JERSEY IN SOMA....IS IT JUST ANOTHER PIZZA JOINT?
Plus, does San Francisco really need another pizza place? Those seem like philosophical questions for enlightened foodies, but really, it's just a question. A lot depends on what they are doing and if they are bringing anything new to the table to make theirs stand out from all the other choices in town. To let you off the hook on the titular question, Jersey is not just another pizza joint. Yes, they offer different kinds of pizza pies to nosh on, but they also offer an array of other dishes with a New Jersey, East Coast, Italian food comes to California kind of theme. I think what initially got me and the SO intrigued to try the place was they opened on 2nd Street between Mission and Howard, a stretch of road that after work hours and on weekends becomes a literal ghost town. The idea we could just roll down the street and walk in was enticing, and of course, the pizza was a draw too.
While you can make reservations here, we were able to waltz in on a Saturday night without them and easily get a spot. I'll chalk that up to where they are located, for now. Of course the location also happens to be around the corner from a couple of other places the owners have opened including Salt House and Anchor & Hope, places I've eaten, though it has been awhile. Actually, before I even started doing this blog thing.
Being the curious that we are, me and the SO chose to take a spot at the back counter so we could watch the chef et al make the food. We both find it fascinating and we get to see what we order prepared first hand. Sometimes you may not want to see what is going on in the kitchen, but good or bad, we consider it prime floor show entertainment.
The menu proffered here is decidedly Italian--pizzas, pastas, insalatas, etc. The brothers Rosenthal (owners) want to evoke memories of their childhood and New Jersey with grandma and mother recipes and what not. Perusing through the choices we decide to stick to the theme, trying a do what they best thing.
Burrata with mixed string beans, chives, almonds, micro greens and a sherry vinaigrette-$11. In general, I'm a big fan of burrata. I like the creamy, milky, cheesiness of it all and this did not disappoint. You get a pretty sizable dollop of the mozzarella with a heaping portion of crunchy green and waxed beans. It was a nice fresh, crisp collection with added crunch from the almonds. The burrata was nice and creamy with dash of black pepper and drizzle of olive oil. These seemed like odd choices to go together to create a salad kind of dish. Separately I liked them both, but together, I just didn't understand their pairing. For the burrata, I was kind of jonesing for some warm focaccia bread to spread it on or something. We both enjoyed the individual parts, just not all together. Still, it is not a reason to not at least try it.
Meatballs on a sourdough crostini, tomato sauce and a fontina jalapeno bechamel--$12. Three pretty big, hearty meatballs that were a mix of what tasted like ground meat and sausage with a few bread crumbs thrown in. They were like a fancy meatloaf kind of thing. That's not a knock, more a comparison because we both really like this dish. That little jalapeno bechamel gave it a nice kick and the illusion of cheese with it's thickness. The grated Parmesan also added some tang to compliment the sweetness of the tomatoes. A slightly bigger or even extra piece of crostini would have been nice to soak up some of the sauce, then again, I didn't really need the extra carbs considering what's coming.
They have a California style pizza which really means thin-ish. And Jersey style which is a bit more crusty. We Jersey style Bianca. It's a white pizza of onion crema, lemon ricotta, mozzarella, cresenza (it's like another form of burrata) and a drizzle of truffle oil--$23. Yes, it is a pretty big 'ol pizza and price wise is comparable to what you get at other places in town. They are all made to order and you can watch them toss the dough to create your pie. There is also no shortage of cheese on this baby either. Mozzarella as far as the eye can see and pizza can hold. The small dollops are the lemon ricotta and the cresenza which are for added flavor. Sometimes I'm not the biggest fan of lemon as it can kind of taste more lemon Pledge than actual citrus, but here it wasn't so cloying or pervasive to detract from the other light flavors of onion and truffle. Crunchy and slightly crisp edges and a crust that holds up pretty well without get soggy. Though some of that I'll chalk up to not having tomato sauce or watery veggies on here. What this comes down to is lots of cheese and bread and that combo is always one of my favorites, as was this pizza.
Finally, we couldn't get out of here without some traditional Italian dessert could we? That's a rhetorical question. Cannoli with sweet creamy filling, chocolate shavings and a dusting of powdered sugar--$8 (I think that was right). Hard to go too wrong with these things. The outside was crispy. The filling was creamy and thick without being overly sweet, though this one was regular plain filling and not with chocolate chips like other places do. Thus the chocolate shavings over the top. These are 4 mini ones. Enough to share or to have just one since you may already be full from all the other food you've scarfed down here. A tasty finish to a generally tasty meal.
Outside of the odd initial combination, the dishes we had at Jersey were really good. Are they reinventing Italian here? No, but sometimes you don't need to. Jersey is serving up good solid food that is well made and tasty. They also do a booming lunch business and a happy hour where you can get slices if you don't feel like eating a whole pie. I hope they are able to make a go and stay around, and not just because they are in my relative hood. It's nice getting some good Italian without having to go all the way to (New) Jersey for it.