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314 Columbus Avenue/Broadway St., SF
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Pretrial hearing at Great Water

Out front. Vardigan

Back in 1997, reader-eaters Armadillo Joe and Slick 50 moved to San Francisco and needed jobs. There were few leads. I was "between jobs" at the time, so I was no use either. One day we wound up getting barked into a restaurant on Columbus, and the manager took a shine to Joe. Within days Joe, a landscape architect, was lugging his armadillo armor around this restaurant, Columbus Pizza, waiting tables for the first time. So beloved was he there that he landed Slick 50 a job too, again despite a dearth of experience.

After enduring late hours on weekends, crummy tips, and a dramatic incarceration of the manager, Joe and 50 quickly moved on, as did Columbus Pizza. In fact, the space has become a revolving storefront that rivals the fickle corner of 9th and Folsom. About 14 name changes later, the newest passer-through is Pizzelle, which is a lot like Columbus Pizza, except I don't know what kind of dirt bikes the waiters rode in grade school. In fact, we didn't see the waiters much at all. Their approach to service featured a determined lack of it on this night.

The best thing we had was an appetizer, the French fries. They had Gorgonzola cheese sprinkled on them, a first in my eating history. The pizza was decent, although finding the so-called topping of prosciutto required a lengthy excavation. I believe Judge Turner positively identified a piece, eventually. I tried hard to taste it on the pizza but don't think I ever did.

For the rest of the meal I found myself drawing odd and probably unfortunate comparisons. The bread, which they are quite generous with, reminded me of Little Caesar's Crazy Bread (kind of a compliment), and the fettucine sat in a carbonara that was too much like Lipton Noodles & Sauce, which I never wanted to taste again after college.

In the end the massive portions (I've never left a courtroom so full), good prices, and fond memories of Columbus Pizza's finest two waiters save this from roachdom.



First of all, the good stuff. I have two recommendations. The beer-battered fries with garlic and Gorgonzola were really nice. Hot and steamy inside, super crispy outside, with the toppings of the flavorful garlic and cheese. Although they skimped on the Gorgonzola, the portion was large and for $4 the fries were right on. The other goody item was the pizza. We went for Sicilian style, a thick square pie with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese (a small is $9). We added prosciutto and garlic for additional pennies. The crust was thinner than I expected but that's okay by me -- it was just the way I like it. I'll have to try their thin crust next time; it must be thinner. The prosciutto seemed more like an ingredient than a topping. There could have been more for a topping that costs double but there was the hint of flavor so it wasn't a total loss.

One item I had high hopes for was their dinner "bread" (free with our meal). Judge Turner was raving about the delicious rolls they serve up hot, fresh, and covered in oil, cheese, and garlic. Well, our first batch was cold, definitely had been sitting around for a while without much of the goods stuck to 'em. The next batch was better, seemed fresher or at least freshly rolled in the goods, more flavorful this time but none of the piping hot freshness they should've had.

The main courses we selected were so-so. The carbonara sauce ($9.50) on our fettuccine was a little bland and a little too thick, seemed more like an alfredo sauce, not what I was looking for. The portion was a good size but not worth the price. The Chicken Parmesan ($9.50) was acceptable, nothing exciting or special about it, but why eat Parm here when there is better Parm out there.

The atmosphere lacks charm and the service was at a minimum. There seemed to be more of an interest in stocking the drink cooler than tending to the customer. This brings me back to the start. If you want a slice or a snack during or after your night of North Beach hangin', pop on by Pizzelle. They're open 'til midnight Sunday through Thursday and 'til 3 AM on weekends.

Pizza 'n such.Turner

Another random, roaming selection for the Court brought us to Pizzelle. But only after enjoying a pre-trial hearing at Great Water Bar & Cafe on Broadway (near Montgomery). Nice beer selection there, and Thai füd to boot. I can't vouch for the grub, as we just weren't in a Thai mood, but you might give it a try, and at least enjoy a cold one in this somewhat unknown watering hole.

But, back to Pizzelle (Di North Beach). I remembered this place as the home of some real tasty fresh garlic rolls, served by the basketful before meals. Sure enough, they still had the rolls -- they just weren't as good as I remembered. A bit stale, perhaps. But I swear, before, they were steaming hot, yeasty, crusty, garlicky, salty, olive-oily, cheesy delights! And, they may be again, if you go.

You might want to go, as the place is PRETTY GOOD. We got the meatball rollin' with some cheesy garlic fries. But wait, it's Gorgonzola cheese on those garlic fries! A different kind of treat there, if a bit skimpy on the Gorgon. Nice and crispy, though, with a crunchy (apparently beer-battered) coating and plenty of garlic.

Then the onslaught of hearty main dishes hit the table. The fettuccine with carbonara sauce was rich and tasty, although perhaps (again) slightly skimpy on the pancetta or whatever bacon-y thing was in there. PRETTY GOOD, though, and a nice big bowl of noodles. The Chicken Parmesan (or, Parmagiano?) was fairly standard. Hefty hunk of chicken there, crispy-fried coating, plenty of cheese and tomato sauce on top, mounds of broccoli and penne on the side. PRETTY GOOD, nothing spectacular. But again, generous portions. Finally, as if we weren't full as ticks already, we split a prosciutto, garlic, tomato, Sicilian-style pizza. Guess what? Skimped on the prosciutto. But, PRETTY GOOD with a decent crust and lots of gooey cheese.

There are surely better Italian joints in North Beach, but the prices, food, and atmosphere are pretty good down there at Pizzelle, so you might check it out if everything else is crowded. If you want.






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