Walking through the Mission at night from the bus stop (14th and Mission via the 49), always makes me think how much I would never want to walk these dark warehouse-lined streets alone. I know for a fact that it’s my spoiled Pac Heights priss talking when I say that, because I’ve lived in scarier neighborhoods. Not that the Mission is even really that scary—it’s home to some of the best food I’ve ever had, and while the outskirts may look deserted, one only need to navigate to the main streets lit by buzzing food and drink establishments to find where life is thriving.
Tonight’s excursion was driven by my curiosity to try YAPP (yet another pizza place), one that I’ve heard rave on top of rave about: Little Star Pizza. I’m not sure why, but when I first heard about it, I was expecting a humble pizza stand serving up NY style slices. And again, I’m not sure why, but I was genuinely excited about amazing NY style thin slice pizza.
However, when we got to the corner of Valencia and 15th, we saw a dark storefront with tinted windows, a single sign, and a small crowd of huddled hipsters talking and smoking right outside the front doors. It was 9:15 p.m., and Little Star closes at 10:00 p.m., yet inside there was hardly room to stand in the little waiting area right in front of the patron-filled bar. We put our name on the list, which was tended to by a sullen looking host who looked bored with the crowd, and with us.
That’s fine by me, really. As I sit here writing this, I’m trying to figure out how to describe the ambiance and the crowd for would-be Little Star diners without rubbing anyone the wrong way—I’ll put it like this: it’s only in the waiting area, and perhaps immediately outside, where I felt just the slightest twinge of pretension.
But of course, once seated, surrounded by familiar faces of friends around a familiar dining table, being served with the familiar friendly smile of a server who was just like any other friendly server, Little Star became just like every other restaurant with one bold exception: amazing, thick-crust pizza.
We ordered a thin and a thick, Supreme and the Little Star with sausage, respectively. The thin-crust was nothing spectacular. But the thick-crust pizza was superb. I want to say it was the cornmeal, which gave the crust a very distinct flavor. Even now, all I can really think about is the amazing cornmeal crust. Rare is the pizza that has a crust that just about equals the flavor of the actual pizza, and rare is the review where I am singing praises to cornmeal. If you’re a big tomato sauce fan, you may be a tad disappointed in how balanced the sauce-cheese-crust ratio is on Little Star’s pies. I like a lot of sauce, but being able to taste each element was a refreshing change to my preference for scoops of red under piles of cheese.
So, hats off to the Mission, and to Little Star Pizza. If you can survive dark alleys and smoking hipsters who all wear the same thing, you’ll be rewarded with what I would bravely term the best pie in the Mission.
Little Star Pizza
400 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Monday-Thursday: 12:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.