February 4, 2021

Love Us On Yelp: Some Of Tony’s Favorite Reviews

When it comes to restaurants, Yelp holds a unique position in the online marketplace. As most consumers’ first stop for food reviews, they have an undeniably powerful voice, and are searched literally millions of times every day. Despite (or perhaps because) of this, their relationship with restaurant owners is often a rocky one. But aside from a handful of cranky customers, Tony’s restaurants have always done well on Yelp, particularly Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. With 5,246 reviews to date, Tony Gemignani’s North Beach flagship has a solid 4-star rating.

We spend a lot of time reaching out to our fans on the platform, so we thought it would be fun to highlight a few of them–and of course, to show off the extremely nice things they say about us.

Mikey V. of Foster City, pizza fan and very emphatic guy, had this to say: “The best! I mean THE BEST PIZZA I HAVE EVER HAD in the U.S.” In fact, Mikey claims he would “drive miles and miles” for the Cal Italia.

Elite Reviewer Leslie W. hails from Castro Valley, CA, just like Tony, and is an avowed fan of our Coal-Fired New Yorker. “We ordered the New Yorker, which came with the ooey gooey mozzarella, ricotta, pepperoni, and sausage. You can tell a good bake if the toppings don’t slide off when you lift it up for a bite. The crust was cooked perfectly. Every bite I had reminded me of my favorite joint in NY.” (My guess: she’s talking about Lombardi’s.)

Review: Leslie W.

Yelper Leslie W. loves her Tony’s Pizza….and she is apparently not sharing.

San Franciscan Gabriela W., meanwhile, is beyond smitten with our gluten-free pie: “How is it possible that gluten-free pizza tastes this amazing? Tony’s has made my pizza dreams come true. Each time we order delivery, it’s a literal ******* feast in my mouth….I’ve had many GF pizzas before, but Tony’s beats them all.”

Though a man of few words, Gary R. of Hanford, CA, has evidently had his share of authentic Italian pizza, and was no less enthusiastic. “Best pizza outside of Italy. The coal-fired Margherita was just as good as pizzas I enjoyed in Naples.”

Review photo: Gary R

Tony’s award-winning Margherita pizza, which Yelper Gary R. calls the “Best pizza outside of Italy.”

It’s no secret that people come from far and wide to get their Tony’s on. K B. of Oregon City, OR, was especially impressed. “MEAT BALLS!!! Pizza!!! And friendly, accommodating staff….North Beach is ALIVE.”

Likewise Adrie H., who came all the way from Lehi, Utah. “Divine! My husband is kind of hard to please when it comes to any food, let alone pizza….I suggested we eat here (I ate here a few years ago with friends without him)…”BEST PIZZA HE’S EVER HAD!” We had the garlic bread with cheese, Margherita, New Yorker, and the Hot Tony, all delicious!”

Though not quite as faraway, Erica L. makes the pilgrimage from San Mateo as often as she can. “Best pizza ever! We live an hour and a half south but come up to the city regularly just for Tony’s! The New Yorker pizza is the pizza of my dreams.”

Zoey C. traveled from Roseville, just over a hundred miles as the crow flies, and found the trip was more than justified. “This was seriously the best pizza I’ve ever had. Had just a simple olive and mushroom pizza and it was delectable.”

San Francisco local Joe T. concurs. “Easily the best pizza in California and arguably the world….Our favorite pies are the New Yorker, Margherita, and the New Haven Lou. Special shout out to a manager there named Ro for her impeccable customer service.”

Of course, Yelp has more than its share of skeptics. But when people show up ready to be unimpressed, the people at Tony’s turn them around. Kelly M. of Los Angeles writes “When a place is an institution like Tony’s, it’s sometimes hard for the restaurant to match this reputation….the [Diavolo] pizza was fantastic. So good I want to order it tonight.”

Elite Reviewer Paul B. of Berkeley also came with preconceived ideas, and was pleasantly surprised. “I’m usually skeptical about trying famous/award winning places like this–normally, it’s a letdown. However, this place exceeded my cynical expectations.”

And what was Paul’s favorite? “Spaghetti and Meatballs: This was the BEST I’ve ever had. The homemade pasta was a perfect al dente, the meatballs were juicy and cooked perfectly….And the portion size was massive.”

Of course, there are lots of people out there who just can’t get to San Francisco, especially with travel being curtailed of late. But thanks to Goldbelly, you can have Tony’s Pizza Napoletana anytime, anywhere.

And according to the customers, the quality is there. Just listen to c k of Los Angeles: “This has got to be, no competition, the best reheated pie. Ever. Wait until the abundant cheese is bubbling and the pepperoni dancing and you’re there. Shockingly good. So, if you live within an hour drive, get your pizza here. If you don’t, get it shipped.”


