At this point, Sidney Weinstein, who turns 70 next October, is basically the "Pauline" of Pauline's Pizza. Her restaurant on Valencia near 14th, which she opened with her husband and his business partner in 1985, seriously predates Valencia's Valencia-fication, but it still draws crowds of loyal customers lured by a signature pesto pizza and a family-friendly atmosphere, with crayons on tables and a charming staff ("the crayons are for kids!" a waiter recently mock-scolded me there). Another specialty: Pizza toppings and salad fixings come from the restaurant's gardens in Berkeley and Star Canyon Ranch. As Weinstein explained to Berkeleyside in 2013, when Pauline's opened in 1985, small organic farms in the Bay Area were in “their hey day,” and as her own garden grew, she and her husband began to sell their fruits, vegetables, and herbs to restaurants like Chez Panisse in Berkeley and more recently Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, and Blue Plate in San Francisco.
"The restaurant business is tough right now because of the cost of living in San Francisco," Weinstein explained to SFist, noting that she's been understaffed. "I don't have a situation in my staff where they can [run the restaurant] themselves, and I'd like to get out of the responsibility," she says. Thus, Pauline's is for sale: The price is $150,000. Weinstein's ad indicates that the lease terms and rent are negotiable via Laurel Realty. For Pauline's fans who are sad to hear all this, Weinstein commiserates. "I would love it if someone wanted to continue the idea of Pauline's and arrange for the garden supply," she says.
As higher-end spots like contemporary IndianBabu Ji, an NYC transplant, and Tawla, the project of an ex-Google staffer, pop up nearby, Pauline's stands out all the more for its informal atmosphere, inexpensive wines, and unique touches like old-schools sundaes served in proper ice cream glasses. The neighborhood sure has changed, Weinstein says. "Originally it was a very wild place to be because of the projects on 15th Street. Before I had a mechanized dishwasher, I would call the police to help me get out of the building at 2 a.m."
Why "Pauline's," I had to ask? The name, it turns out, is a bit vestigial. It remembers the mother of the restaurant's first chef, an Italian pizza maker who parted ways with Weinstein and her husband soon after imparting his dough and pesto pizza recipes. Setting the uncertain future aside, Weinstein will remember the wonderful customers and staff she's had — Bobby McFerrin among them in the old days, she says — as well as her committed staff over the years.
"If people want to see the continuation of Pauline's..." Weinstein trails off, indicating that they might know what to do.