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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pauline's Sidney Weinstein, Farmer and Pizzaiolo, Talks to SFoodie: Part 2

Posted By on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 10:16 AM

Next Tuesday, Pauline's Pizza -- the airy-crust pizza place that grows most of its own vegetables -- celebrates its 25th anniversary. In honor of the celebration, I spoke to Sidney Weinstein about the history of the quietly trail-blazing restaurant she owns with husband Randy Nathan. In part 1 of the interview, which ran yesterday, Weinstein talked about Pauline's origins, including who Pauline was. Today, she talks about the couple's decision to grow their own vegetables and make wine. 

Please note, if you plan to go to Pauline's on Tue., Dec. 21, to help Weinstein and her staff celebrate, she asks you to make a reservation so she doesn't run out of dough. Call 552-2050 or e-mail

SFoodie: When did you start up a garden to supply ingredients for the pizzeria?

Weinstein: Pauline's started in 1985. At that time, there were all these small organic farms around Santa Cruz and other places that were producing an incredible array of

heirloom, open-pollinated vegetables and greens ― for example, these

beautiful mid-sized lettuces that had beautiful color and were

shiny and delicious, not sloppy like those baby lettuces. But the

recession took a toll on those farms, and a lot of them got eaten up by

big guys like Riverside, who went into mass production. The big guys

were responsible for the development of spring mix.

I'd always been enamored of the idea of growing vegetables. [Co-founder and ex-boyfriend] Kennedy was out of the picture, and Randy and I were together by that time. So in order to get those great lettuces, I just stared growing stuff in my yard in Berkeley.

[Ed note: To summarize a long chunk of our conversation, one lot turned into two; not long after the 1989 earthquake, Sidney was growing so much that she began selling to Boulevard, Oliveto, Citron, and Chez Panisse. She continues to operate the plot in Berkeley, growing greens, herbs, and Meyer lemons, and selling to a handful of top-level restaurants, including Boulevard, Prospect, and Flour + Water.]

Around 1992, my husband decided he wanted to have a piece of property with a river running through it. He found this property (now called Star Canyon Ranch) in Calaveras County between Murphys and San Andreas. It was like pioneer California ― a huge fire had gone through it the year before, and the land was practically still smoking. It had been a walnut and chestnut orchard, and I'm still serving walnuts and chestnuts from the remaining trees. Now we have olives, fruit trees, blackberries, more greens, eggplant, my tomato gardens, quinces, and all kinds of squash and pumpkins.

We also have an organic vineyard in Calaveras, which my husband runs. It takes 10 times as much labor to manage an organic vineyard ― you have to cultivate it all instead of using Roundup. The winery opened in 2000, and our wine bar serves as our tasting room. We've only sold Pauline's wine in our wine bar, so we're able to bring well-made wine from well-grown grapes to my customers at a fairly reasonable cost.

Do you supply all the produce to Pauline's?

I never supply bell peppers, mushrooms, green onions, or regular garlic to the restaurant, and we don't make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes that I grow. But in the height of the season, the farms supply everything else, including eggs for the mousse and butterscotch pudding.

So what do you think of the current artisanal pizza movement? It seems like there are a lot of restaurants now that are making "upscale" pizza.

I think that for the customer, pizza, even at the higher end, is still more reasonable than a lot of restaurants. Customers can eat good food and drink a good bottle of wine for not too much money. 

Pizza is conducive to socialization, because you're sharing. And it's

a wonderful canvas. You can do really interesting things with pizza, building it up in layers, like with pasta. At the same time, it's very clean tasting. You've got the pastry that's delicious ― light and crunchy, like good pastry. I think it's a very pleasurable experience.

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

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Jonathan Kauffman


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