Did Chef Thomas McNaughton need another insanely popular restaurant with lines in front of it at all hours? Probably not. This is his fourth endeavor in the Mission (yay us!) and we’re fortunate to have it. Apparently, McNaughton had always wanted a pizza place, but the original Flour + Water on Harrison turned into more of a pasta emporium. To be honest, I went years ago, after it first opened, and I wasn’t enamored enough to go back, but I know that those lines never got shorter.
F+W Pizzeria opened up in the old Farina pizza spot, and thank god, it has forever erased the bad taste that place left in my mouth. The old space was cute AF, but F+W put their own spin on it, employing gorgeous jade green Heath Ceramic tiles under the long dining counter, modern copper bowl light fixtures, and glowing wood-topped counters and tables.
The BF and I snagged a table inside for our first visit. We started out with the Caesar salad.
Not too garlicky, refreshing and crispy, with perfect eggs and silken white anchovies.
Next, the ricotta meatballs.
Ma che buono! Meltingly good, made with pork, beef & prosciutto, and something deliciously lemony in the perfectly delicious marinara. A piece of pizza dough comes with to sop it all up.
BF chose our pizza this evening.
The OG Bear – topped with spinach, mushrooms, mozzarella and taleggio. First, let me rhapsodize about that crust: perfect, puffy, crispy, shattery, tender, charred goodness. Everything one requires in a pizza crust. As for the toppings, I personally think taleggio on pizza can be a little overwhelming, and maybe it was just a tad too much after the rich umami-ness of the meatball and the salad – I only managed one slice. But don’t get me wrong: This is GODDAMNED GOOD PIZZA.
Yes, you can eat well and support local journalism.
Our second outing was even better. We sat at the counter this time so that we could chat with our pizzaiolos.
Those pizza ovens are fired up to 600 degrees, and each pizza takes approximately 5-6 minutes to bake.
We started out with a chopped salad.
This is what all chopped salads should be – the ur salad, if you will. Crunchy, salty, and fresh, in a robust red wine vinaigrette. They accidentally left off the salami slivers, but we didn’t miss them at all (they kindly comped us dessert later.) I thought we’d never see the bottom of this huge bowl, but we finished every last leaf.
Next, the burrata and stone fruit salad.
I could have happily set up a homestead in this bowl. Juicy peaches, creamy burrata, toasted pistachios, chilies, greens, and mint. An inspired combination of tastes and textures. May be the best thing I’ve had here. This will obviously be a seasonal thing; so if you see it, get it.
Our pizza tonight was the house-made sausage with mozzarella, fresh rosemary, tomatoes, and Gaeta olives.
Yowza! Again, the epitome of what pizza should be: Crispy, blistered, juicy, bendy… everything just played together so nicely. South Jersey boy done good! I’d be hard-pressed not to get this one again.
The BF and I were already saying this place was going into our own personal rotation, but I just had to try it one more time. Third visit was with a veggie friend, and we scored tables outside.
We split fried mozzarella sticks.
You’ve never had fried mozz until you’ve had these. Ultra crunchy on the outside, melting creaminess on the inside, served with that piquant marinara. Capelletti (slightly less bitter than Aperol) Spritz – their signature summer cocktail – was refreshing and light.
For our pie, we ordered the zucchini, ricotta with pea leaves, mint pesto, and chili.
Isn’t that gorgeous? It would have been perfect if it hadn’t needed salt – desperately. Even the mint pesto needed salt. I dribbled some of their Calabrian chili sauce over my slice, and then it was perfect. Eh, one off dish, I wouldn’t hold it against them.
However, the next dish.
A side of asparagus, mushrooms, and pine nuts in a charred spring onion vinaigrette with dijon. My dining companion liked it ok but said she wouldn’t get it again. To me, after all the good things I’d had here, this was not simply dull; there was no char flavor at all, the dressing was too tart, the pine nuts tasted like they might have been stale…. Feh.
Thankfully, dessert saved the day.
Fior di latte soft-serve, with olive oil and sea salt – a personal favorite. This combination – creamy, sweet, salty, herbaceous – is downright elegant.
There are no reservations, and just like at the original Flour + Water, expect a line. There’s a take-out window where you can get an $8.00 “slice” (it’s about half a pizza), and I was told you can actually walk up (no call-ins), place an order for any pizza on the menu, and walk home with your box.
Chef McNaughton just got it right here. And now I feel sad every time I walk by this corner and I’m not stopping to eat. Don’t you make that mistake.
Flour + Water Pizzeria
702 Valencia St.