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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Throwback Rules at Giorgio's Pizzeria

Posted By on Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Giorgio's Pizzeria has been throwing pies since 1972. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Giorgio's Pizzeria has been throwing pies since 1972.

Part of a series about restaurants that have been around so long they've slipped into a media black hole.

It used to bother me that I'm not a diner guy. Some restaurant critics are: They love the cheap coffee, the meatloaf sandwiches and hash browns, the red, white, and blue of it all. I grew up on lentils and groundnut stews, and may have been the only 8-year-old in northern Indiana who loathed hamburgers. (The discovery of the $10 burger changed all that ― turns out I just loathed cheap ground beef.)

No, I loved pizzerias, from the post-church pizza buffet at Shakey's to the rare expeditions the Kauffmans would make to Giordano's in Chicago. It's still impossible to walk by an old-school pizzeria like Giorgio's in the Inner Richmond without feeling the twin tugs of memory and appetite. San Francisco may be experiencing an era of Pizza Enlightenment, but the ovens at Delfina and Gialina don't produce that whoosh of tomato and browning cheese that rushes out the door of Giorgio's. It stops me every time.

Mushroom-sausage pizza. - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Mushroom-sausage pizza.
Giorgio's has been on the corner of Clement and Second Avenue since 1972, and run by the Contini family since 1978. When I finally heeded the call of nostalgia this week, the Pavlovian effect of the pizza-baking aromas only intensified inside, amped up by scenery: the wood paneling, the red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, the ceiling covered in plastic leaves, fairy lights, and hanging Chianti bottles. Now, this was where I spent my childhood.

The pizzeria, like dozens of its ilk across the city, belongs to the San Francisco that thrives outside foodista circles. The salads are still made with iceberg lettuce. The pastas all come with red, green, or white sauce. The beer is still offered by the pitcher. An Internet jukebox

appears to be heavy on the Jacksons (Five and Miss Jackson If You're

Nasty), and the room is still heavily populated by kids and teenage couples.

Giorgio's pizza turned out to be an amalgam of the puffy-crust, middle American pies and the more crackery, airy East Coast style: There was a stiff crack to the baked dough, which solidified even further as the pie cooled until the lip got too chewy to eat. (On the menu, the owners offer to bake it lighter, which might not be a bad idea.) The tomato sauce had an easy acidity, and the flavors of the mushroom and sausage toppings ($15.95 for a medium) were fresh and vivid.

Was it a great pie? Spoiled as I've become on gossamer crusts and locavore toppings, I'd say no. But I loved eating it all the same.

Giorgio's Pizzeria: 151 Clement (at Second Ave.), 668-1266.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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