Unusual thin pizzas and good service makes for a wonderful dinner out
It may seem to my readers as if I never go out unless I have a girls' night out - and that is for the most part true. With the high cost of babysitting and an incredibly busy evening schedule, Mike and I rarely go out to eat. Plus my restaurant karma is much better when I go out with the girls - rarely we end up with a dinner we did not enjoy. Our visit to Pizzaiolo a few nights ago (September 2008) proved to be another instance of our good luck. We liked the food, we liked the atmosphere and we liked being out.
Pizzaiolo occupies a large room in Oakland, on Telegraph near McArthur. It's nice, in a modern, non-threatening way. Nice enough for a date, but casual enough for a regular evening out. It specializes on thin-crust pizzas - hence it's name - but it offers a few pastas and main entrees as well. Prices are in the late teens to early twenties. The menu changes on an almost daily basis.
We made a reservation and were promptly seated when we arrived. Our waitress was very affable, knew the menu and wine list well, and gave us great service and good recommendations. When we asked for a taste of the soup of the day - she responded she'd never had that request before, but then brought us a sample in a bowl that was big enough for all of us. That was a good thing, as the soup was great, smooth and hearty with just the right amount of acid, and we ended up ordering a bowl to share ($8).
We also shared the "Blue Heron little gems with creme fraiche, herbs, cucumber and radishes" ($9.50). I'm not a big fan of lettuce, in particular the crispy kind, but the sauce, not too different from ranch dressing, was quite good.
The same could not be said for a side of polenta with Gorgonzola cheese ($5). I liked the creamy texture of the polenta, but it didn't have enough cheese and it was very plain and tasteless without it. I would definitely not order it again.
The real winner of the evening, much to the surprise of our waitress, was a side of spinach ($5). I thought it was sauteed, but Parker said it tasted as if it'd been braised. I'm not a fan of spinach, so I didn't taste it - but Parker, Aamani and Coco loved it. They agreed it was the best spinach they'd ever had. It sounds like you should order it if you like spinach and see it on the menu.
Of course, we had gone to Pizzaiolo for the pizza so we had to try a couple of their interesting concoctions. They do have things such as cheese pizza and Margherita - but you can have those anywhere. We settled for the chanterelle mushroom and gremolata pizza ($18) and the wild nettles and (I think) homemade sausage pizza. I'm not a fan of thin pizza, specially wood burning pizzas - as I don't like the crispiness of the crust and the burnt sections - so it's no surprise that I wasn't crazy about the crust of either pizza. I did like the hearty chanterelles and appreciated the lemony gremolata. I personally did not like the nettle pizza, but given my general dislike for vegetables that is not surprising. The rest of the girls agreed that they liked it more than the mushroom pizza - the home made sausage was a particular winner.
We also shared the oxtail lasagna, which was good and somewhat different, but not overwhelmingly so. I'd order it again, but I wouldn't make a special trip for it.
We all shared a bottle of wine, recommended by the waitress. Like she said, it was spicy and full bodied, and we all enjoyed it. Alas, I don't remember what it was.
For dessert three of us ordered some sort of chocolate cake/pie served with ice cream. It was delicious and we ate every single bite. Coco had the apple bread pudding instead, and she didn't like it at all. It was airy with a consistency somewhere between a flan and a mousse, and impossibly sweet. She didn't finish it and the waitress was gentile enough to take it off the bill.
In all, we had a very nice meal at Pizzaiolo.
5008 Telegraph Ave