For those with young children in tow, walking into a restaurant full of kids brings a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, people without children shudder. The outfit, the hours at the gym, the anticipation of a sexy little meal on a date — all fly out the window. Nothing breaks the mood like a slice of margherita under your sandal.
At Gialina, the hot new pizza place in Glen Park, everyone coexists happily. Families come in early; adults late. Everyone is thrilled by chef/owner Sharon Ardiana’s fluffy salads and crisp, thin-crusted pizzas. The roaring noise level actually confers privacy in the 12-table dining room decorated with blown-up photos of Ardiana’s Italian family. Even singles don’t feel out of place. They can sit at a few stools in front of the open kitchen.
Ardiana piles pristine mixed lettuces tossed with tiny beets and dabs of gorgonzola ($8/$14) onto Heathware platters. Mounds of arugula get triangles of local Cypress Grove goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts ($8/14). Both are effectively, if lightly, dressed. Long-cooked romano beans ($6) melt into puddles of chile-infused olive oil and garlic. They’re luscious.
The pizzas, baked in a gas-fueled Baker’s Pride oven with a ceramic tile floor, have super-thin crusts and big, puffy edges. It’s amazing how many slices you can put away, especially of puttanesca ($12) spread with tomato sauce, olives, anchovies, capers and chiles. I like it topped with an egg ($2), creamy yolk running into the center of the pie. If two are sharing, better order two eggs. The straight-ahead sausage pizza ($13) is dotted with little balls of seasoned pork. One night, truffled cheese, crispy pancetta and green garlic dressed up an asparagus pizza ($16). An egg would have been delicious on this one too.
Little kids love Gialina’s plain margherita ($10) whose flavor somehow reminds me of spaghetti my mother used to make with Campbell’s cream of tomato-soup and cream cheese. Style it with an add-on of prosciutto ($4) or anchovies ($2).
Roasted chicken ($16), the daily special, was perfect — juicy, hot and full of lfavor with crisp, golden skin. Cut into parts and piled on top of tasty soft polenta with roasted farm carrots, it was easily shared, like the pizza and salad.
All wines come from Italy and are offered by the glass, quartino (two-thirds of a bottle) and bottle. The infallibly good-natured servers can describe every one. Prices start at $6.50 for a glass and $25 for a bottle. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
Even if you think you’ve had enough pizza, steel yourself for the scrumptious chocolate hazelnut pizza ($9), oozing with Nutella and melted mascarpone and dusted with crunchy amaretti crumb “parm.” Otherwise, dense, crumbly almond polenta cake ($7) with spicy ginger ice cream and fresh strawberry sauce is awfully good. The ices ($6) at Gialina are house-made; the rich ice cream comes from the impeccable Bi-Rite Creamery.
Ardiana has had plenty of experience creating hip menus at Slow Club, Lime, Dine and The Last Supper Club. But the simple, perfectly executed cooking here is her best — heartfelt, inevitable, ingredient-inspired, exactly conceived to please the gentrifying Glen Park neighborhood. Though I live across town, count me in as part of the new Gialina family.
Location: 52842 Diamond St., San Francisco
Contact: ( 415) 239-8500; www.gialina.com
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. daily
Price range: $6 to $8 for starters; $12 to $16 pizza; $16 roast of the day
Recommended dishes: Pizza, salad, roast chicken
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express
Reservations: Not accepted
Patricia Unterman’s San Francisco Food Lover’s Pocket Guide is available at bookstores now. Contact her at email@example.com.