Observations on Food in the Bay Area
Little Star Pizza
website - located on Divisadero just south of McAllister, this hole-in-the-wall pizza joint looks more like a trendy bar when you walk in the door. It's dimly lit, with a very rectangular shape emphasized by the blocky rectangles of art on the walls, seating down the left, and a moderately sized bar along the right wall, with black curtains at the front and back. One immediately notices a strange discrepancy in seating - normal, dark tables and chairs in the back left, similarly styled dark stools and high tables front and center, and very low tables with fuzzy ottomans adjacent to the front windows that look as though they'd be trouble for anyone more than 4 feet tall. You'll also notice a jukebox, which has one of the more entertaining collections of music I've seen - everything from The Cars, to Johnny Cash, Radiohead, to a number of Spanish/Latin looking titles I didn't recognize. If you're there on a night with one (or even two, if you're as lucky as we were) large parties, you'll also notice the disadvantage of the hard, reflective walls - the restaurant is LOUD. Not painfully so, perhaps, but then I'm in a rock band and who knows how much hearing I've got left. But there were definately times when it was hard to carry on a conversation.
But enough about the space; how's the food?!
A basic selection of beers on tap and by the glass, as well as a few glasses and bottles of wine (mostly European). My girlfriend got a glass of French wine whose name I've neglected to write down which was very acidic, tasted rather young, and was much more palatable with the pizza than on its own.
Mixed Salad - organic field greens, cherry tomatoes, red bell peppers, red onions, gorgonzola, chopped walnuts, and house-made vinaigrette. We got the small, and it was plenty to share, knowing the pizza was coming. Very tasty - all quite fresh ingredients, and a pleasing mix. A good basic salad.
Well, I'm a deep dish Chicago-style nut, so there really wasn't a choice on what style to order, though I will note for the record that they make a thin crust as well.
Deep Dish Classic - sausage, mushrooms, green bell peppers, onions. Wow. Must admit, I was quite delightfully suprised - it's not just good, it's really really good. A quick refresher on Chicago style pie for those who aren't familiar: the main distinctions are that it's made in a deep pan, and the sauce is on top of everything else. The first things I noticed were the little differences from the other 2 kings of Chicago Pie in the bay area, Zachary's and Patxi's: Little Star uses a corn meal crust that's heavy on the corn meal - almost too much in my opinion, as a number of times I could really taste a lot of the corn meal with the rest of the pizza, but it was never bad, just different. Also unlike the other two, it's a single layer crust (as opposed to having an additional ultrathin layer over top of the cheese), and very crispy and crunchy throughout the entire pie. One of only two actual complaints - the crust is sufficiently hard and crunchy that around the edge it can actually be difficult to bite through without scratching the roof of your mouth. Another minor difference is that while the other 2 place many of their toppings below the cheese layer, Little Star places all of their toppings on top of the cheese, with only the sauce above them. This I believe allows them to run their ovens hotter, which would explain the crispier crust, while still allowing the toppings to cook through as they're not buried beneath the cheese. The sauce is more similar to Zachary's than Patxi's, in that it's largely composed of big hearty chunks of tomato, and it has a light dusting of oregano on top which gives it a very attractive appearance (and certainly doesn't hurt the flavor). Unlike Zachary's (also possibly due to higher oven temperatures) it's a much drier, thicker sauce, with none of the watery runoff often experienced at the East Bay pizzeria. It's got a rich, pleasantly spiced acidic flavor. My only other complaint is with their sausage - I personally found it a bit too, for lack of a better word, gamey in flavor, which is very noticeable in the enormous chunks that dotted the pizza.
That all said, it's really, really damn good. Better or worse than the other 2? I honestly can't tell. I think I'd have to arrange an ABC comparison, with a slice of each side by side. But it's most certainly comparable.
Just bring your earplugs.