Closed Captioned For The Thinking Impaired

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fab Food for the Visiting Foodie, Pt. 2: Pizza

Little Star makes it to go, too. Yaay!!!

Everybody loves pizza.

Everyone believes they know the composition of the perfect pizza and the best place to find it. What no two people can ever agree on, however, is what that perfect pizza actually is or where you can get it.New Yorkers are thin crust fanatics (... I'm guilty, too....) and know that their crispy blistered crusts with a very delicate ratio of cheese to sauce and crust to toppings is America's premiere cheesy pie (yes, yes, we know all about the joint in Phoenix, Pizza Bianco, whose owner bakes each pie himself, makes his own mozzarella & imported that amazing wood-burning oven from Naples; but, if you're actually willing to wait two hours for a pizza, New Yorkers don't care how great it is, to them you're obviously a loser who lives in the middle of nowhere and, furthermore, they don't want to hear your opinion on anything, capiche?). 

So do yourself a favor, never take an East Coast foodie to any pizzeria that specializes in either Neopolitan or "New York-style" pizzas. Delfina, Tommaso's, A16, Amici's, Chez Panisse Cafe, Gioia, Tartine's Bakery... fuggetaboutit! 

You'll never convert them. The best you will get is sympathy for what they say must be the inferior composition of California water which somehow is not sexy enough to interact in a meaningful manner with the yeast in the dough; thereby inhibiting production of that magnificent crust that is the very foundation of every NY slice. Not fun to listen to, especially when you are trying to fulfill your obligation as a host or hostess and avoid adding a few drops of arsenic into your ungrateful toxic guest's Barbaresco glass. 

No, the best thing you can do is take them to a pizza place so far removed from the NY pizzaphile's own experiences they have no basis for comparison. That's right, take 'em to the unchartered territory of the deep dish pie. A notion so alien to the thin crust afficionado, they won't even know their eating pizza unless you tell them. 

Little Star's "Classic" Deep Dish 

They'll think it's just a crusty lasagne or a cheesy crostada. Especially if the pizza joint you take them to is Little Star Pizza on Divasadero who serves the paragon of classic Chicago pies in the Bay Area with the best salads in a pizzeria bar none. (Sorry, Zachary fans!)

Little Star's interior: not your typical pizzeria

The first time we went to Little Star, it was to take a couple of pies to go (we had friends
 introduce us to it's takeout pleasures one Pizza Friday sometime just before that). We were living in Presidio Heights at the time and we chose to go to the Western Addition branch on 846 Divisadero Street off McAllister (there are two restaurants). 

Now, despite having the address on our person and both being free of any vision challenges, we went by that 800 block on Divisadero about 4 times without seeing any sign of a pizzeria. Granted, I was looking for a large red awning with large plate glass windows and the usual displays of beer, pizza slices or neon red letters. Never saw them. Actually, there is another pizzeria of the more usual variety on that 8oo block but it wasn't Little Star. 

We decided I had the wrong address & to continue driving up and down all of Divisadero until we spotted the place. Once again, no sign of what I could determine was the pizzeria.

Little Star's low profile entrance. Doesn't it look like a night club to you, too?

Finally, the hubby decided we should call Little Star and get the cross streets. 
Did that.
Because, I swear I couldn't find that pizza joint! 

By now, the counterperson was surely thinking this is a crank call; but, to her credit, she was patient and assured me of their physical presence in this plane of existence when I suggested that perhaps they were located in an alternate universe whose event horizon coincided with ours every third lunar cycle & whose Divisadero Street contained a Little Star which probably was, indeed, located between McAllister and Fulton. It just didn't exist in our dimension of the universe.

The hubby, not easily deterred and hungry for his pizza, asked me to ascertain from this friendly Little Star employee both the house number and color of the building. 

While, I still refused to believe that entrance belonged to a pizzeria with its brownish black facade and heavy brown velvet curtains at the windows and doors obscuring the view inside, the hubby insisted I enter and enquire after our dinner. 

I never saw the very discreet signage out front which looks more like an angry Pac-man from Texas than a pizza to my untutored eyes.

The logo looks like an angry Pac-man from the Lone Star state

Little Star's interior looked like a 40's supper club or speakeasy. 

Indie Rock (on other occasions Jazz) playing softly in the background. 

Dark, sexy, mysterious with low barely lit orbs of pendant lighting, dark blue and gray walls, striking cubist paintings of jazzy musical instruments, and small crowded dark, wooden tables filled with glassy-eyed hipsters rapturously hunched over their tables fixated by something on top of them. 

