Oakland, CA 94609
Four days in
(all photos by Adam Lindsley)
First stop was Pizzaiolo across the bay in
We selected a table in the far corner of the restaurant's back room, a cozy brick-lined area lined with small tables dimly lit from candles and the rustic, sparse light fixtures dangling from overhead. It's a nice space away from the pizzeria's main crowd, and were it not for the Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits playing back to back over the house speakers--rather loudly I might add--it could be considered for a romantic evening with a significant other.
Christa and I started with a simple Caesar Salad ($8). I almost never order Caesar salads, so I'm hardly one to judge, but I found this one quite palatable. The lettuce was fresh and crunchy, bathed lightly in sharp shaved grana padano and a creamy dressing that was thankfully mild on the garlic. It was served with very, very salty croutons that would have been overpowering on their own, but broken into smaller pieces they suited the rest of the dish admirably.
Our Margherita ($13) arrived shortly thereafter. As you can see by the photos, the crust was cooked and charred to perfection (I'd expect no less from such an establishment by this point), with a pleasantly airy cornicione. The crust was good, though it would have benefited from a touch more salt. Then again, after those croutons, nothing could seem half as salty.
The copious amount of tomato sauce on this pie delivers a swift, spicy kick to your mouth, which you usually don't get in a traditional red sauce, and I guessed some sort of chili powder had been mixed in. A quick check with our server confirmed this: each pie, after the dough is spread but before the other toppings are added, is given a light dousing of olive oil and freshly ground calabrian chilies, which becomes infused in the heat of the wood-burning oven. It gives the sauce a smoky bite that sets it apart from other, simpler blends.
Best of all is the cheese. The mozzarella is very creamy and very soft, almost like butter. I don't know how Pizzaiolo gets the cheese this soft, but I want the secret. It's nutty and flavorful, and every bite fortunate enough to include it is ten times better than one that does not. Frankly, I'd be happy if they covered the whole pie in this cheese rather than just the occasional pool.
We wanted a cool, crisp dessert to follow the surprising spiciness of the Margherita, so we opted for the Tangelo Sorbet & Vanilla Ice Cream ($7). The sorbet was far too icy and tough to break apart with the spoon, but the vanilla ice cream...wow. Incredible. Maybe the richest and most full-flavored vanilla ice cream I've ever had. Vanilla can often be ordinary and forgettable in the wake of other, more inventive flavors, but that simply was not the case here. Simple puff pastry sticks were served with it, but these were improved by the ice cream, not the other way around.
A very satisfying meal all around, fantastic service from the attentive staff, and a very good pizza I can heartily recommend. Just one suggestion: show up early, or make a reservation. Their reservation book was filled that night, and this was a Monday. Just imagine how slammed they get on a Saturday. Better yet, don't. Just call ahead. The food's worth it.
RECOMMENDED: Margherita (anything with red sauce, really)
*Okay, maybe "pizza crawl" isn't quite accurate. I'm hitting five (maybe six) pizzerias, but over the course of three days, not one. I guess technically that isn't a "crawl," per se, but it's still manly, right?