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Above Tartine, Webisode 2

Written By Peter Reinhart
Thursday, 26 May 2011 Webisodes

This week marks the end of our visit to San Francisco’s Gastro District, which is really just one block long, between Guerrero and Valencia on 18th St.  In previous segments we spent time at Pizzeria Delfina, Bi-Rite Market, Bi-Rite Creamery, and Tartine Bakery Cafe, and now we head upstairs from the bakery to the apartment of baker Eric Wolfinger, who makes us a wonderful pizza on Tartine’s Country French dough in his home oven–yes, great pizza can come from a rinky dink oven as long as the dough is great–and this was definitely great dough! (And make note of his cool trick of adding the basil, tossed in a little olive oil, just for the final minute of baking–can’t wait to try that!)

The most significant take-away for me during our two days of filming in The Gastro was how influential a few places, committed to quality, can have on a neighborhood and even on a city; how quality is like a magnet that draws more quality and pretty soon you have a vortex of quality that is so compelling that people of all types just want to be a part of it. This is the kind of energy that creates what I’ve identified as the difference between good and great, and I define greatness by one word: memorable. Every place we visited in this one block neighborhood was memorable. How do I know it’s memorable? Because I can’t wait to go back, to tell my friends about it, to bring people there, to see those passionate Gastro folks again; to get those unbelievable pork rinds at Bi-Rite Market, the pizzas but also the one of a kind side dishes at Pizzeria Delfina, the croissants and especially that Country French loaf at Tartine, the salted caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery — I can’t get that neighborhood out of my head!

As we continue questing in the coming weeks and months we will keep uncovering more such memorable people and places. Some of them are well known and some aren’t (yet). But they all share the traits we witnessed at Pizzeria Mozza and LaBrea Bakery in LA, as well as at all the places in The Gastro: a fire in their bellies to do something extraordinary, to please people, to push the boundaries of flavor, and to support sustainable practices that do, in fact, create the best possible flavors imaginable.

Our next webisode series, which will begin in two weeks, takes us to the Central Coast of California, to the town of Cayucos where Jensen and Grace Lorenzen are doing in a small town, at the Cass House Inn, what Craig Stoll, Nancy Silverton, and the folks at Tartine are doing on larger stages in major cities. Will they have as much impact in their little village that the bigger names have had in San Francisco and Los Angeles? Time will tell, but I believe in the saying that we should think globally yet act locally, wherever we are planted. The rest takes care of itself, as you will see when you watch the upcoming webisodes.

But for now, enjoy with us our final pizza in Gastro, and join us again soon (“get back on the bus,” as Russ Parsons put it at Mozza) as we head down the coast for a whole new set of adventures that continue to define, and redefine, the whole notion of memorableness. See you there….



I was wondering if he was using and pizza stone in his apartment oven. The video went dark when he opened the oven door so I couldn’t tell if it was on a stone or just the rack. Also, a previous story told of using 2 stones one above and one below and I was going to buy a second stone but I was the “hearth oven insert” available on ebay. Any experience with the hearth oven insert?



As I recall Eric had some sort of stone or a large tile. He definitely had something. It was a darker color – so it was hard to see. I use the two stone method in my oven and it works well. I think Peter has experience with the Hearth Oven Insert. We’ll let you know.


Hi Peter,

Thanks for another great episode. Can’t wait to see where you end up next. When you come to Orange County and need a guide to pizza you can contact me! We don’t have many good pizza places but there are a few.


Jim S.


Thanks Jim and also Brent. The stone in Eric’s oven was pretty basic, like the kind you might buy at any cookware store. The Hearthkit oven insert, which has sidewalls that really focus the heat, is a great baking stone but hard to find. I’m not sure if the company is still in business. They used to be available at Sur la Table so maybe someone from there could tell us if they still have them in stock. What makes it work so well, aside from the side walls, is the thickness of the stone, much like the baking stone you can now get from Forno Bravo’s e-store.


I keep thinking of adding some bricks to the sides and back of my stone in my oven to do just that. Has anyone tried this? One thing I think it would help for a home oven is to help retain the heat lost when you open the oven doors in between pizzas. I think my second stone placed up above also helps in this way.

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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Artisan Breads Every Day
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Brother Junipers Bread Book
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