I’ve never been a crust person. But after the first bite of my deep-dish slice at Patxi’s Chicago Pizza (511 Hayes Street), I was converted from my picky non-crust-eating ways. My taste buds thanked me for reconsidering the culinary magic behind pizza crust.
According to the take-out box, the restaurant’s title is pronounced “pah’-cheese,” the nickname of co-owner Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz, whose family roots lie in the Basque province of Spain. Nestled in Hayes Valley, the restaurant constantly overflows with families, buddies out for a slice and a beer, or couples on a casual date. With such a dedicated fan base, the restaurant even opened a second location in the Marina District (3318 Fillmore Street) in October 2009 and plans to open its Noe Valley location (4042 24th Street) on Dec. 1. All three San Francisco locations sprouted from the original Patxi’s in Palo Alto.
Coming here for dinner may be a bit time consuming — a thin crust pizza requires twenty minutes of wait time and their signature deep-dish creations nearly forty — and the staff even recommends calling the order in before showing up. But luckily for me and my family, we had gotten there before six o’clock, knowing that the young, friendly wait staff would definitely be busy later that evening.
From the menu of salads at welcoming prices, I chose the Greek ($6), a fresh start to the meal. For the main attraction, my dinner party opted for a 14-inch pan pizza (a lighter version of their stuffed pie) filled with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and Italian sausage ($28). Though the salad was too small for a family, we all enjoyed the bell pepper, Kalamata olive, feta cheese and red wine vinaigrette. Though the wait time tested my hunger, our waiter eventually arrived with a “Cheers” and a steaming, crimson pizza pie before us.
With one look at the slice oozing on my plate, I knew that this pizza required a knife and fork. I relished the tangy homemade tomato sauce, the stretchy, creamy mozzarella and the chewy herb-seasoned Italian sausage. Unfortunately, the taste of the sun-dried tomato was lost in the overwhelming essence of the sauce; but other than a few bucks wasted on an unnecessary topping, there was no harm done.
Though the heavy deep-dish slice nearly snapped in half when lifted, the crust supported its exemplary taste nonetheless. At the bottom of the three-layer crust was a crunchy exterior, sprinkled in cornmeal and crisped to a golden brown. The next layer was almost buttery and flaky in composition, while the uppermost layer blended beautifully with the filling. For a moment there a bite of crust reminded me of eating a forkful of creamy homemade chicken pot pie.
I guess I had my first affair with pizza crust that night. From now on, I know I’m willing to sacrifice a long wait and at least $30 if it means savoring another voluptuous slice at Patxi’s.