Americano Restaurant—Best Pizza in Town, She Said
The hostess said it. As she navigated us through a compactly packed bar at the stylish Americano Restaurant in San Francisco, I caught a glimpse of a perfect Napolitan pie carried to someone’s table. I asked which pizza was her favorite, and she said, “Mushroom, of course.” That’s how I knew I was in the right place. Given any choice of chef’s creations in our increasingly gourmet pizza-oriented culinary culture, I’d choose “mushroom” time and again.
My photographer/husband and I ventured into Americano at the corner of Mission and the Embarcadero on our way home from a tiring work assignment. The restaurant occupies a spacious “corner office” with a heated patio in Hotel Vitale, which, as with all Joie de Vivre properties, follows the three rules of real estate, “location, location, location.” Our original intent was to glance at the to-go menu and maybe pick up something nice and fresh for a quiet dinner at home.
The dining room’s inviting interior with wrought iron, wood, leather, and soft golden lights promised a relaxing retreat, so we decided to sit down and dine in. Soon we were feeling right at home, surrounded by smiling diners obviously enjoying their food, and watched by an oversized photograph of Colum McCartan (Vitale and Americano designer) placed on the ceiling among other portraits of prominent San-Franciscans.
Then the food came along. We started with Pizza Funghi (of course!) topped with king trumpet, maitake, chanterelle, and alba mushrooms, smothered with fontina cheese, and drizzled with black truffle oil.
To get a better understanding of Americano’s seasonal pies with the majority of their ingredients coming from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Marketplace across the street, we ordered Pizza Fresca. A perfect Italian tricolore, it was bright-red with crushed tomatoes; creamy-white with De Stefano burrata, and refreshingly green with stripes of basil leaves. A combination of healthy tomato acidity and delectable cheesy mildness interspersed with fragrant greens tasted like…pure Roman decadence! It seemed “the best pizza in town” lived up to its name.
I stepped closer to the open kitchen and asked Executive Chef Kory Stewart some questions. Turned out, his magic pizzas were handcrafted in house, and baked for 4-5 minutes in a 750-degree oven. In his creative preparations, Chef Kory follows the spirit of Italian cuisine, using spices like Sicilian fennel, Italian sweet peppers, olive oils, and fresh cheeses. He puts three ever-popular pizzas (the third one Pizza Toscana with salami, mozzarella and crushed tomatoes) and one special daily on the menu, along with various antipasti, primi, secondi, and contorni. I asked the Chef about his favorite dishes, being fully aware that it’s like asking a mother about her favorite children. Nonetheless, I got my answers and we returned to the table ready for more delicious surprises.
Squash blossom risotto had diced green and yellow summer squash in it, that retained perfect crispiness thanks to the process of roasting before dicing. Orange squash blossom petals were incorporated into a creamy mixture of mozzarella burrata and lemon verbena butter (making me wish I could just lick my plate).
The Heritage pork chop was not only beautiful to behold – I can’t remember another piece of meat looking that appetizing – but also smartly complemented by the chewy nuttiness of black barley; bright-green spinach, cooked not a second longer than necessary; golden grapes smoked over apple wood chips, and faintly-sweet balsamic reduction.
Full-bodied Barbera d’Alba and Sangiovese made perfect companions to our meal before the dolci arrived – chocolate cake with mint ice cream in caramel swirls, and a seasonal tomato-watermelon sorbet. By the end of our dinner we felt that one visit to Americano Restaurant & Bar was nearly not enough. Fortunately its location in the city is the one that simply cannot be missed.
Address: 8 Mission Street, San Francisco. Phone: 1-415-278-3777.
Americano Restaurant website