May 5, 2023

Family Style: A Conversation With The Mansfields

by Joe Bonadio

What is it that makes a classic neighborhood restaurant? A simple question, but it seems there’s no simple answer. Some obviously would point to the food, or to a  restaurant’s particular vibe or atmosphere. Others might stress the need for the right front-of-house staff, or the importance of a positive, customer-focused environment.

All of these are important, but one crucial factor is often overlooked: the customers themselves. Regular customers are part of the DNA of any successful restaurant; along  with the staff, regulars help define the identity of an establishment. And of all the things that go into the making of a great place, only one of them is indispensable: faithful customers.

Tony loves his regulars, so every once in a while here on the blog we like to turn the spotlight on one of our favorites. This week we’re talking to three of Tony’s most frequent fliers: Genevieve and Daniel Mansfield, and their remarkably well behaved 6-year-old son Mason. I joined the happy family at a patio table at Tony’s on a recent  sunny afternoon, just as they were warming up for their meal—and our conversation is below.

Joe Bonadio: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. First off, where are you guys originally from? 

Genevieve Mansfield: I’m originally from Hawaii, born and raised. Then after college I moved to Sacramento for a minute, then to San Francisco.

JB: Where in Hawaii? 

GM: Oahu mostly, but I also lived on the Big Island, and for a little while on Maui.

JB: Nice. How about you?

Daniel Mansfield: Born and raised in California. I lived in the East Bay and the Central Valley as a kid. I went to college at Santa Clara, then after that I lived in Central America briefly. Then in 2004, I moved to San Francisco.

JB: And you moved here in…? 

GM: 2006.

DM: We lived on the same street: I was at 1847 Mason, and she was at 1938 Mason. Our roommates were dating, and that’s how we met.

JB: And this was 2006….the same year I moved to 1859 Mason.

DM: Oh, no way! Oh my gosh.

GM: Wow!

JB: Yeah, you were right next door! 

DM: Wow, and we were there until we moved up the hill in 2018.

JB: And we finally meet! How interesting—we’ve been neighbors for 16 years. So like  me, you weren’t here for very long when Tony decided to park himself in North Beach. 

GM: No, I remember the day. We met up, and we were talking about where to go for dinner. We had both heard about this place. Everyone kept asking us: Have you tried Tony’s? Have you tried Tony’s?

DM: There were three people in the barber shop, all talking about how they just had pizza here. And she had the same thing happen at the nail salon. So that night, we came here.

Genevieve and Daniel Mansfield

Genevieve and Daniel Mansfield with their son Mason on a recent afternoon at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

JB: You were early adopters. 

GM: Yep. We came here that weekend, all three nights.

JB: Wow…  

DM: The two of us ate here three nights in a row. Then I came back by myself two more nights, and sat at the bar.

JB: Five nights in a row? That’s impressive. 

GM: We were a little pizza’d out for a minute after that. But we got over it. The running joke with our friends is that this place is our second kitchen. We’re here all the time.

DM: Yeah, this place really changed the neighborhood. These two corners on the weekend sometimes….it’s crazy.

JB: So according to Tony, you guys have been here roughly a thousand times. I’m  curious, what are your go-to items? 

DM: For him [gestures to Mason], the Margherita. He has to have it.

GM: I mean, Tony’s has legit ruined our child for pizza.

DM: He only expects the best now.

GM: He really does. Even when we’re in New York, he’s like “It’s not Tony’s. It’s good, but it’s not Tony’s.” He’s spoiled.

JB: What’s your favorite thing here, Daniel? 

DM: In terms of things we get all the time, probably the New Yorker.

JB: That’s probably my overall favorite. It’s so good!

DM: We love the coccoli, too.

GM: We go on stints. The Paulie P is a big one. The Honey Pie, which is a little spicy for me….but it’s so good.

DM: The Tartufo.

GM: The Tartufo is good. Ooh, what’s the kale one that I like?

DM: Oh, the Eddy Muenster. Those are probably the six pizzas that we have the most. And we didn’t know what coccoli was for a long time, and finally Jules [Gregg, longtime Tony’s Wine Director and Server] just brought it to our table. We had some family in town, and she said ‘You’ve got to try these.’

And now they’re a staple whenever anyone comes to town. I had twenty of my high  school friends here before Thanksgiving, and we were sitting outside. We ordered four different kinds of coccoli—and they were gone in minutes. I have some work friends who, whenever they want to go out to eat, insist that we come here. My boss loves the Detroit style, so we order that. I have another friend who likes the Spicy Grandma, so when I come with him that’s what we get.

Everyone has their favorites. And because we come so often with so many different people, we get to try a lot of stuff outside of what we usually order.

GM: We barely come here on our own anymore. Because there’s always someone coming into town, or coming into the neighborhood, and it’s ‘Let’s go to Tony’s!’

Also, the pastas are amazing….but he needs to put the seafood pasta back on the menu. So now the pesto is my favorite.

DM: I love the Spicy Bucatini.

GM: We order that sometimes as takeout and serve it at home to friends. But we don’t tell them we cook it! I feel like his pasta never gets enough attention.

DM: The Caesar salad is really underrated, too. We really like the Caesar.

At this point, pizzas hit the table: a Margherita for Mason, and a Canotto Americano, a recent addition to the menu. 

Tony's Pizza Napoletana after the Rain

A rare quiet moment at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana following a brief rainstorm. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

JB: Whoa, look at that. 

DM: You want a piece?

JB: No, I’m fine. 

GM: Are you sure?

JB: Oh, I get my share. 

DM: You know, the drinks here are great too. The Noisy Boys are a staple, and I’ve gotten a lot of people hooked on those.

JB: And you guys are friends with Jules… 

DM: So she hooks us up with the wine. During Covid when Jules had her wine market, we got a lot of our wine here. Kept us lubricated during tough times.

JB: Nice. You came out to support them. 

DM: And To-Go cocktails were huge!

JB: Yeah, those were the best! I assume you guys have been to [Toscano Brothers] bakery? 

DM: Oh yeah. On Christmas Eve we were there—of course we’ve been since then, but Christmas Eve sticks out. Because we had been in there for the chocolate cherry bread and things like that. But until then Mason had never had the bagels.

JB: Have you had the pumpernickel? 

DM: I have, they’re very good. You know, it was just great to walk out on a Christmas Eve morning, and come down the hill to the bakery. They had a bunch of good stuff, everything freshly made. It was great.

JB: I agree, having the bakery open during the holidays is a treat. So tell me, what other places do you guys like in the neighborhood? 

DM: We used to love Park Tavern, we can’t wait for them to reopen. Mostly for the brunch.

JB: Supposedly soon.

DM: We love Il Pollaio a lot. That’s actually one we can’t live without.

GM: We like North Beach Sushi.

DM: We like China Live. We love OJ’s. Chubby Noodle, occasionally.

GM: Don Pisto’s. What’s Frankie’s place…Portofino. We like them. And Mama’s… 

DM: Yeah, we love Mama’s, Our neighbors behind us, their family started it. And we like Elmer’s place, Red Window.

GM: Oh, and Bodega! Bodega is….it competes with Tony’s, almost.

DM: That’s our new place. When we’re not at Tony’s, we’re there. Have you tried the breakfast burrito, Saturday morning?

JB: I have!

DM: It’s so good.

JB: Guys, it has been great finally meeting you. Thanks again.