favorites of lately: San Francisco

20th century cafe5. 20th century cafe: a personality-driven cafe with the kind of old-timey pizzazz that effortlessly brightens the day. worth the trip, if only for coffee.

burma superstar4. burmese food (specifically Burma Superstar): how to have asian food while eating it too. nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom.

bar concepts3. incredibly devout bar concepts: Smuggler’s Cove, Trick Dog, and The Interval are active examples of Bay Area bars with extraordinary talent to back serious passion. each is driven towards a honed vision, be that tiki or a 10,000 year Texan clock, and furiously toils to provide a premium product for mostly oblivious guests. perhaps this is the utopian dream all san diego bartenders unite in sharing. dare to dream, SD. there are many hurdles ahead.

zuni cafe chicken2. Zuni‘s chicken: standard chicken dishes are usually on menu to satisfy an expected protein requirement, often subjected to a more humdrum treatment in order to meet the lowest common denominator’s interpretation of edible cuisine. thus, when the staff recommends chicken, it’s worth mindful consideration. if the chicken dish is renowned city-wide, despite the noted hour of preparation required, there should be zero hesitation. may as well order two, lest you bathe in regret as we did when the first bout of delicious chicken was inhaled without another set to follow. these are the great risks we take as modern eaters in foreign lands.

state bird provisions1. state bird provisions: contemporary american dinnertime dim-sum. the only michelin-starred restaurant that’s expeditious and filling while also self-tailored and extremely fun. i would never hesitate to go again. please, invite me. i promise to keep the conversation brief but buoyant. PLEASE.

BONUS:

delfina pizza
pizza: delfina. showed up mid-day, post-lunch, unenthused and ready to abandon ship but left giddy and delightfully overstuffed. the pizza is straightforward and delicious, just as pizza should be.

wine: half glasses at state bird (not pictured). as the food parade marched forward, all manner of extravagance was met with half-glass pours of whatever my whimsy saw fitting. extreme indulgence is especially exciting when the final tally doesn’t shock the wallet. experiences like these make me hungry for more. let’s go now. like now. guys, i mean now.

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Blind Lady Ale House & Aglianico

On the northern end of the 30th Street beer crawl lineup sits Blind Lady Ale House where pizza and brews are served in an indoor beer garden fashion with small jovial crowds lining long tables. Beer is the ultimate fail-safe pizza pairing, making this environment perfect for fostering a pizza eating culture. With Kimmy Schmidt waiting to entertain my pizza-eating face, I opt out of beer and slink back to my Netflix cave, a Spicy Salami pie in hand, to find a wine to pair.

kimmy schmidt

The pizza is a simple but aromatic wonderland topped with Balistreri salami, fontina and pecorino romano cheeses, and a light tomato sauce. Leading the topping parade, the salami is crafted by San Diego native Pete Balistreri, a Sicilian-American quick to gain a following for his recent venture in artisanal charcuterie. Dense with savory elements, the salami contributes the bulk of the seasoning with classic flavors of chili flakes and fennel.

blind lady from above

The main source of spice comes from the side of calabrese chili oil, which allows for adjustment according to personal preference. The chili oil offers mild peppery heat and a satisfyingly slick texture, finding a comfortable home amongst the salty toppings and juicy tomato sauce. If hotter, the spice would threaten to zap a wine’s more delicate fruit aromas, making a sweeter or less alcoholic pairing more appropriate. Bold, inky and certainly no pushover, wine made from the thick-skinned Aglianico are weighty and capable handling a livelier set of flavors. The red Italian varietal makes the whole of this pizza’s pairing, 2008 Terredora di Paolo, Taurasi DOCG, Fatica Contadina.

