We headed into the city on Sunday evening with a flight out Monday night, giving us a dinner and most of a day to enjoy the city. It was the first visit to San Fran for my sister and me and the first in decades for my mom, so we had a lot of ground to cover. Lucky for us, my Uncle Jack has lived in the Bay Area for some time now and gave us a whirlwind tour of the city during our short visit.
While Uncle Jack planned most of the trip itinerary, I did get to make a few requests when it came to dining. And in a city like San Francisco with so many amazing options it was impossible to select a place to eat. After coming up with a list and running it by my mom though, we settled on Pizzeria Delfina-- and it was the perfect place for a casual meal with family.
Pizzeria Delfina is an awesome little pizza joint in the Pacific Heights neighborhood (with another location in the city's Mission area). And clearly the rest of the city agrees is amazing because even on a Sunday evening there was a wait out the door to get seated at this little place. My uncle was able to put our name in earlier in the day-- not technically a reservation, but it definitely expedited the process-- so we were seated after waiting for only about 10 minutes.
The food here is an eclectic mash up of traditional Italian dishes with creative food trends and ingredients. Going with a big group meant we got to sample a few things here, which is one of my favorite ways to dine at a new spot!
We began the meal sharing a few salads-- one was a simple tricolore salad of arugula, radicchio, and endive with a light lemony vinaigrette and shaved grana padano. The simple fresh flavors were delicious, but I didn't get to snap a picture of that one for you. The second salad was quite a bit more complex, but really interesting and tasty. The Italian chopped salad was a special that day and consisted of greens topped with a chopped soft boiled egg, toasted bread crumbs, crispy capers, with a light and tangy dressing. I'm not usually a fan of eggs in my salad (because they are usually hard boiled, which is one of this food blogger's food pet peeves), but these were soft boiled and the slightly runny yolk really added some delicious richness to this salad.
We also sampled the burrata, one of my 'go to' items to order. This deliciously creamy cheese was served in a very traditional Italian-style: with lightly dressed lemony arugula, toasted crostini, and a drizzle of olive oil. Simple and tasty.
Now, let's talk about pizza-- because that's why we really came here. The pizzas at Pizzeria Delfina are a perfect size to share one pie between you and a guest, or maybe one for you to eat and take home enough for dinner tomorrow. For our table of 6, we ordered 3 pies in addition to those starters and it worked out perfectly. They're New York and Neopolitan-inspired, so the crust is thiny, chewy, and crispy on the edges and the slices are generous.
The first was a simple margherita: a light layer of pureed tomato, a generous amount of fresh mozzarella, and a touch of basil. This is a great standard pizza option to order as a complement to some of Delfina's more imaginative pizzas.
Delfina's Prosciutto Pie is one of my favorite traditional (Italian, not American) pizzas and their version lived up to my expectations. A crispy chewy crust topped with a thin layer of creamy sauce, melty caciocavallo cheese (similar to a provolone), thick slices of prosciutto di Parma and then fired. After baking, it is topped with a generous portion of lightly dressed arugula. I love the combination of flavors and textures here: Warm, chewy, salty, and rich pizza topped with the fresh crunch of arugula that has that great acidic and peppery bite to it. Pizza perfection.
Probably the biggest hit of all 3 pizzas that night was another special that evening: a Carbonara Pie inspired by its pasta namesake. This white pizza had a rich creamy white sauce base which got a punch of flavor from a generous topping of pecorino romano cheese. That was topped with fresh green onion, and salty guanciale (a bacon-like cured pork cheek). The pizza was finished with a raw egg cracked in the center, which cooks until just set in the firing process so that the yolk is runny and delicious when the pizza is sliced. I'm not a huge carbonara fan, but this pizza was something really special.
We got lucky and had some great weather in San Francisco. It was sunny and brisk and perfect for exploring the city-- especially walking around the waterfront area: first, a walk up the hill and out on to the pier near Fort Mason.
And the a visit to the famous Pier 39. I know it's totally cliche and touristy and San Franciscans probably feel the same way about this area that I feel about Navy Pier in Chicago, but we really wanted to see the seals.
And they delivered! That day's sunshine had all the seals out basking in it-- including two that were seeking a little privacy and found a dock very near to where we were watching them from to sun themselves separately.
Uncle Jack was very good about indulging our San Francisco tourist requests: seeing the seals, the Full House house (read on), and this foodie wanted to have some legit dim sum. With the exception of the Chinatown neighborhood, dim sum is hard to come by in Chicago so I knew that a trip to San Fran was our opportunity to try the real deal. Not knowing where to begin in selecting a dim sum restaurant, we asked Uncle Jack to take us to his favorite spot and we ended up at Tong Palace in the inner Richmond neighborhood.
Pretty much as soon as we sat down, the dim sum carts began wheeling by. Since Jack has been here several times, he knew exactly what to order for us-- and we enjoyed quite the variety of dim sum delicacies here. Among the favorites at the table: the baked BBQ pork buns, steamed shrimp & chive dumplings, and the delicious turnip cake (lo baak gou) that had a very savory potato latke-like quality that made it pretty irresistible.
Dining at Tong Palace was such a fun experience-- and felt so uniquely 'San Franscisco!'
After lunch we headed over to the famous Alamo Square Park, home of the Painted Ladies (a strip of architecturally significant Victorian homes) and also the setting for the opening of one of my favorite childhood TV shows Full House.
Then we made our way over to Golden Gate Park to check out one of the famous Dutch windmills. It's been there since the early 1900's and is surrounded by a garden of thousands of gorgeous tulips.
Then Uncle Jack took us to the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood to check out the 16th Avenue tiled steps-- one of the coolest tourist attractions I have seen. Each step is tiled with a sliver of the mosaic so that when you gaze upward, they come together to create one scene.
These steps go waaaaay up. And we walked all of them. Working off that dim sum, for sure.
But once we arrived at the top, it was clear why we did it! The views from up here are something else and you can see right to the edges of the city and beyond.
And last but not least, we ended the day and our trip with more amazing views: from the Presidio with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
A gorgeous end to a busy, but wonderful day in the city by the Bay.