North Beach is a tourist mecca whenever folks come to town and visit. Sitting on the edge of Chinatown, it's a mix of strip clubs, bars, touristy trap restaurants and Beach Blanket Babylon. Over the years it had managed to miss out on the new foodie explosion of places to dine and was populated by eateries aimed at city visitors with attractive hostess hawking menus to passersby, a very Europeanish thing to do. In the last couple years though, there seems to be a slow progression of new exciting places taking over locations that had been previously occupied for what seemed like forever. One such new place is Il Casaro Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar which took over the spot of long time stalwart Steps of Rome.
They've opened the space up with lots of white tile, big windows and a giant red tiled oven to cook pizzas in. It's all very clean and fresh looking compared to the dark wood and steel loft look of many places these days. Me and Miss O decided to give this place a try one lazy Thursday to see if we could add to our list of favorite pizza places in town. It's a small menu with some antipasti, some salumi, the pizzas and a mozzarella bar. Mmmmm....cheese, I was definitely intrigued by this and of the 3 choices they have we decided to go all upscale and get the imported burrata.
Served with arugula, toasted points of pizza dough and sprinkled with black pepper and olive oil for $9.75. Burrata is basically a really creamy version of mozzarella and I am a big fan. This version was everything you want, milky, creamy and slightly buttery flavor, that while still cheese, has a light taste that almost makes you not feel guilty for eating cheese. The toasted pizza dough was thin and crisp with a sprinkling of salt and outside of a tad too much olive oil we both really like this. Though we could have used a few more pieces of bread as it spreads so easily and smoothly. I could have eaten a whole lot more. Trying to stay on the sort of healthy side we split the insalata.
Frisee, yellow beets, carrots, cipollini, radicchio and shaved parmesan with a light dressing. At $9.50 it was a little on the pricey side but it was still crunchy, fresh and I love beets in most any color. Here they were a great compliment to the slight bitterness you get with some frisee and radicchio. And while I liked the easy hand on the olive oil here it could have used a bit more salt and pepper or some other seasoning. Fortunately we were able to add that ourselves. Still a good, decent salad. Finally we get to the main reason for eating here--and we got the broccoli and salsiccia pizza at $16.50.
Fresh mozzarella, broccoli, salsiccia (which is Italian sausage usually with fennel) on brick oven pizza dough. Hmmm....well, it wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't the best pizza we've ever had in this town. The toppings for were cooked well and tasty by themselves, the breakdown for us came with the dough. While along the edges it seemed to be cooked okay, the close to the center you got the less done it was leading to what I like to call droopy tip pizza. The was no sauce on this and the toppings aren't particularly watery but they drizzled too much olive oil over this after cooking and with the already underdone dough it just made things too soggy. Plus the was salt sprinkled heavy handily over the dough before baking and combined with the already naturally salty cheese and sausage it was a bit much. We really thought since this was a thin crust they would be able to keep it crispy, but unfortunately they didn't which is too bad. I know thin crust pizza can still be crispy as I've had it at places like Paxti's, Little Star and Pizzetta 211, but I guess the search will go on without adding Il Casaro to the list. Pizzas here range from $12 to $17 so the cost is in line, they'll just need to work on the dough for me.
Granted this place has only been open a month or so, but you'd think if you are gonna do pizza you need to hit the ground running, especially in this town. And not to mention they are opening in North Beach--the Italian neighborhood. It's possible this was a one time thing, though the ones at the other tables looked a little floppy ended also, I mean if you have to fold the ends over onto the edge of a crust it's too wet. Thus pizza, so-so, mozzarella and salad pretty good, kind of a trade off. Though who knows, if you've been out having a few drinks in the area and want to nosh that old adage might hold true--when pizzas good it's really good, and when it's bad, eh, it's still pretty good. Or you could just be a food snob like me and try somewhere else, lord knows we have lots of places serving it up.