The story: Jon Darsky’s beautiful pizza truck has been drawing crowds since it hit the road in 2012, often with long waits for the Neapolitan-style pizzas coming out from the Italian wood-fire pizza oven (yes, the truck is equipped to carry a heavy pizza oven). While the truck still makes appearances around town, you can avoid the waits by grabbing a table at the new 50-seat restaurant that opened last fall.
Why I went: The fun new spot is in the lower Nob Hill area, which made it convenient when I went to the theater Friday night and was looking for dinner before the show. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations (unless you’re a large party of four or more), so I arrived around 6 p.m. soon after the restaurant opened and got a seat at the pizza counter.
The vibe: The casual, handsome space has an eclectic feel with the walls adorned with odd framed portraits. The restaurant filled up within an hour and was packed by the time I left, with many of the diners dressed in casual-yet-stylish clothing, aka sophisticated hipster.
The booze: No cocktails, but a strong list of wine developed by Oakland’s Ordinaire wine shop. I was looking for a red wine, and many of the ones I tried were tannic (tasting very tart), which I initially found off-putting. But after going with Baccanti ($10), an Aglianico blend from Italy that’s sparkling and served chilled, I realized how tannic wine pairs nicely with pizza because it helps cut into the richness of the cheese. It was also fun trying a sparkling red wine, which I’d never heard of before.
The menu: Darsky handed over development of the restaurant’s menu to Chef Jeffrey Hayden, who offers up seven small plates as starters to try before choosing from one of the seven pizza options. All the pizzas, which are simple and primarily vegetarian-based, can be topped with salami piccante, anchovies or house-made sausage.
The starters are beautiful plates that spotlight fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the creativity reminds me a lot of the vegetable-focused dishes done by places like Gather in Berkeley or Al’s Place in the Mission. For example, the heirloom broccoli with marinated beets ($13) was a colorful plate with nicely cooked broccoli stems with puffed wild rice for a bit of crunch, with a dollop of what reminds me of tomato sauce for pizza but was a snowy radish vinaigrette.
The pizzas are just like how it’s done on the truck, Neapolitan-style thin crush that’s blistered on the edges from the wood-fire oven and a chewy dough that comforting and satisfying. No wonder the popular choices are the simplest, like the Marinara ($12) or Margherita ($15). I went with another popular option, the Bianca ($15) made with mozzarella instead of tomato sauce, ricotta, basil and garlic with additional topping of salami piccante ($3) (a generous amount that shined on top with a slight spice in flavor).
Side note: There’s not much of a dessert menu, other than specialty ice cream and sorbet flavors.
My favorite dish: I definitely enjoyed the pizza (and ate the whole thing even though I dined solo), but I really liked my starter of heirloom broccoli with marinated beets. My other starter of California Yellowfin Tuna ($15) was also delicious with surprisingly intense charred cabbage, but I liked the broccoli better for its presentation and flavors.
The last bite: Del Popolo, the restaurant, is an exciting new spot that brings the excitement of the food truck with the sophistication of a polished restaurant. The beautiful space and fresh menu makes for a lovely, casual dining experience without the wait (if you can get a seat).
The rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Del Popolo, 855 Bush St., San Francisco. PH: 415.589.7940. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (till 11 p.m., Friday, Saturday). Closed Monday. Reservations for parties of four or more. Major credit cards accepted. www.delpopolosf.com
Here’s an Instagram video of one of the pizzaiolos stretching out the pizza dough.
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