Into the Deep (Dish)

Tony Gemignani's big-crust debut

Sometimes, you have to specialize.

Tony's Pizza Napoletana, the North Beach restaurant with an edible encyclopedia of regional pizza styles, couldn't accommodate one more. So owner Tony Gemignani opened Capo's nearby, where you can sink into scalloped red booths and the doughy charms of Chicago-style pizza.

There are, we admit, some weird things about Capo's: the cash-only policy; the reservationist's request that you pre-order your pies; and the quattro forno pizza ($13), in which a perfectly decent deep-fried pizza is baked in three additional ovens to no discernable effect.

But the scholarship that we've always respected at Tony's is in evidence here, too. Research led Gemignani to use a little lard in the crusts of his three deep-dish pies, rendering the exterior puffy and crackling.

The stuffed Old Chicago pie ($28)–with sausage, meatballs and cheese in the center, and a tart tomato sauce and dollops of ricotta on top–did call up childhood memories of pilgrimages to Giordano's and Gino's East.

We did note one change from those old Chicago pies: The great lake of molten mozzarella we would encounter at the heart of the pizza has been reduced to a shallow reservoir of more flavorful cheese.

Call us Californian, but it's a marked improvement.

Capo's, 641 Vallejo St. (at Columbus Ave.); 415-986-8998 or sfcapos.com