KEN’S ARTISAN PIZZA

THE CLASSIC PIZZA JOINT seldom exudes anything remotely resembling ambient warmth, and it doesn’t really need to. If a parlor makes a truly good pie, the fact that there’s tomato sauce splattered on the walls or that Jimmy the Pizza Maker frazzles customers with his constant barking doesn’t matter a lick.

So when a pizzaiolo decides to open a business that is warm and inviting—classy, even—we’re naturally suspicious: How can we trust that he’s making the best pie when he’s spent all his time decorating the place? But when Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Nob Hill opened Ken’s Artisan Pizza, our doubts were assuaged.

Set in a narrow former paint store on SE 28th Ave, Ken’s is airy and light-filled, albeit minimalist in décor. At the entrance, a stack of oak logs greets customers, and behind that a rustic wood-burning pizza oven beckons. Tables are crafted from salvaged Douglas fir planks, and paint-can lights dangle from the ceiling.

But such touches have in no way compromised the quality of the pizza. Not only is it superbly rendered—a thin, Neapolitan-style crust ladeled with a piquant sauce and topped with the loveliest of ingredients from arugula to fennel sausage to house-cured pancetta—but so are just about every salad and side. An impressive, seasonal roasted-vegetable platter features anything from warm fingerling potato salad to roasted leeks, tomatoes or peppers. The Caesar salad trumps most in town, and for dessert, figs, apricots, pears or apples (depending on the season) emerge sweet and plump from the pizza oven. But even amid such a mannered approach, you may still hear that familiar barking. Except that it’s not back in the kitchen—it’s outside, coming from all those diners waiting to get in. 304 SE 28th Ave, 503-517-9951