“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.” – Epicurus
Lately, I’ve realized the value of having friends with children. Of course, it is easier to bring your toddler along on a coffee date when your friend will also have a squirmy little man in tow, but that’s not the reason why I’ve decided to unabashedly seek out dinner companions who have children (and who hopefully want to bring them along occasionally.) It’s not that I can’t have conversations about things other than my child, I certainly can. It is just so much more interesting, in my mind, to have conversations about planning trips to Legoland, which Hawaiian resorts have the best swimming pool and where to find toddler ice skates. I simple enjoy my meal more these days when I’m sharing it with someone who knows to ask the waiter at the pizza place to bring a few pieces of dough to the table for the boys to play with. (genius, I know!)
So that’s how we ended up in North Beach on Saturday night. Our friends live there and Tony’s is a pizza place that I’ve been wanted to try. It seems that every time I open a foodie email, I see the opening of another trendy pizza place. I realized last week, with some amount of shock, that Ryan only had one piece of pizza in his life. We had to remedy that situation and it seemed only fitting that his first time at a true pizzeria should be at the home of a nine time World Pizza Champion. (Seriously, Tony Gemignani won the most prestigious Italian pizza contest, Trofeo Citta di Napoli Campionato Internazionale per Pizzaioli.)
We arrived at Tony’s at 5:00 and there was already a wait. Parking in North Beach is never that much fun, but it was also the 2010 Festa Coloniale Italiana so it was even more challenging. We met up with LB’s friend Max and his parents and after we put our name in, the six of us walked over to the festival in front of the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club. LB is mesmerized by all things musical and the Neapolitan music that was coming from the stage was no exception. I think I am going to get him an accordion.
After a little while, the boys got tired of the festival and so we wandered over to Washington Square Park where the boys worked up their appetites by running in circles around a big tree. They were having fun, but I was starting to get worried that we were burning precious dinnertime attention. Max’s mom seemed to be thinking the same thing and she went over to check on our table. With some people, I would have worried that they wouldn’t get the job done and that we’d be waiting another 45 minutes. Max’s mom, however, is from New York and so I relaxed because I knew we’d be seated soon.
Five minutes later we were seated at a table outside. There were so many kids in the place that they were low on high chairs. The hostess promised to bring two highchairs or boosters when they were available. In the meantime, LB sat on Matt’s lap and Max made himself at home in a regular chair. I didn’t enjoy that we were given a table for 4 people with 6 of us. It was definitely tight, especially since we really had five chairs with the extra seat for the booster.
The waiter arrived promptly. Max’s mama asked the waiter to bring out some pizza dough for the little guys. LB found it fascinating to wrap his cars in the dough (a new type of calzone?) and later in the dinner, Max’s dad discovered that the dough made a perfect pillow to rest his iphone on so that Max could watch Yo Gabba Gabba. It still amazes me the things that seem so normal to me now, like mashing a $300 piece of electronics into a piece of sticky pizza dough because it makes a little guy smile.
The menu consists of Neapolitan, Sicilian and American Pizzas. The back side of the menu features a kids menu of mini pizzas, ravioli and breadsticks. The kids menu is an excellent value. We ordered the kids bread sticks and a mini margherita pizza. The “bread sticks” weren’t actually sticks, but rather a delicious white pizza that probably would have fed the kids on its own. At $7 the mini margherita was much more than half the size of the full pizza, which was priced at $19. It was a lot of food for our little guys, but they were up to the challenge. LB realized what he had been missing all this time and he gobbled up four slices.
Our food arrived shortly after. In retrospect, we didn’t need two appetizers and two pizzas for the four of us, but that didn’t stop us from nearly finishing everything. For the true pizza aficionado, I suggest Michael Bauer’s review in the San Francisco Chronicle as a pre-meal resource to aid in ordering between the types of pizzas.
Overall, the food was great and the service was friendly. The noise level was high enough that a few talkative toddlers weren’t even noticed. It’s a great spot for a fun pizza night.