A Berkeley stalwart since 2004 Gioia Pizza has been packing in crowds in the East Bay. Fortunately for us they've made their way into San Francisco and opened up a location way down Polk Street past Broadway. I can't remember what used to be in this space--was it a hair salon? Either way they've totally re-done the space in a style that is reminiscent of several other places in town like Paragon, Marlowe and Corner Store--just to name a few. Lots of wood and white tile with a chalkboard of menu items.
Since for me it's not really about the "atmosphere" but the food, I spent my time perusing the menu instead of critiquing the surroundings. We went early enough to beat any crowds and it did fill up before we were done and it can get kind of loud like a number of places in town. Since I was with a friend we decided to go whole hog as it were and get a salad, an app and a pizza--since you know it's about the pizza. First up was a butter lettuce salad with beets, radish and a creamy ranch-style dressing.
Right off I loved this salad. I really like beets and there were large chunks of fresh cut, tender, sweet beets which were offset with the sharp bite of radish--a nice contrast. The salad was lightly dressed with pretty much a buttermilk ranch dressing that was tasty and not overpowering. I could easily have made a meal of this generous portion sized salad, something you don't always get in San Francisco. There was plenty to share and enjoy.
Next up was the crispy pork belly with lentils, fried onions and mostarda with a touch of fresh olive oil. Wow, this was really good. The pork was melt in your mouth tasty--that means perfectly cooked--nice little crisp on the outside, tender and soft on the inside. Lentils and the mostarda gave a nice contrast of salty and sweet and some texture with the fried onions. Though I could always use more fried onions as they were crispy crunchy tasty. Again this was a nice portion sized appetizer and more than enough to share. Being the eaters we are, we pretty much finished off this plate also. Then came the main course...
Since it's a pizza place foremost, we got the 18 inch Funghi Pizza--a brick oven wood-fired, thin crust pizza. The pizza was very good, maybe not the best I've had in town, but definitely up there as a thin crust star in town. The was just the barest hint of char on some edges but it wasn't burnt like some places do so between the roasted cremini mushrooms and the char it had a nice earthy flavor. Mix that with the thyme, parsley, garlic oil and loads of mozzarella and you have a very taste bud pleasing pizza. Because it's thin crust parts of it did fall into that trap of not staying crispy with all the toppings, but it's a minor quibble as it came fresh and hot out of the oven to our table and most of it still had the just cooked crispness. And yes it is as big as it looks. At $28 a pop for the biggest size it is slightly less than many other joints in town so definitely a bargain that we couldn't finish we were so full, so leftovers--even better!
The service was also attentive without being annoying and even though our guy spoke at a low volume that was sometimes hard to hear he was very knowledgable about the food and wine and helped us make some great choices.
While there are many places to get pizza in this town I say this is one place that is worth giving a shot as the pizza is good but so are the antipasti, primi and secondi, thus my suggestion is go early and go hungry as you will find many a thing to satisfy your appetite and make your stomach happy.