New standard setters for pizza and pasta
Che Fico San Francisco
Welcome to the most exciting new restaurant in San Francisco, said Rachel Levin in Eater.com. Che Fico “both fits right in and stands out” because it “has taken what we know and love about pizza and pasta and given it a jolt.” Thank Instagram posts by Gwyneth Paltrow and Anderson Cooper if you arrive without a reservation and have to wait four hours to be seated. Once up the stairs and through the playfully wallpapered entrance, you step into a loft-like second-floor dining room “so lovely and unexpected” you may well gasp. The pizzas that emerge from the red Italian oven have a charred sourdough crust and a real following, but chef David Nayfeld’s pastas “blew my mind,” even when the ingredients consisted only of fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, and orecchiette tossed with goat butter. The grilled chopped duck liver and wood-fired aged lamb loin were revelations, but I was a believer “from the first sip of my Coriander cocktail to the last scrape of olive oil cake through its puddle of roasted strawberry vinaigrette.” 838 Divisadero St., (415) 416-6959
Una Pizza Napoletana New York City
No account of how authentic Neapolitan-style pizza has swept the country this century can exclude Anthony Mangieri, said Hannah Goldfield in NewYorker.com. The self-taught pizzaiolo went monastic on his craft before opening his first place on the Jersey Shore, then really lit the fire when he moved Una Pizza Napoletana to Manhattan in 2004, making every pizza himself and boasting that no rival in New York could top him. “Call it hyperbole, but competitors scramble to reach his high bar,” and they probably sighed in relief when Mangieri took his act to San Francisco in 2009. Now he’s back, tending another wood-fire oven in a kitchen attached to a bright, tiled dining room on the Lower East Side. Each of his 12-inch pizzas now fetches $25 and emerges from the oven’s heat with its tangy dough mottled by bubbles and almost breathing. “Toppings are spare”—perhaps a scattering of softened cherry tomatoes and cubes of smoked mozzarella, yet “it’s peak pizza.” There’s also more on the menu this time: “cerebral” small plates by Jeremiah Stone and simple desserts such as panna cotta and vanilla ice cream. Those are made by Fabián von Hauska Valtierra, and they “set a new standard, Mangieri style.”175 Orchard St., (646) 692-3475
Bridges Craft Pizza & Wine Bar Greencastle, Ind.
You never know where the next great restaurant will turn up, said Julia Spalding in Indianapolis Monthly. Chef Sal Fernandez grew up in the sleepy Napa Valley, Calif., burg that was remade by Thomas Keller and the French Laundry, so he has grand hopes for what Bridges can do for a bucolic Indiana college town. Fernandez and co-owners Judson and Joyce Green have given a historic downtown building “that softly stark West Coast wine country aesthetic” of white walls, natural wood, and dangling bulb lighting. But it’s the food coming out of the copper oven flown in from Naples that’s drawing smart crowds from nearby DePauw University and beyond. Fernandez’s pizzas are “impeccably chewy and charred,” and he’ll push beyond the classics by dotting the top with duck prosciutto and fig jam. Small plates dazzle, none more than fried ravioli with braised beef tongue. Pastas “play it deliciously straight,” but a recent $125 “James Beard Dinner” telegraphed Fernandez’s ambitions. “He’s off to a good start.” 19 N. Indiana St., (765) 653-0021