It’s a real crime that I’ve only dined at Pizzaiolo just once since it opened more than seven years ago, especially because it’s right down the street from my Oakland apartment.

But that’s the life of food blogging when I’m always looking for the next great restaurant. It leaves me little room to visit regular favorites, but Pizzaiolo has lived on without me and has definitely become a home for neighborhood regulars. (The nightly crowds probably also served as a deterrent for me to grab a table.)

When I visited recently with my friend Jessie, who works nearby, Pizzaiolo had the feel of a well-worn shoe, with a lived-in feel from the purposely distressed walls.

The philosophy of chef-owner Charlie Hallowell hasn’t changed over the years, staying true to his years of experience working at Chez Panisse, which means an emphasis on clean flavors, seasonal ingredients, and local sourcing. Named for the Italian word for pizza maker, Pizzaiolo has a changing menu that supports several pasta and pizza dishes.

Antipasti plate of Da De Stefano burrata with prosciutto di Parma, figs and hazelnuts ($14)

The pizza is a Neopolitan-style pizza with a chewy bubbly crust. Jessie and I tried the Monterey Bay squid pizza with cherry tomatoes and aioli ($20), an unusual creation that could only be made in California. While the pizza was topped with a lot of fresh squid, it was the tasty aioli that really took this pizza to another level.

Side note: Pizzaiolo opened a sister restaurant in the Grand Lake neighborhood called Boot & Shoe Service and I actually find the pizza there more to my liking, a little less chewy than at Pizzaiolo.

The antipasti is where you can see the clean, simple dishes shine through, like a beautiful seasonal plate of Da Di Stefano burrata with prosciutto di Parma, figs and hazelnuts ($14). A classic combination with the prosciutto and figs, the burrata just added an extra creaminess.

We also tried a pasta dish (and I was surprised that the menu only listed two choices). Jessie and I ordered the tagliolini with chanterelle mushrooms, wild nettles and crème fraiche ($16). I loved the combination of the ingredients but didn’t feel that the pasta itself was anything exceptional.

While the dishes aren’t pushing the boundaries like some of the new restaurants opening in the Bay Area, Pizzaiolo draws a regular crowd for its simple flavors and friendly, neighborhood vibe. I definitely need to come back more often.

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps

 

 

Pizzaiolo, 5008 Telegraph Ave. (at 51st Street), Oakland. PH: 510.652.4888. Open for dinner, Monday to Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. (till 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday), closed Sunday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.pizzaiolooakland.com

Pizzaiolo on Urbanspoon

The tiny bar is quite popular and I tried one of the specialty cocktails called Monk’s Garden, which had gin and (obviously from the color) grapefruit and bitters.

Tagliolini with chanterelle mushrooms, wild nettles and creme fraiche ($16)

Talk about simplicity, you can order sides of oil, anchovies, olives and cheese for $3.50 and make a great starter as you nibble and chat with your dining partner.

Monterey Bay squid, cherry tomatoes and aioli pizza ($20)

7 Responses to A Return Visit to a Neighborhood Gem

  1. arlene says:

    no dessert? i haven’t been to Pizzaiolo or Boots & Shoe Service yet. Do they both take credit cards?

    • Ben Ben says:

      What’s a bonus to Pizzaiolo is it’s just a few steps from Scream Sorbet. That’s where we ended up going for dessert because it was actually hot in Pizzaiolo that night (they don’t have air conditioning and it was a warm night). And yes, they both take credit cards.

  2. foodhoe says:

    you are so lucky to have such fine establishments in your neighborhood! The other day we realized that we have no decent pizzerias nearby after Tony abandoned his shop in Castro Valley for North Beach. Everything looks delish to me.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I know, I really should take advantage of the places near me. I also have Dopo on the other side of me and next year A16 is going to be east of me. :) Jealous more?

  3. Row says:

    Wow, that squid pizza looks divine! Alas, the pizza joints we have over here are not so adventurous. *admires dishes from afar*

  4. Carolyn Jung says:

    That pizza looks outstanding. Look at the blistered crust with the puffy edges. Perfection!

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