Cupola has all the markings of a stylish pizzeria, one of the many opening around the city – dark lighting, contemporary furnishings, glittery lighting and at the center in the back, a ceramic-tiled pizza oven with the warm glow of a wood fire inside.
I sat near the back with my friend Mary Lou and she said it didn’t feel like we were dining in a mall. And if we forgot about the many escalators we had to take to get to the restaurant, I would totally agree.
I chose Cupola for our dinner because Mary Lou was visiting from out of town and staying in Union Square, so the restaurant at the Westfield San Francisco Centre was more convenient than anything else.
Part of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group, which also owns One Market, Cupola opened on the fourth floor with a cluster of restaurants just off the iconic Emporium dome at the shopping centre. Under Chef Christian Hermsdorf, the menu puts a definite California twist to traditional Neapolitan-style pizzas.
While the menu is limited to a few items in each section, you can tell Chef Hermsdorf has put a lot of thought in highlighting quality ingredients that will appeal to today’s customers. Take, for example, the pork belly tortelli ($18.25), a rich and satisfying plate of pasta sheets with the pork belly shining as flavor more than texture.
The pizza is just as satisfying, even though I’m not a particular fan of the chewy aspect of the airy crust. (I like my thin crust a bit more on the crispy side.) Blistered on the edges, the “primavera” pizza ($16.25) I shared with Mary Lou was a vegetarian delight combining artichoke hearts with roasted asparagus spears mixing with the sprinkling of salt and mascarpone cheese.
The salads could be a bit more interesting (we ordered the cruciferous “Dome” salad of fennel, carrots, red pepper and bread, $13.75), but the desserts featured all the Italian classics of chocolate budino, cannoli, panna cotta, spumoni and affogato. We ended the evening with a decent olive oil cake with strawberries and crème fraiche ($7.50).
While Mary Lou and I got lost in our food and conversation, forgetting where we were, we were starkly reminded when we finished our meal and walked into the empty mall as stores closed just a few minutes earlier. Still, Cupola makes a strong attempt to rise above its location and to create a dining experience that can be found in any hip neighborhood in San Francisco.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
Cupola Pizzeria, 845 Market St., 4th floor (inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre), San Francisco. PH: 415.896.5600. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. cupolasf.com
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