North Beach has just gotten another standout option for pizza, courtesy of one of San Francisco's leading restaurant groups.
For the past 14 years, the Mission Cal-Italian stalwart Flour + Water has been best known for its excellent and often innovative pastas. With most diners laser-focused on the noodles, F+W's pizza has never gotten the attention it deserves.
The medium-thick, slightly crunchy pizzas and shrimp scampi at Flour + Water Pizzeria.(Kristen Loken)
But it's a different story across town at the recently opened Flour + Water Pizzeria from co-chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow, who've traded their usual Neapolitan-style pizzas for more complex 13-inch pies: The 'za here involves a four-day dough production process and is cooked at a lower temperature and for longer. The medium-thick crust is a little crunchy and tangy—think sourdough vibes.
Flour + Water Pizzeria originally debuted at 18th Street and Valencia in 2019; its menu was pretty similar to what you'll find today, with a concise selection of white and red sauce–based pies, a handful of notable starters and salads, and soft serve for dessert.
The early leader for most compelling pizza takes a cue from an iconic pasta: a pitch-perfect cacio e pepe that balances a blast of black pepper with fresh mozzarella, pecorino crema, and fontina. The Hawaiian pizza, meanwhile, should win over skeptics of the genre with a delightful mix of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors in capicola ham, thinly sliced pineapple, pickled Fresno chilies, and chili crisp.
Mozzarella sticks are a gooey, wonderful appetizer at Flour + Water Pizzeria.(Kristen Locken)
Before the pizzas arrive, the summer chop salad is a master class in simplicity, with just the right proportion of creamy Italian dressing to the various components. Run, don’t walk for the seasonal summer stone fruit starter, where ultra juicy peach and plum slices mingle with an ensemble of fennel, ricotta, and pistachios. (It's only $10 and just as impressive as one that might sell for double at a more upscale bistro.) The popular mozzarella sticks are back, and there are also ricotta meatballs and head-on shrimp scampi for tables looking to order more substantial small plates.
At dessert time, it’s all about Double 8 Dairy buffalo gelato soft serve in fior di latte and salted caramel (or swirl), accompanied by myriad toppings including chocolate sauce, chocolate cookie crumb, and superb brown butter cereal crunch, all made in-house.
Flour + Water Pizzeria is a worth a trip just for cocktails by Elmer Mejicanos (pictured here) and Samuel Bogue.(Kristen Loken)
Cocktails are a standout at this new location with a drinks menu designed by Elmer Mejicanos, one SF's top bartenders, and Flour + Water Hospitality Group beverage director Samuel Bogue. The house negroni and biscotti espresso martini are sure to be the North Beach crowd's favorites, but mixology buffs will appreciate a few clever creations like the pineapple daiquiri with Amaro Montenegro and toasted sesame.
Wine drinkers should keep an eye out for the house Pasta Sauce wines, made in collaboration with Subject to Change Wine Co. across the bay in Richmond.
Longtime San Francisco foodies will remember this North Beach space as Rose Pistola, which operated here for 21 years. After sitting dark for six years, it’s particularly nice to see the prime address looking sharp after a revamp by architect Gavin Knowles and Lundberg Design (The Slanted Door, Nari, and Mourad).
The stylish yet relaxed 75-seat pizzeria includes both a cocktail bar and a pizza bar overlooking the kitchen. Rose Pistola's mosaic tile floor remains, beneath exposed ceiling pipes and wooden beams for rustic contrast.
After six years of sitting dark, the former Rose Pistola space shines again in North Beach as Flour + Water Pizzeria.Kristen Loken
"It was really a dream to be able to open our new flagship pizzeria not only in North Beach, but in the former Rose Pistola space," says Pollnow, noting that the layout also allowed for a dough room. “Rose Pistola's impact on the community can't be overstated, and this location in particular was everything we could have ever wanted for this new chapter."
If it's takeout you're after, swing by F+W's Pizza Shop on the Stockton Street side for a “Big Slice” (an oversized square slice of the day), whole pies, plus a boozy slushie. Go for a slice or an energetic three-course dinner, and look out for more Flour + Water pizzerias expected to open later in the Bay Area.
// Flour + Water Pizzeria is open daily from 11:30am to 10pm; 532 Columbus Ave. (North Beach), fwpizzeria.com.
Flour + Water Pizzeria co-chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow.(Kristen Loken)