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sfweekly.com – Best Pizza (2004)
"It makes us happy that the oldest wood-fired brick oven in San Francisco (built in 1935, when Tommaso's opened as Lupo's, and reportedly the first such oven on the West Coast) turns out the best pizza crust in San Francisco: puffy, crispy, faintly smoky."
"Whether you prefer toppings of Italian sausage, clams with garlic, meatballs, scallops, tiger prawns, or clams in the shell, this is the crust you want under them. We love the room, too, with creamy-painted wooden booths that remind us more of a '30s-vintage tea room than a pizzeria, despite the charming murals of Italy."
"Tommaso's (owned by the Cotti family since 1973) has the gastronomic imprimatur of both Francis Ford Coppola, who used to make his own pizzas here before he opened his Cafe Niebaum-Coppola right down the street, and Alice Waters, who famously based her Chez Panisse wood-burning pizza oven on this one. The crunchy crust at the venerable Tommaso's still delights us."
"Just like Tosca's, Vesuvio's, Speck's, Mario's and City Lights, Tommaso's has never changed much and never will."
"As much a part of North Beach as its bars and Beat myths, Tommaso's is an authentic landmark where families come to feed together at the same trough. Celebrities haunt it too – the story goes that Francis Ford Coppola insisted on making his own pizza here. The Crotti family has run this restaurant since 1973, using the same pizza oven that their predecessors, the Lupos, brought with them from the Old Country when they opened in 1935, and that oven has lost none of its much patina-ed tang."
There's usually a short wait at the bottom of the stairs, and the earlier you come the better, they say. There's nothing out-of-the-way about the food. It's all honest and always the same, and that's it's charm. Unfussy, no-nonsense pizzas with a score of toppings, spaghetti, lasagna, and scaloppini are served in a cellar with kitschy little wall murals, tablecloths, and cozy booths. Wood-fired pizza began here at Tommaso's long before it was chic and upscale, so you'll find it dependable. Crusts are thin and toppings classical: there's mozzarella and tomato, mushroom, pepperoni, and variations of several cheeses ($14.50-25.00)."
"Ask for their antipasto plate of marinated roast red peppers ($7.25) fresh from the oven; otherwise it's asparagus, broccoli, or beans as fresh roasted vegetables is a seasonal specialty. Try the "coo-coo" clams ($14.50), very simply presented with oil, spices, balsamic, and a punch of oregano. The rest of the menu is just plain, reassuring comfort food, from the spaghetti and meatballs ($14.50) to the veal parmegiana ($19.50), mushroom-stuffed calzone ($20.50-26.00) and manicotti in marinara ($15.00). There's a short but useful wine list of hearty California Zins plus any number of gulpable native Italian Chiantis, Barberis, San Gieveses and dolcettos that might take your fancy. Dolci include tiramisu, cheesecake, cannoli and spamone."
"After you've sacrificed your warm spot to the next horde of regulars, get back onto your feet and stroll out along Broadway and Columbus to walk off that pasta and find a nice café for a nightcap. Wherever you look there's temptation!"
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PRESS & REVIEWS
"Claimed to be the oldest pizza restaurant on the West Coast, this North Beach icon has been serving critically acclaimed pies since the 30s. It serves a variety of styles and cook the pies the old-fashioned way in a wood-burning fire."
The atmosphere is also somewhat old-fashioned, but in a cozy and welcoming way. Unique pizza combinations include meatballs, seafood topped with scallops, baby clams and prawns, and a calzone-like turnover style with sausage and mushrooms. Also on the menu are antipasto, seafood, veal and traditional pasta dishes such as Spaghetti in Marinara Sauce and Cheese Ravioli in Pesto."
CityGuide – Tommaso's Restaurant
"Tommaso's is a North Beach institution – people in the know have been coming here since 1935. Crunchy crusted pizzas from an old-world oakwood-burning oven are the piece de resistance. Try the unusual Calzone Imbottito, a pizza turnover stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, prosciutto and spices; or any of the pizzas. I particularly like the one topped with Tommaso's homemade sausage and mushrooms."
"Just as delicious, though, are Tommaso's pastas. This is one of the few places in town to serve one of my old favorites, manicotti; wide hollow pasta tubes filled with ricotta and spices, smothered in a rich tomato sauce. Whatever else you order, don’t miss the Coo-Coo Clams soaked in oil and vinegar and baked in the oven."
"For dessert, there's often house made tiramisu, combining rum, ladyfingers, mascarpone and chocolate; or do as the Italians do and order the biscotti, served with a dessert wine for dipping. The small, cave-like dining room fills up nightly and reservations are not accepted, so it's best to arrive early. The prized tables are the ones along the side walls (with wood partitions between them making for booth-like coziness). Service is swift and efficient. Tommaso’s rustic Neapolitan specialties are also available for take-out."