Tony Gemignani is at it again. As if the eight styles of pizza at his duo of North Beach restaurants aren’t enough, he’s introduced an “ancient grain” pie at Slice House, his new outpost near AT&T Park. The dough, a blend of 00 flour, spelt, semolina, whole wheat and sprouted grain, bakes up to just shy of crispy, yet remains more than sturdy enough to support whatever’s on top. Its crustiness and barely sour tinge brought to mind the Acme levain hunks served at Zuni Cafe.
We started with the Wise Guy, a hefty beast of a pizza featuring both mild and spicy Italian sausage, pepperoni, ricotta, mozzarella and hot pepper oil. Considering the sheer generosity of the ingredients, not to mention the buzzing spice on our tongues, the flavor of the ancient grain crust still shined and actually toned things down a much needed notch.
Alternatively, the sauceless Cal Italia, which won the Food Network’s Pizza Champion’s Challenge, was all finesse with its understated gorgonzola, ribbons of salty prosciutto and squiggles of balsamic reduction playing beautifully off of each other. After the Wise Guy, this was like the perfect dessert.
Only the St. George pie disappointed, due to an uneven distribution of ingredients. The majority of its linguisa coins were pushed back toward the crust, leaving the first few bites of each slice dominated by the sweetness of the agave nectar and caramelized onions.
At lunch, the focus turns to slices. The Trenton tomato slice featured a soft, freckled crust that remained stout under a melange of fresh mozzarella, shreds of fresh basil and Tony’s signature sweet, rich tomato sauce that makes anything taste good. This slice out Jersey-d the pizza at the also new-to-the- neighborhood Jersey, which I reviewed last month.
Other than Presidio Pizza in Lower Pacific Heights, this is the only spot in town serving a Grandma slice. Though also square, the Grandma dough is thinner and much crisper than a Sicilian slice. Slice House’s version is layered with fresh mozzarella, sauce, basil leaves, dollops of fresh ricotta and tiny cherry tomatoes, all lightly drizzled with olive oil. Though I’m a thin crust New York traditionalist, this slice joins Mission stalwart Arinell as my favorite in town.
One doesn’t normally associate a pizza joint with a Sunday brunch, so I was curious to see what type of spread Gemignani would put together. It’s not a relaxing affair; you plunk down your $20 at the counter and pile your plastic plate high under a slightly too loud soundtrack after a long Saturday night.
My headache subsided after tackling a slice of all three breakfast pizzas, my favorite being the double eggs and sausage that packed a one-two, nose-searing punch of calabrese sausage and calabrese peppers. The only issue with these egg-laden pies was that they began to get a bit rubbery after a few minutes out on the counter.
I wish that the light, fluffy lasagna was available daily rather than just on the buffet. Meahwhile, the baked custard French toast studded with raisins was a downright decadent way to wrap up the morning.
I’m happy to welcome Tony Gemignani to the east side of town, where he’s proven that San Franciscans need 10 styles of pizza — some we never have known existed.
Location: 680 Second St. (at Townsend Street), S.F.
Contact: (415) 872-9680, www.slicehouse2ndst.com
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 3 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays
Recommended dishes: Cal Italia pizza ($22), Wiseguy pizza ($22), St. Germain Chicken Wings ($10), Grandma slice ($6)
Price range: $5 to $35
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted