SFoodie: One of the things I've been coming to Pauline's for since the early 1990s was your crust. Where did it come from? Were you a baker?
Weinstein: I taught myself to cook by baking. The crust itself came from our first chef, Salvario. However, he left abruptly six months into the restaurant's life, and we had to close the restaurant and come up with an equivalent crust because he never taught it to us. He would make the dough in secret. [Before he left,] we started measuring the ingredients to get some idea of the amounts he was using, but there was a secret ingredient we couldn't figure out.
You've mentioned Kennedy, Randy, Sidney, and Salvario. So who was Pauline?
Pauline was the mother of the original chef. They had come from Rome when he was a young boy and had a series of restaurants called Pauline's.
Was there anyone in San Francisco at the time who was making the same kind of airy, crisp crust?
No, I don't think so. Pretty soon after we started, Viccolo and Ruby's started, but they were using an oilier, denser cornmeal crust. I would get people from Ruby's trying to work here wanting to make dough. They came for the trade secrets.
What was the neighborhood like at the time?
It was rough. We didn't have a dishwashing machine, so we'd get done at 2 in the morning. Sometimes we'd call the police to sit outside the door as my dishwasher and I left. The neighborhood has improved pretty dramatically. A few years ago, when the Levi's building closed but before the school started, there was a lot of difficulty with people shooting up in the entryway to that building, so I would go over there at 5:00 and ask them not to shoot up because there were kids playing in the playground.