This past weekend, we ventured out to San Francisco’s Italian neighborhood, North Beach and stumbled upon an old landmark famous for it’s wood fired pizzas! I can’t believe that I missed this one – it’s been around since 1935! Growing up in San Francisco, frequenting North Beach ALL the time, and thinking I knew all the Italian restaurants in the vicinity of my own father’s Italian restaurant – it eluded me, somehow! Maybe because it is actually below street level? Maybe because it has a small little sign? Maybe because it is on a side street? Who knows…but, WOW, am I glad I found it! Better late than never, right?
Tomasso’s has been a San Francisco landmark since 1935 when it was started by a family from Naples who wanted to share their pizza with the world! Back then, pizza was not a popular food item – in fact, even in the rest of Italy, they didn’t eat it. Believe it or not, it wasn’t until my parents immigrated to the United States from Northern Italy that they tasted their first pizza. Pizza was unique to Naples, and because of World War II it became popular once the GI’s tried it!! Anyway, this little family from Naples built a wood fire oven and baked their pizzas in the old fashioned way like they did in the Old Country. Back then Tomasso’s was called Lupo’s, and didn’t change it’s name until 1971 when the new owner, Tommy Chin, took it over. Tommy had been a cook with the family for over 30 years and when the original family wanted to retire, he bought the place. He created the same pizzas with the same recipes in the same oven! Two years later, he sold it to another Italian immigrant family and they have owned it ever since. It is a family run affair, with all the members of the family chipping in and working. The walls are frescoed by local artists who painted in exchange for pizzas and pasta!
The restaurant is chaotic – it is loud – but it is a BLAST. They don’t take reservations, so be prepared for a REALLY long wait while waiting for a table to open up. Most of the tables are family style – so you make friends with your neighbors! The waiters run around you….the food comes out quickly….it is frenetic….but you will eat the BEST pizza you have ever had. The range of toppings is extensive and the ingredients are always fresh. The restaurant has a full menu, but since I didn’t eat anything else, I cannot either praise it or boo-hoo it.