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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tom Pizzica Hopes That His Belly Burgers Become The Next San Francisco Treat

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Tom Pizzica mans the grill at Clooney's. - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Tom Pizzica mans the grill at Clooney's.
Perched in a corner of the miniscule kitchen at Clooney's Pub in the Mission, Tom Pizzica doesn't pull any punches when discussing his new pop-up, Belly Burgers. "I want my burger to be the cheapest, fastest, best gourmet burger in San Francisco. I just don't believe in the $13 burger," the former Next Food Network Star finalist told us. To illustrate his point, Pizzica is branching out, starting with a regular gig at Coffee Bar's The Window this Wednesday and also joining the Upper Haight Farmer's Market and Friday night Off The Grid rotations later this spring. He'll also continue his Sunday night stints at Clooney's.

Pizzica's trick is that he uses 100% ground pork belly, producing a 3 oz. patty that's a little crunchy like well-done bacon and despite its small size, decadently rich. He usually serves four varieties with cutesy names like the "Banh-Baby, Banh," featuring Vietnamese caramel, and the "E.-Lim-inator," with a dash of rhubarb sambal sauce and named after a favorite customer. 

We sampled "The Classic", a fiery number including homemade tomatillo pickles, crumbly cotija cheese, and a generous schmear of fried chile aioli that required constant dabbing with a napkin. Not only was the burger distinctively delicious, but at $6 including a side of either chicken fried yams or almond-cumin slaw, it's also a total steal.

 Though Pizzica didn't end up winning Next Food Network Star, he was still commissioned to film two seasons of Outrageous Food, an extreme food show. As a result of his TV fame, he's been offered "all kinds of stuff" but is thrilled to be starting a business from the ground up. "This is so much fun! We'll see what happens." Pizzica hopes that Belly Burgers will eventually morph into a brick and mortar, envisioning "a real tiny shop, maybe no seats. I want to turn this into a destination thing, like if you come to San Francisco, you gotta get a belly burger." Maybe he can add Rice-A-Roni as a side.

Belly Burgers: locations and times on Twitter @BCTBellyBurgers

Follow Alex Hochman at @urbanstomach. Follow us on Twitter at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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