Heavily pierced and tattoed servers in tight jeans and black t-shirts roamed to & fro. A far cry from Nicolas Cage's dingy white "guinea" tee in the movie Moonstruck. (Don't get offended; that's how those thin-strapped ridged tee shirts are known throughout all five boroughs of NYC)

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Definitely, not a Little Star server

Your eyes are not thinking pizza; but, simultaneously, appearances notwithstanding, your nose, suddenly animated, is telling you that this may be a night club, but, if it is, they also offer something that smells so delectable and redolent of sweet tomatoes, Italian herbs, buttery yeast, and milky cheeses, you can swoon from the excitement generated by the anticipation of tasting it. 

This place had to be a pizzeria!

Then you see what all those diners are hunched over like so many opium bed denizens is undeniably pizza. Not just any kind of pizza but a proud, bosomy pizza with a strong, golden, cornmeal crust and a robust topping of chunky tomatoes blanketing melted mozzarella that just oozed enough to make you want to have it right there. 

It took all my willpower and years of proper etiquette training to overcome the savage-like desire to snatch a slice from the jaws of an unsuspecting diner. 

After all, one must be civilized; but, as I say, the temptation was great!

Of course, we have ordered many pies since then and allow me to assure all ye who say Chicago-style pizzas are a doughy mess: you haven't given that crust your full consideration until you taste Little Star's version of deep dish. 

They do offer a thin crust version but fuggetaboutit!

All of their toppings are fresh & delicious from the veggies to the meats. 

When we share a pizza (a 9" deep dish pizza easily feeds two to three people provided you can all agree on the same toppings, 12" deep dish pie can feed a family of four with no problem), it's the Classic with thick juicy hunks of perfectly-seasoned Italian sausage, mushrooms, green pepper and onions; all sauteed before being added to the pie, and, all in perfect balance with each other. 

The crust is a symphony of cornmeal, olive oil, butter & flour. Both crisp & tender at once. Never too salty, never too oily with just the right heft to hold up the prodigious amount of mighty toppings. Too good!

If I'm eating by myself, I love the namesake Little Star with sweet, creamy fresh ricotta, feta, sauteed spinach, mushrooms, onions and garlic. The leftovers reheat beautifully over the next day or so as long as you place it in a hot oven (450 degree) either directly on the rack with a sheet of aluminum foil beneath to catch the drippings or, my favorite way, on a hot pizza stone.

The Vegetarian is also delish with fresh zucchini, black olives, red bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, garlic. They also offer Pesto Chicken, White Pie, Italian Combo with pepperocini, pepperoni, salami, etc.
The range of toppings offered is wide and you can create any combination you like for $1.50 - $2.00 a topping.

There are not many appetizers but what they do offer is solid. Really the best takeout salads I've ever had at a pizzeria.

The Caprese is simply slices of fresh mozzarella with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil & drizzled with very good e.v.o.o. & balsamic vinegar. Good, fresh but since I'm already having pizza with mozzarella, it's not something that I would regularly order. Too redundant.

The Mixed Salad with Gorgonzola & House Dressing, yummy!!!

The Mixed Salad on the other hand is something I crave: fresh organics greens, ripe halved cherry tomatoes, sweet chopped red bell peppers, chopped red onions, topped with chopped toasted walnuts & pungent gorgonzola. The housemade vinaigrette is a winner, not too oily, not too tart and just the perfect amount of it to coat the greens without drowning them. So yummy!

The Garlic Bread is warm sourdough served with a blend of salted butter & extra virgin olive oil with a whole bulb of roasted garlic to spread on the side. Again, it's not something I would normally order since I'm eating pizza which is starchy enough for yours truly but it's a good start if your carbo-loading for your next tri-athalon.

The oddest starter is the Spicy Chicken Wings served with the requisite blue cheese dressing but baby carrots instead of celery sticks. I've never ordered them. They don't appeal to me. I didn't go to college in Buffalo, New York so I never was really indoctrinated into their penniless college student, beer drinker's appeal.

They have a housemade cheesecake & gelato for dessert but I'm always too full after two slices of the deep dish to even consider eating anymore.

So, if you want to show your out-of-town foodie the best pizza in San Francisco without falling into the usual traps, go to Little Star. It's worth it and so are you!

Pizza pies range from $17-$23, depending on the toppings with a plain cheese pizza going for $12 for the 9"-$16 for the 12". Additional toppings are $1.50-$2.50 per topping for 9" and 12" pies, respectively. $28 bought us dinner last night with one 9" Classic and a large Mixed Salad.

Little Star does not accept reservations and is a cash only establishment.

Go to Little Star website for further details.


Anonymous said...

the second photo is not of little star, but rather appears to be fly bar down the street.

The Gourmet Chronicles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Gourmet Chronicles said...

Took new pictures today! Finally have the proper shots. Thanks again Anon! When you want something done right, do it yourself! Finally got it right! Yaaay!!!