Farina Pizza & Cucina Italiana In San Francisco

A pizzeria straight from central casting

How many cooks does it take to make a pizza at Farina Pizza & Cucina Italiana?

If you're judging by the crowd around the oven, observed from your catbird seat at the counter, it's a half-dozen, each fretting and fussing over the dough.

The ringleader is fifth-generation pizzaiolo Antonio Langella, who, like the oven, is imported from Naples. He and his son Gennaro–with help from the peanut gallery–make the 11 varieties of pizza ($15).

The differences among them are subtle, but Italians believe those details are worth disputing. Fresh cherry tomatoes or canned San Marzanos? Fior di latte mozzarella or mozzarella di bufala? Romano or Parmesan?

Assembled, baked and served in under five minutes, the pizza is presented uncut and with urgency. Try to take a sip of Piemontese Baladin Nora Ale ($32 for 750 ml) before digging in and the waiter will intervene, imploring you to eat.

The reward for cramming a hot wedge in your maw: Neapolitan pizza as it's meant to be, a pure distillation of a few ingredients. Look up, and you'll notice that the cooks are all watching, ensuring you're aware of precisely how good it tastes.

Farina Pizza & Cucina Italiana, 700 Valencia St. (at 17th St.); 415-565-1900 or farina-foods.com