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Pizza Nostra

Good News for Potrero Hill

Potrero Hill hit the jackpot when Pizza Nostra moved in. With outdoor seating, a spacious dining room and well-executed thin crust pizzas itís no surprise that thereís a long wait on weekend nights. Restaurateur Jocelyn Bulow (of Chez Papa Resto and Chez Maman) teamed up with pizza chef Giovanni Aginolfi, who recently finished fifth in the World Pizza Championship, and turned what was once a French-inspired Couleur Cafť to this neighborhood pizza joint.

One of the best things about Pizza Nostra is its easy accessibility thanks to ample parking in the lot adjacent to the front door. But the nine different Neapolitan creations are a draw unto themselves, attracting pizza-lovers from across town -- meaning: the pies are worth the wait. After an hour being tempted by mouthwatering aromas from the open kitchen, we slid into a huge booth and ordered in record time.

The buzz about this place is deserved. The golden, thin crusts are topped with a mix of inventive and traditional, but light, toppings. The Oriental ($15) balanced earthy lamb merguez lamb sausage with green and yellow peppers. And the Cannibal ($15) stood out with tomato, mozzarella, Bolognese, oregano and egg -- it was rich and complex, and even with all of those toppings, the crust miraculously stayed crispy. The grilled octopus with chickpeas, celery and lemon ($9) was also outstanding, with each tender bit tasting almost nutty.

Sadly, we were rushed out before having the chance to order dessert. They closed the kitchen before even giving us an opportunity to pre-order, though our server agreed to bring us coffee, and possibly an affogato ($6). The presentation was pleasingly simple and the espresso had the right amount of crema.

Overall, the service was uneven -- alternately gracious and hurried depending on the rotating cast of servers. For example, questions about the wine list met with "I don't know, but I like it" rather than a referral to a more knowledgeable staffer. The 35 bottle list is all-Italian with a wide selection of reds.

Though the restaurant makes the best use of the shopping center locale, itís inside Pizza Nostra where its personality begins to shine, with bar seating overlooking the open kitchen and the pizza oven off to one side.

With dependable pizza, free parking and outside seating, Pizza Nostra is definitely worth a stop if you go early, or have time to wait and donít want dessert.

Potrero Hill

Reservations Essential? No.