blind lady tryptich

Smooth, finely-grained tannins enrich the wine’s already full body, allowing the wine to match each bite in personality and gumption. The moderately high acidity keeps the oil and cheese from overpowering the palate while aromas of blackberry, plum skin, fresh leather and tar provide a layer of contrasting flavors and complexity. Overshadowed by more northern Italian players of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, southern Italy’s Aglianico remains under-appreciated despite its ability to thrive in warmer climates while maintaining a robust yet balanced wine. It is a feisty selection to keep around home, well-suited to pair with rich Italian dishes and hilarious Tina Fey productions.

references:

Guild of Sommeliers Compendium

Daring Pairings by Evan Goldstein

Landini’s Pizzeria & Spanish red

The recent boom of trendy bars and restaurants in San Diego’s Little Italy has been all the chatter about town. From the killer wine list at Juniper & Ivy to the shiny upstairs patio of Kettner Exchange, there is plenty to talk about and more foodie fodder still to come. While old neighborhood standards may harrumph about with speculation as to what the competition means for business, the influx of roaming drunk hoards seems well-suited for a pizza joint to thrive in and Landini’s Pizzeria is situated within easy stumbling distance of it all.

San Diego kitchens shut down disappointingly early for a city that parties nightly until two. As bars unleash batches of wooing hot messes and their socially oblivious companions into the streets, Landini’s becomes a magnet for inebriated pizza zombies drawn to the ever-appreciated business model of late-night slices.

Initially enticed by the menu’s fancy sounding toppings of brussel sprouts and butternut squash, I opt for a less cerebral treat after standing in line between drunk toddlers in celebratory feather boas indicating some holiday nigh. Instead, the very chill people of Landini’s recommend a standard issue pepperoni pie, to which I add tomato and mushroom to half and contribute what I can to send some cat to ninja school.

landini's pizzeria

The toppings don’t seem to matter beyond pepperoni as the base components make up the whole of the pizza’s personality. A soft core that runs from crust to cheese is enlivened with collected pockets of juicy tomato sauce and a chewy texture. While the tomato and mushroom are decorative at best, contributing nothing much beyond texture to the pie, the pepperoni is spiced perfectly, calling for a bigger style of red wine to be its match.

landini's pizza and wine 3

Bodega Margon Pricum (Tierra de León, 2007) is a Spanish red made up solely from the Prieto Picudo red grape of the region. Upon opening, the wine is immediately taut, tannins strained and fruit ungiving, and in need of time to breathe. Decanting is an option, offering more surface area for oxygen to interact with the wine and hasten its evolution, while swirling in glass offers smaller format aeration for those seeking to enjoy a glass or two.

As the wine opens up, aromas of black tea, pepper, and dusty earth are at first most notable. Dark fruit flavors emerge in the form of black cherry and blackberries that provide a counterbalance to the meaty landscape of the pizza and inherent spice never overwhelms the wine. With plumply ripe fruit aromas and moderately higher alcohol, there is just enough acidity to match the tomato sauce while the scrubby tannins play nicely off each cheesy bite.

landini's leftovers

Leftovers are an undeniable truth of pizza eating for one. To step up my pizza game, I ditched the microwave and learned a stovetop method for reheating pizza that revives any lifeless crust on the fly. All it takes is a pan prepped to low-medium heat with slices placed in dry for a crisp bottom while covering with a lid to heat the toppings evenly. Serve with eggs and call it breakfast.

2015 pizza project: San Diego pizza-a-week extravaganza

Happy new year, pizza kittens. 2014 was a dreamboat wonderland of good food and drink, but let’s make 2015 extra special by exploring the great sea of pizza that keeps San Diego afloat. Each week, I will venture out to a different pizza joint, select a pie according to whimsy and spank on some extra classiness with a wine pairing. All of these cheesy feasts will be featured each Sunday here on pizzasomm.com, though don’t be surprised to find sneak peeks on my twitter or instagram.

countdown to pizza

Keep in mind that not all places that serve pizza will make it into these Sunday explorations, nor is this a hunt for the best all-time San Diego pizza. This is simply an indulgent scheme designed around what I do best: eating pizza, drinking wine and then meowing about it here for all other pizza kittens.