Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pizza, Pizza!

Ever heard that old saying - that bad sex is like bad pizza? Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good? Yeah, I don't actually believe that, and - if I may be so bold - neither should you.
Quattro Formaggio Pizza at Delfina Pizzeria

Good pizza really is worth the trouble it takes to find, and bad pizza - well, it just isn't worth the time it takes to eat it. Growing up, I didn't actually like pizza much (which may explain in part why I'm kinda picky about it) but I did like the crust - I even remember telling a few bemused adults that it was my favorite food. Not surprisingly, it's still my favorite part of the pizza. I like it crisp on the edges, with a bit of chew. Overall I prefer a thin savory pizza with a thin layer of salty, gooey cheese, and at least a smear of sauce.
Mmm..... Pizza with Pancetta and Peppers

In the Bay Area I've found pizza that more or less meets these requirements in a few places - but Oliveto Cafe in Oakland stands out among them. I have only had it once, so I'm not sure I could guarantee a repeat performance, but the pie pictured above, topped with pancetta and Italian frying peppers, was about the best I've ever tasted. (I've been a fan of Oliveto Cafe going back to the days when I lived up there in the late 90s - and still am, though it's changed significantly since then.) Pizzeria Delfina is also pretty good, though I actually like their other items a lot better than the pizza. Their charcuterie, fresh housemade cheeses (ricotta and mozzarella) and the seasonal vegetable dishes kick their pizza's ass, in my opinion. Delfina's pizza is cooked in a gas oven, whereas Oliveto's oven is wood burning, which may account for some of the difference.

In San Diego - a few New York and Chicago-style joints have distinguished themselves - Bronx, A Sicilian Thing, Luigi's, and Lefty's among them - but in terms of wood-fired Cal-Ital style we've been a little lacking.  Sammy's has it's merits, but isn't quite what I'm talking about. Thankfully, the addition of Blind Lady Alehouse to the local dining scene and the new mobile wood-burning pizza vendor at the Little Italy Mercato go a long way toward solving this problem.
Sausage Pizza at Blind Lady Ale House in San Diego

Oddly enough, the "Blind Lady" moniker comes not from a woman who could not see - but from the fact that the site used to house a shop selling window blinds. Aaron LaMonica - a former sous chef at Region - is turning out thin-crust artisanal pizzas, salads and a few sides (including some very good mussels.) Don't miss the ice cream sandwiches hand made by former Region pastry chef Rachel Going - they're worth the trip in and of themselves.

Blind Lady has a unique ordering system that requires you to walk up to a counter and place your beverage and food orders separately. It's best to order your food and get a number, then step to your left and pore over the extensive beer menu. (If it's a Wednesday or Saturday, you can ask Andy - the tall, handsome guy in the cool glasses - to help you make your choice.) There are a lot of unusual brews, Belgian, local and artisanal - which should come as no surprise given that Lee Chase, a former Head Brewer at Stone Brewing Company, is one of the owners.
Egg and Bacon Pizza at Blind Lady Alehouse in San Diego

The pizzas are thin crusted and large enough for two to share, and are divided into two categories on the menu - the more or less "every day" varieties, and some more elaborate specialty pizzas. On two visits I've had the Salciccia pizza (one of the standards) and loved it - and the two specialty pizzas I've tried - the Asparagus and Speck with Spring Onion and Lemon Zest and the "Bacon and Egg" pizza have both been delicious - the Asparagus and Speck probably being my favorite. The Chorizo is also fantastic.

Their salads are a bit more of a mixed bag. On my first visit the produce on the avocado and citrus plate was perfect, but the chile vinaigrette was a little too bitter. On another occasion, the caesar salad was over-dressed, and the anchovy flavor was overwhelming. The spinach salad with dates however is a perfect savory/sweet combination.
Mobile Wood Burning Pizza at the Farmers Market in San Diego

At the Little Italy Mercato on Saturday mornings (on Date Street in Little Italy) Principi's is turning out wood fired pizzas, breakfast sandwiches and flatbreads from their mobile woodburning oven.
Principi's - Mobile Wood Burning Pizza at the Little Italy Farmers Market in San Diego

The breakfast sandwiches include farm fresh eggs and Siesel's bacon or homemade sausage, and the pizzas available on the day I visited included sausage with spring onion, and artichoke with sage and green garlic - as well as margherita. The fava been puree flatbread also looked wonderful, with a rich, vibrant green topping.

Menu for the Mobile Wood Burning Pizza Stand at the Little Italy Farmers Market in San Diego

I made a special request for a child sized sausage pizza and they kindly obliged. It was crisp and chewy and the housemade sausage was flavorful - a nice tide you over bite or lunch while walking around the market. I'd like to try their breakfast sandwiches too - a good excuse for a return trip.
Wood Burning Pizza at the Little Italy Farmers Market in San Diego

Blind Lady Alehouse
3416 Adams Ave
San Diego
open for lunch Sat and Sun - dinner six nights a week - closed Mon.

More Pizza Posts:
John's in New York
Oliveto Cafe
Pizzeria Mozza
Pizzeria Delfina


  1. I LOVE palin cheese pizza fresh out of the oven! My favorites in San Digo are Costco,
    Sicilain Thing, Luigis, Bronx and Milos. Lefty's is a bit too greasy for me. I am looking forward to trying Blind Lady sometime this week. In New Yoek or Santa Monica Joe's can't be beat!

