony looks at it, and that’s the way I look at it.
If you could have a drink anywhere in the world, what would you have and where?
Spain, and I’d have a sherry cocktail.
Do you get any celebrities here?
Yeah, Joe Montana. Tony also knows a lot of chefs from the food networks.
Do you get regulars?
We have a ton of regulars who come here for dinner, and we get a lot of locals and tourists. It’s always busy, which is good. There are all these new restaurants around here, and that brings in a lot of people. We all help each other.
What’s the history of the bar?
Before, it was Lou’s by the Square and Avenue G. This has been the same bar top for four restaurants, and the back of the bar is original as well.