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October 18, 2022

Never Stop Moving: What’s New On The Menu At Tony’s

by Joe Bonadio

Compared to just about any other category of business, the restaurant game is a challenging one—notoriously so. In fact, depending upon whose numbers you trust, somewhere between 30 and 75 percent of restaurants fail within their first year. These are sobering figures to say the least, and they speak volumes about the type of person who decides to open their own restaurant.

Tony shows off one of his newest creations

Tony shows off one of his newest creations, the wood-fired mortadella pie, as longtime bartender Stephanie Danese looks on. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

When Tony Gemignani launched Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in 2009, the pizzamaker was anything but a newcomer. He had already been running Pyzano’s in Castro Valley with his brother for seventeen years, so he had some idea of what he was getting into. Tony was also an 8-time champion in pizza acrobatics–and he had recently won first prize at the International Championship of Pizza Makers in Naples, Italy, a feat no non-Neapolitan had ever managed before.

Emboldened by his longshot victory, Tony had high hopes for his first pizzeria. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but in the back of his mind, he thought Tony’s could one day be Pizzeria of the Year. A title bestowed on just one restaurant annually by the influential magazine Pizza Today, this was the rarest of honors, because it came from the industry itself. Only the busiest, most consistently excellent pizzerias even entered the discussion for Pizzeria of the Year.

But Tony could dream, couldn’t he? And if anyone’s dreams were going to be pie in the sky, it may as well be a pizza acrobat.

mortadella Romana pizza

One of the most unusual white pizzas you’ll ever have, the mortadella Romana is made with a crispy sesame seed crust. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

In August, Tony’s dream finally came true: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana was named Pizzeria of the Year. And that’s not all. Less than six weeks after he graced the cover of Pizza Today, Tony was named Pizza Maker of the Year by the well-respected 50 Top Pizza organization of Italy.

Tony attended the ceremony in Naples with Natale Cardamone, general manager at Tony’s. The chef received three awards at the event, including “Source of Inspiration” and a #2 spot on the organization’s Best Pizzeria list for the US—and #10 worldwide. Not too shabby.

You don’t earn these sorts of plaudits for anything less than inventive and inspired pizza making. Tony never stops working on his product, and he’s constantly creating new items for the TPN menu. When I spoke with him last week, he was just preparing to roll a few new things out, and was nice enough to give me a little preview.

Joe Bonadio: So Tony, I understand you’ve got some new things in store for us.

Tony's new pasta with 'nduja

Made with ‘nduja, a Sicilian soft salami with a spicy kick, Tony’s new pasta is certain to be a crowd favorite. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Tony Gemignani: Yes, we have some new menu items coming. One of them is the mortadella pizza, which is a sesame seed crust with smoked mozzarella, smoked provolone, pizzuti tomatoes, mortadella, burrata, pistachios, black volcano salt and fresh lemon.

A lot of people have asked me over the years to do that pizza. We would always do it for the kitchen, for us (laughs). So I decided to do it, in two options: the Roman, which looks beautiful when it comes out, and the 12” for people who prefer something smaller.

There’s also a red sauce pasta coming out that’s made with ‘nduja. When I was in Calabria I had a pasta with ‘nduja in it, just tossed in right at the end, and it was delicious.

JB: That stuff is great.

TG: It is. So we’ve got a spicy pasta coming on.

JB: What shape of pasta are you going to use?

TG: I’m not sure, I ordered a special die that is coming in. I’m going to see, I’m not certain yet.

A collab with local artist Jeremy Fish

A collab with local artist Jeremy Fish, the Up In Smoke is loaded with millionaire’s bacon, pizzuti tomato, smoked mozzarella and basil. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

We also have a broccoli rabe pizza coming on that’s going to be available as a wood fired pizza or as a calzone, which can be baked or fried. We’re stone grinding our own wheat for all of our California style pizzas now, and this one has broccoli rabe, smoked mozzarella, pancetta, crushed red pepper and Romano cheese. And on the pizza it’s done with a honey Calabrian sausage that we hand pinch—that’s not available in the calzone, because it won’t cook right.

A charcuterie board is coming on too, and we’re working with Lucero Farms from the Ferry Building market, buying Jimmy Nardello peppers from them. Oscar and I will be pickling peppers next week, and those peppers are going to be on the charcuterie board along with different salumi, cheeses and spreads. It’s going to be nice.

JB: And your Up In Smoke pizza is finally coming on, right?

TG: Yes. That’s a collaboration with Jeremy Fish and the people at North Beach Pipeline dispensary on Grant, and eventually we’ll be offering it with a custom box designed by Jeremy along with a special “Pizza Joint” from Pipeline. There’s a lot more to it, and we’ll definitely be talking more about that soon—but it’s not quite ready. The pizza will be part of the new menu launch though. It’s got pizzuti tomato, smoked mozzarella, millionaire’s bacon with Chris Cosentino’s umami spice and basil, and it comes out of the wood fire oven.

Clam and Garlic pizza is back

An old favorite has returned to the menu at Tony’s: the Clam and Garlic is back! | Photo Courtesy of Tony Gemignani

Oh! We’re also bringing back the clam and garlic. It will have applewood smoked bacon on it, that’s the way I like to eat it. It used to be a clam and garlic pie that you could add bacon to, but now it’s going to come with bacon—if you don’t want it, you can just ask them to leave it off.

JB: I can’t wait to try that. And lastly, I noticed that since the last time we spoke, you finally got a nod from the local press with a nice article on SFGate.

TG: I know. I was just so excited about that….you know, it was decent what they wrote. And like I said, it’s the domino effect. If the Chronicle or SFGate writes it, then people will grab it, and write their own thing.

You know, it’s San Francisco, and we can brag about having the best pizza in California—let alone top ten in the whole world. There are millions of pizzerias in the world! I’m glad our local paper finally saw fit to cover it.