November 16, 2023

Six New Pies From Six Tony’s Chefs—And The Tasting Menu Is Born

by Joe Bonadio

When it comes to dining out, above all else San Franciscans demand variety. It’s a crucial aspect of any proper food scene, and one of the main reasons our fair city was recently judged to be the most food-forward city in America. There is just more diversity of cuisine here than in most major cities; a lot more, in fact. And despite plenty of challenges in the industry, the spate of recent openings in San Francisco suggest this is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The new lineup of chef-created pizzas at Tony's Pizza Napoletana

The new lineup of chef-created pizzas at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is now available. | Photo: Natale Cardamone

That being said, being a native Californian, Tony Gemignani knows his audience pretty well. So as you might expect, the selection at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana indulges Bay Area diners’ appetite for novelty, spanning fully thirteen different regional styles (and counting, mind you). Because as I’ve learned, everyone has their own idea of what constitutes a perfect pizza—and make no mistake, everybody is invited to this party.

Tony and his staff work tirelessly to keep their menu fresh. With that in mind, last month the restaurateur asked each of his core pizza makers to start thinking about their pizza: the one pizza that they’ve been working on, experimenting with, and wanting to make for the people. And beginning this month, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana’s main pizza makers—the backbone of the restaurant’s uniquely prolific kitchen—will begin presenting their own pizza creations for the first time.

Six of Tony’s longtime pizzaiolos, six pizzas: and they’re all ringers. The new pizzas will be offered as rotating specials, appearing on days when participating chefs are in the kitchen. It will offer Tony’s most talented pizzaiolos the rare chance to showcase their own recipes on the restaurant floor—and of course, give their customers the opportunity to devour those dream pizzas, one at a time.

The El Dorado, Chef Oscar Venegas' creation

The El Dorado, Chef Oscar Venegas’ creation, combines spicy sweet sausage, mozzarella, sweet San Del peppers, red and gold peppadew peppers, Calabrian peppadew puree, ricotta and olive oil; it’s a standout. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Keep in mind, these new pizzas will only be made by the chefs who invented them—and no one else. When we last spoke, Tony told me why that’s so important.

“For the last 15 years, ever since we opened this place, every dish on the menu has been created by me. So this is a first,” Tony explained. “And it means so much to the guys. I’ve seen it again and again when someone orders one of those pizzas. The ticket pops up with their name on it, and they just light up. It’s like they’re automatically in competition mode: ‘Okay, get out of my way!’”

Looking at the menu, there are definitely some surprises. I’m particularly curious to try Ivan’s “Sylvia”, an alluring combination of provolone cheese, Italian sausage, Sicilian black olives, sweety drop peppers, preserved lemon, basil and house-made local hot honey on a 12” Italian crust. Sign me up! You can bet I’ll be trying all of these pies and reporting back soon.

There’s also a big change coming down the pike for Tony’s lunch menu: starting this month, the kitchen will be offering a brand-new Light Lunch menu. Designed to be easier both on the waistline and the wallet, it’s something the regulars have been asking about for a while.

“If you’re coming in a few times a month, having a pizza or the lasagna is great,” Tony told me. “But if you’re coming in 2 or 3 times a week, you probably want something a little lighter. This menu is for those people.”

El Dorado pizza

The Sella Antica Super Tuscan, Robvell’s recommendation, paired perfectly with the El Dorado pizza. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Being one of those people, I’m keen to check it out—and you can expect more details here soon.

In another first, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana is now accepting limited reservations for a special “Around The World” tasting menu. And you heard correctly: I said Reservations. A long time in the coming, the new menu will consist of six specially selected pizzas, spanning the breadth of Tony’s encyclopedic menu.

The tasting will be served to three seatings of six lucky guests per evening, who will enjoy their feast at the large circular chef’s table in the front window of Tony’s dining room. Each seating will have a set start and end time, with diners afforded an hour and 45 minutes for the experience. Naturally, the meal includes a beautiful bottle of wine, and there will be optional pairing options available from wine director Jules Gregg. As always, Tony’s welcomes all diners, so a vegetarian version will be available as well.

Believe it or not, this will be the first time in nearly fifteen years that Tony’s has accepted reservations. And unsurprisingly, it turns out there’s a very good reason for this. “We’ve never taken reservations, because from the beginning I didn’t want Tony’s to be that place that you can’t get into because it’s booked out for months,” Tony told me. “I can’t have somebody coming from Chicago and getting a car from the airport, and there isn’t a table for them.

Capodimonte, a traditional Neapolitan pizza

I recently introduced a friend to the Capodimonte, a traditional Neapolitan pizza that employs dried Dorati tomatoes in place of sauce. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

“I mean, you might have to wait—but you can always get into Tony’s,” the chef said.

This will also be the very first tasting menu the restaurant has ever offered. Needless to say expectations are high, and Tony is talking to Resy about a possible working partnership. The whole thing will run your party an even $500, not including tax and tip, and I’d expect reservations to get snapped up quickly—so round up the posse and claim your spot soon.

Meanwhile, make sure to join us here next time, when we’ll be talking about Tony’s new cocktail lineup with Bar Manager Nick Lawlor.

Cin Cin!

The Seven Ovens Blog shares the stories behind Tony Gemignani’s remarkable group of restaurants with a wider audience. Remember to bookmark us, and we’ll see you here soon.