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From Casey’s to Cybelles, my night in SF last night

Yes I just put two totally different Pizza names in the same sentence, and for Casey’s sake, perhaps this will be the only time. I decided that yesterday was the day I’d huff it out to the Edge of Golden Gate Park for some of SF’s infamous BBQ pizza from Caseys Pizza. Sometimes you gotta go check out the competition, and sometimes you might even learn a thing or two, as i did last night. You don’t need a giant short bus and huge ass stone beast to make some killer pie. You really just need a Volvo wagon, a couple Webers, a couple 100K BTU Burners, and some great dough skillz.

After spending an hour in the DMV for nothing, I was ready for some Lunch. I thought I was going to SF a little earlier in the day, but it ended up being 6 pm by the time I actually got to Stanyan and Waller. Over hill and dale I trudged, from my house on foot to BART, from BART to MUNI, and another short walk through Cole valley via a wine and spirits shop, dinner was not far away. And I was hungry!

I was in search of Caseys Pizza. Brick floors on modified weber BBQ’s, massive burners and just a couple little tables under a canopy. Luxury mansion he was working in there this night. His normal set up is one BBQ, one table and one assistant working dough or the oven or both. Perhaps you’ve already seen him around town, working a sidewalk in front of a trendy bar, it seems like a good life to me. Small, compact, and it just barely fits in his wagon. Thats kinda nice. But enuff chit chat, how was the pizza you ask?

I am no expert here, but I do eat a lot o pizza, and I have to say it has the elements of a great pie. Perhaps the process has some drawbacks, like the brick floor maybe gets too hot, and the space is soo small, they do cook in like 90 seconds to 2 minutes, really fast. maybe a little hard to control, definitely no time to look away and take another order. A fair amount of burning was going on this day, not unacceptable by any means, but burned a bit on the bottoms. That burning does help give it that flavor that I’m always seeking, the flavor I believe comes from a well seasoned oven mixed with the right amount of char. The dough gets that nice carmelized color and comes out lookin pretty darn tasty.

My order was ready and it was steaming. the cool breeze (and I use that term loosely) from the pacific allowed me to try it fairly quickly after it came off the grill. The double strength Chili flakes did get me a little at first, damn those are really hot, but they were working. Thick wedges of Pepperoni, a little bit of cheese and a fine tomato sauce, which I suspect was a san marzano or similar, with little else in it. I was so fascinated with everything else I forgot to ask about the sauce. Darn, guess I’ll have to go back and try it again.

The weather was changing and I had to run back across town to meet up with friends, so I wrapped up the now cold final slice and shoved it into my backpack. I told him I was taking it back to the east bay to examine it more closely, perhaps even enlist the Grilled cheese guy’s science background to extract that essence, that something I wanted in my own pizza, muahah hah hah…But I got to my friends house, and they had just ordered a Cybelle’s Large combo pizza. I was like, dude, he has boxes too! I coulda brought you a couple pies, but no.

Wow, what a shift, from artisan, to abysmal, Cybelles tastes funny to me now. Not to say it ever tasted good to me, but there was a time when that level of pizza was totally acceptable, hell it was all most of us knew for years. Its so sweet, tons of sugar in that dough, and a lot of oil slathered on it too, to help it crisp up and hide the fact that its full of crap. I am a pizza whore, and I ate at least two+ more slices of that stuff, and then remembered, wait, I have something better! Ah hah, science experiments aside, toss this bad boy in your oven and smoke it, lets just eat it now. here try this, see what you missed?

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