One of SF's closest simulacra of New York-style pizza, Arinell Pizza on Valencia, closed its doors for good on Saturday.
Mission Local broke the news after owner Ron Demirdijian posted a notice about the September 10th closing on the restaurant's window. Demirdijian cited staffing issues as the main reason, but five months ago he told Mission Local he might be forced to close because business had been slumping, and he had been operating at a loss through two years of the pandemic.
"It’s really disheartening," Demirdijian said at the time, noting that foot traffic was simply down with fewer people out in the Mission late at night. "The model for the business for being successful was for people to get really drunk… hop bar to bar and eat Arinell pizza."
The thing is, San Francisco's neighborhoods are dotted with subpar pizza joints that cater to drunkards who aren't that picky about quality. And this wasn't one of them.
Arinell has consistently been the reliable go-to for any New York transplant looking for their fix of thin-crust, molten-cheese, NY-style slices, the likes of which you can't really get anywhere else in the Mission.
There's tons of great pizza around town these days, sure. Two blocks away you have Yellow Moto Pizzeria, the restaurant formerly known as Flour + Water Pizzeria, and they even used to have a walk-up slice counter — but these were more artisan pies, and the "slices" were actually folded pizza halves with arugula stuffed inside.
Without Arinell, though, the area of Valencia near 16th once again loses a bit of its longtime character, as well as reliable pizza.
Arinell began 47 years ago at 2119 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. Demirdijian, who co-founded the business, was inspired to open it after traveling from New York to visit friends and being taken to what was then considered the best pizzeria in town. It was terrible, Demirdijian, so he went back to his old neighborhood in Upper Manhattan and told the Italian owner of a local pizza shop, "Teach me how to make pizza and I’ll work for nothing," as he told SF Weekly several years back.
The recipe, which apparently came direct from Rome, hasn't changed, and it's what has kept the place popular — and what drove Demirdijian to open the Valencia Street location in 1989.
"I have been constantly bombarded to 'Californicate' the pizza, but I never have," he told SF Weekly. "I have always kept it true to its roots."
As Mission Local notes, the original Berkeley location of Arinell will remain open, so fans can at least cross the Bay for their fix in the future.
Photo: Austin C./Yelp