A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Simple Food

During my family's recent visit to San Francisco for my grandma Masako's 100th birthday, my sister Dawn, her husband Rowland, my boy Joe, and I drove down to Fisherman's Wharf, a tourist trap, in search of tickets for the Alcatraz tour. After watching a seagull swallow a plastic tartar sauce packet whole, thoroughly disgusted by the filth, we made our way back towards the shop with the big yellow sign advertising Alcatraz tickets, where we met Dan, who along with the car with the giant pink mustache across its grill, which got right on my a-- on the steepest hill in San Francisco -- I almost drifted back into the car with the pink mustache -- became one of two villains on our trip. Dan read us information on a Hop On Hop Off brochure describing a package deal, which included Alcatraz Tickets, a night tour, and 2 days worth of rides on the Hop On Hop Off. Classic bait and switch! Not that I really cared, since all I really cared about was the Alcatraz tour since Joe's heart was set on it, but Dan misrepresented what he was offering, which upset my sister Dawn for days. There was no night tour. The two day pass was not included, we got a 1-day pass. Joe and I did, however, get our Alcatraz tickets. More importantly, we discovered an unexpected treasure immediately after our encounter with Dan, a man my sister Dawn considered a total shyster.

As we were leaving Dan's ticket scalping shop, we bumped into his supplier, Gianni, who was wearing an Oakland Raider's jersey. We struck up a conversation. Gianni reminisced about how much he had loved Al Davis. We asked Gianni where me might find a good place to eat. Gianni handed us a business card of his friend, the executive chef of Pinocchio's, and advised that we head away from Fisherman's Wharf, and walk about 10 blocks towards North Beach. Gianni said that Pinocchio's was within walking distance, and to tell them that Gianni had sent us. It was more like a 15 block walk. There, we were greeted by a person who must have been the owner. He said, "Welcome to Pinocchio's, where the food is good, but the service is lousy." He sat down at our table and had a Peroni with us. We asked for his recommendation. He replied simply, "pasta." As he made his rounds, he serenaded his guests with Opera. His regulars joined in.

Normally, I am the first to finish. That night, I finished last. I savored every morsel, smelled deeply for every hint of every ingredient, noticed every texture as it rubbed against my tongue. The portions were not large, but they were perfect. Pinocchio's thus became my standard for simple, authentic Italian food. The owner seconded my observation that authentic Italian food is simple, with each ingredient allowed it's own unique voice.

Tonight, I searched and found an excuse to drive my new used 2012 Ford Focus, which I bought earlier in the day from Khalid over at Enterprise Rental Cars in Woodbridge. My little schnauzer Mabel rode shotgun on my drive up the street to the 24 Hour CVS in King's Park. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a new Italian restaurant, Giardino's had opened up in the same location as an Italian restaurant which about a year ago had spiraled into oblivion through mismanagement and lousy food -- the last three pizza's we bought there were badly burned -- and the restaurant food was worse, but the staff was friendly. After the third burnt pizza, Joe never let us buy pizza from there again. After I discovered an unpleasant surprise in my food one night when we went there for dinner, we were done.

I noticed that Giardino is affiliated with Paradiso, one of my favorite restaurants. I went to the original Franconia Road location when it first opened up in 1991, and dropped in recently when I had to go to DMV to renew my license. I overheard a couple comment that the menu looks the same, but that they would give the pizza a try. I went in, hoping to try a slice, simply curious. I was introduced to Tony and his wife, who own Paradiso. Tony and his wife told me that they had just opened up last Tuesday. I mentioned to Tony and his wife what the couple had said about the menu being about the same, but shared with Tony how excited I was about the affiliation with Paradiso, and was certain that the quality would be great. Tony and his wife shared with me how the grease had been about an inch thick, and how he had hired professionals to steam clean the place. Tony's wife handed me a VIP discount card, offering 10% off. They offered me a drink, but as sleep deprived as I was, I declined.

Tony explained to me that unlike the chains, Giardino's makes the dough from scratch, every day, and that the cheese is authentic high quality mozzerela which they shave from blocks. After I related to Tony my experience with Pinocchio's, he agreed that simple is best, and said that he prefers a simple cheese pizza, so I ordered a 12" pizza, hoping to reconnect my boy Joe to authentic wood fired pizza. Delicious! Joe loved it! Tomorrow, we will order a pizza for dinner. For years, I've felt we've needed an authentic Italian restaurant close to home. Thanks to Tony and his wife, we finally have one.