Washington Square Park

When it comes to scenery, it’s hard to beat Washington Square Park, home to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

I spoke with Tony about Yelp last week, and not surprisingly, he had a lot to say on the subject.

Joe Bonadio: Clearly, you’ve got a lot of admirers on Yelp. But even with good reviews, some restaurants are ambivalent about the platform. What’s your take on it?

Tony Gemignani: Yes, we’ve got a lot of great reviews on Yelp. But there’s also a lot of bad stuff on there. When it comes to Yelp, everyone has a voice. But unfortunately, not every consumer understands what happens during the process.

A perfect example is a third party foul-up, which happens a lot—a LOT. From drivers mishandling the order, to not picking it up, to being late. Maybe a driver ends up leaving because it isn’t ready, when it would only be five more minutes–and another driver isn’t coming for 25 minutes.

There are a lot of things that happen like that, where we’re getting reviewed on things that are outside our control. We literally got a 1-star review because there was no parking in North Beach! That’s not our fault.

JB: Really, that review doesn’t even belong there.

TG: It doesn’t. Then you have to go to Yelp and try to get it taken off, and they may fluff it and take it off, or not.

There are a lot of things you’ll read on Yelp that can be misleading. It might be an angry neighborhooder that doesn’t want us here, or is mad because we’re busy. Or a restaurateur down the street who doesn’t like you. You’ve got to watch what you read.

It’s good and bad. A lot of owners and operators hate Yelp. But people go into a neighborhood, into a city, and their deciding factor on where to go is what place on Yelp has a four or a five star. And if you’re not in that category, then they might not come to you.

That can get to some owners and operators. And we take it personally. If you’re in operations every day like I am, when you see something negative about your place, it bothers you.

This is a good example: I always tell my employees that the Margherita isn’t for everyone. It’s the pizza that’s at the top of the menu, it’s the Gold Medal winner, it’s won everything. It’s the best pizza in the world–but that doesn’t mean that everyone will like it.

Neapolitan pizza is 90 seconds in the oven: it’s charred, chewy, wet. It’s soft, it’s pillow like. It’s not crispy. So make sure you understand your customer, what they want.

What kind of pizza do you like, do you like it crispy and thin? Yeah! Well, that’s not Neapolitan.

JB: And of course, in your case people often come looking specifically for that Margherita.

TG: Yeah, and sometimes they think it’s the pizza that they’re going to fall in love with, but it isn’t. So, sometimes we sell the wrong pizza to a customer. We have so many varieties here, it’s not just one style. There are so many different styles.

Sometimes you’ll hear somebody talking bad about the Margherita: It’s soft, and too wet….I don’t get it. And right next to him there’s another guy saying: This is the best pizza in the world, every bite made me feel like I was in Naples! Perfect!

There have been a lot of gracious Yelpers out there, from other cities and countries and our own neighborhood, who have said some amazing things about us. And we appreciate it, and we love them for it.

JB: Have the pandemic restrictions had an impact on your reviews?

Well, we’re constantly trying to deal with Covid, and there is so much protocol that people don’t even know about. From not being able to give tableware away, plastic forks and knives, to the Health Department telling us we can’t give out a napkin.

We have to tell our customers: You have to go home now. You can’t eat it here. And it looks like we’re the mean ones, rather than the city and state, the ones that mandated it. We’re getting Yelped about those kinds of things, which are totally beyond our control.

It kills us to see that. If I make a bad pizza, then sure, we screwed up. If an order was really late, or some other problem: hopefully we comped it, or we got you the next time.

But when it has to do with rules that are entirely outside your control, and you’re getting Yelped about it, and being called a piece of shit because you’re so mean, or you’re racist, or whatever….it can be a lot.

People don’t know what our staff is going through here as we try to keep things going. The Yelpers now compared to pre-Covid are a little bit different, but all we want is for people to be generally correct, and to be fair.

JB: Despite all that, you’ve got a very solid rating and well over 5,000 reviews, and few people can say that.

TG: Yes. But it’s a busy time, and it’s crazy and hectic. Everything is to-go, and everyone is eating at the same time. It’s an hour wait, and an hour-and-a-half, and it’s going to take a little bit of time.

There is so much going on, and so many things being packaged, not just plated. And making sure everything is tight and sealed, and putting the sticker on the box—so many things that people don’t realize.

Just being able to have jobs for our employees right now is a grind. Trying to figure out how to schedule this guy so he gets two days, and this person wants these hours….I’ve had more people come to me for jobs. And I’m not hiring right now, I don’t have anything.


Outdoor dining is back in San Francisco! For the most part, all of the items mentioned above are available for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery, seven days a week. So while we’re all waiting for things to get fully back to normal, you know what to do–and your business is appreciated.

“Yelp can be your best, worst thing.”
–Tony Gemignani