New York pizza may get all the glory, but the truth is that San Francisco is a pizza town all its own—just ask the Sodini family, whose San Francisco pizzeria, Golden Boy Pizza, has seen lines out the door every day since opening in 1978.
Golden Boy Pizza founder Peter Sodini grew up passing the time with his nonna and nonno at their Mission District eatery and, as soon as he was old enough, baking focaccia and French bread in his father’s bakery. After graduating from high school, Peter adapted his focaccia recipe for Sicilian-style pizza, creating what’s now lovingly referred to as “Sanfrancilian.” Thirty-seven years later, he, his wife Viki, and their son Alex stay busy with their other Bay Area restaurant, Bertolucci’s, while Peter’s three other sons Julian, Max, and Luca continue the tradition of running Golden Boy as a family.
We spoke to Peter’s son Julian, who manages the pizzeria, about the beauty of a Sicilian-style slice, the best way to work with pizza dough, and the origins of that famous “Golden Boy” name.
Tell us about your pizza. What sets it apart from the rest?
When it comes to pizza, this can be a big factor, as no one likes to fight with a flimsy slice. I love that our dough adds more depth than you typically get with a pizza: you’re able to enjoy the best of both worlds, getting a crispy underside while the center remains soft and fluffy. I think, by putting a twist on a traditional Sicilian-style dough, that San Franciscans appreciate having something they can call their own.
Your menu is short; you only offer five flavors. Why is that?
We have always kept things simple and had a “take it or leave it” mentality at Golden Boy. We would rather limit the options that we offer and know that we’re putting out something great, not just good. It helps to ensure our customers receive the highest-quality product possible and have that product be consistent every time they come back. That, and we only have so much space in our window display! We might even be a little superstitious about change after all these years.
Where does the name “Golden Boy” come from?
Every summer, when my dad and his siblings were young, my grandparents would take the family on a trip to Italy, to the town where my Nonno was raised. As a teen, my dad used to frequent a discoteca nearby called Il Bimbo D’Oro—”The Golden Boy.” He really took a liking to the name, so much so that when he began to take up amateur boxing in San Francisco, it was a nickname he adopted. When he opened up his first business in 1978, it only seemed fitting that it should be named Golden Boy.
Any tips for working with pizza?
Get family or friends together, have a pizza party, experiment with different ingredients. Think of the dough as a living thing, making sure to be gentle and not aggravate it too much. It’s all in your touch. When stretching, you should look at the process as more of a massage technique than a pulling or prodding. Be patient and make sure to give your dough ample time to proof.