  2. Newport Pizza & Ale in Ocean Beach is pretty darn good, and they deliver. We usually order The Hulk: pesto, artichoke hearts, feta cheese, olives, sun-dried tomato, and mushroom.

    To bad they won't deliver some mugs of their many draft beers...

  3. i LOVE pizza, but i especially love my new york style pizza (though gourmet thin crusts also have a special place in my heart). went to luigi's recently and was slightly underwhelmed, but i think i have expectations that can't be met. thanks for the recos! i'll have to look into it.

  4. I've probably tried all the pizzas at BLAH by now, and I love the white pizza with prosciutto. Mmm, savory, salty, and garlicy. You're right on about the asparagus one too, it's delicious.

  5. Pizzaiola in Oakland is the business. Some of the best I've had in the Bay. Chef is of Chez Panisse grooming.

  6. Woah. Definitely will need to try Blind Lady. That looks tasty!

  7. Brooklyn Pizzeria, adjacent to Kaiser Vandever. Eat it there, to go is no good. Hope you are well!

  8. And it's relatively close to my mom's place! Will definitely hit it up when we're down next.

  9. I am originally from NY and have lived here for years and had pretty much given up on eating pizza, except what we made at home. A few months ago we discovered URBN in Vista-the same guys who have BASIC downtown. In Vista they have a coal burning oven and told me that the pizzas are a little bit different (but not a lot) from downtown. I'm addicted and go once a week! Thanks for your recommendations!

  10. Yum, Yum and YUM!!!!! I love pizza so much. I'm definitely picky with my crust too, and keep trying to perfect my own at home. If only I could get a pizza oven. We have only one truly certified Vera Pizza Napoletano pizza place here in Las Vegas called Settebello.

  11. My hands down favorite, is Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. Not coincidentally, it is considered to be one of the best in the country..and in my mind, it certainly lives up to it's rep. Pizzas to die (and live)for!!

  12. vwc - I think plain cheese really is the best way to tell what a pizzeria is all about. Hope you like Blind Lady! Pls report back!

    Andy - that sounds kind of like Pizza Port? I wonder if they're related?

    Angelle - I haven't tried Luigis yet but hear good things. Some of the NY Style places in town are sort of offshoots of Bronx and I think this is one of them - a former employee or manager started it. Would like to try it sometime but I'm always doing something else when I'm in that neck of the woods.

    Jessimukha - lucky! You must live close!

    sustainableevil - have heard of that, must try. I love eating in Oakland.

    Steph - yes you do! it's great for groups because it's communal and inexpensive - take some friends so you can try different things! you'll love it!

    Mel - I have heard this - and we actually tried takeout and it WAS no good. After my friend told me "oh you have to eat it there!" - now we know!

    Sean - you should! Please also let me know when you guys come down, would love to see you even if just for a drink. Would love to take you to Starlite!

    Kim - That sounds interesting - where is it located? Somebody mentioned another pizza place to me in Vegas but I can't remember the name...

    Christine - I have heard of this place and the owner is a nice guy from what I understand. Phoenix is only an hour flight away!

    Places to eat in San Diego - good to know - I will def. have to try it!

  13. Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles is without a doubt the closest perfect pizza- the quintessential California wood-fired variety. Loved the fennel sausage, panna, red onion & scallion pie. If you make the pilgrimage be sure to sample the amazing bruschette with chicken liver, capers and guanciale.

    Have not been there, but have been told that Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix may well be the finest pizza joint in the western states.

    Locally, in addition to the others mentioned, I highly recommend Bongiorno's New York Style Pizzeria in Solana Beach. Enjoyed the fresh spinach and ricotta pie as well as the stromboli.

  14. DeLucca's on Thorn near 30th.

    I have lived far outside the USA for the last 10 years and STILL crave DeLucca's barbecued chicken pizza. My partner and I will be in San Diego in June--I might have to go, if I can stand the withdrawals later.


  15. We love Blind Lady-- and happy to read your review. The BL chef was at Delirio's for a while where he did some amazing Mex/Ital/French fusion. We've missed him and hope he's here to stay. SD is so behind the times in so many ways, that it's about time for an artisan pizza place, especially in CA where it practically was invented.

    PS did you know that the BL building is an architectural gem; listed in Dirk Sutro's Architectural Guide to SD? A nice bit of trivia


  16. I went to the Little Italy Mercato this Saturday, and the Principi's Pizza people weren't there--totally bummed! Hopefully, they'll be there next time ...

  17. Becky Wheeler5/28/09, 10:31 AM

    I LOVE pizza and am somewhat picky, though I definitely fall in to the category that even bad pizza is good.

    So anyway, I liked Blind Lady Ale House the first time I went there. Very interesting toppings, but the last few times haven't been that impressed. Surprisingly, for that style, I like Pizza Fusion (a chain) much better though their crust isn't fantastic, the toppings are just lovely and they have a gluten free, vegan, and multigrain options which is nice for those with limitations but want pizza.

    My favorite SD pizza so far is Delucas. I am happily surprised to see someone mention it here. I don't care for the bbq chicken pizza there but the crust, tomato sauce and cheese are just perfect. I don't know how to describe the style, its not thin NY style and not deep dish Chicago style. To me, its "Round Table" style but tastes fantastic! Does someone else know what this style actually should be called?

  18. aaah! Pizza! This has to rank as one of my favorite fast foods of all time! especially when eaten hot from the street vendors and resort. I really miss the authentic pizza and can't get it anywhere here in the US. Your version looks delicious! thank you for shearing your post.