Gioia means joy in Italian. Pizza is joy. If your surname is Gioia, you have almost no choice but to open an excellent pizzeria to spread the pizza love and joy to everyone. And so it came to be.
Will and Karen Gioia have two locations, Berkeley and San Francisco, and I had my first delivery from the San Francisco location yesterday. I ordered the Julian (the legends abound, I had to try it), the avocado and arugula salad, and a cannoli. Did I feel the joy of Gioia? Yes! from the very first bite of the Julian, a kale and Calabrese sausage pie with lots of fresh garlic and red onion, I exclaimed, 'bravissimo!'. The pizza box had thoughtful instructions on folding the pizza and supporting it as you guide it into your happy mouth (this is thin-crust New York-style pizza, after all). The flavors! the rustic sausage was tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, and the kale was delicate with a slightly smoky flavor. I never knew kale could be so understatedly elegant, but I had never had the Julian before. The all-important crust? Yes, crisp and light and perfect. I had been eyeing the cannoli while eating my first slice of the Julian, and soon I could resist no more. This cannoli is as large as it is beautiful. The shell is house-made (like everything else at Gioia) and stuffed with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips! And topped with pistachios and powdered sugar. There was no turning back from my first bite into the fabulously crunchy shell. This was the most delicious cannoli I have ever had, and I have spent several happy visits eating my way through Italy and here in San Francisco's Little Italy. This one was the best. Finito. Several hours later, I was ready for the salad, and brava for this salad! Arugula, golden raisins, pecorino, avocado, farrow (nice twist!), a little radish, lots of toasted almonds dressed with a sherry-shallot vinaigrette made for a meal unto itself. There is such an emphasis on organic, farm-to-table ingredients at Gioia. This salad showcased the high quality (yet down-to-earth and reasonably priced) jewel of our pizzeria in The City. But what about the leftover Julian? Well, air fryers were born for reheating thin crust pizza. And how was it on day two? The joy came back in full for an encore. The Gioia!