I’ve always wanted to try Little Star pizzeria in San Francisco. My friends always tell me about its deep dish pizzas, and while I’ve never found my way to Little Star, it has grown through the years.
Now, although no longer the same restaurant partnership, a bit of Little Star is coming to me. The Star, by former Little Star partner Jon Guhl, opened this summer on Grand Avenue in Oakland. Last week I visited with my East Bay hungry food blogging friends Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging and Christina of East Bay Dish.
Reinventing an old space
The Star is in the former Milano Italian restaurant space, and it has retained the red-brick walls and much of the layout. Spruced up with some chandeliers, The Star has been an instant hit with families in the neighborhood as witnessed by the tables of couples with kids in the front portion of the restaurant.
There’s both thin and deep dish pizza, but it’s the deep dish that’s the Little Star legacy. I rarely eat deep dish because they can be filling, but I totally was won over with my first bite in Chicago. The Star’s version is not as deep as the Chicago pie, but the cornmeal crust is killer.
We couldn’t decide which pizza to try, but luckily our server said we could do half-and-half pizza. So we went with the Port (a sausage pizza) and what was called the Gold Coast, which includes chicken, artichoke hearts, red bell peppers, and feta.
So let’s break it down:
- Love the cornmeal crust, if you didn’t get that earlier
- The tomato topping was well-balanced, not tart like other places
- The filling was good, but with all the tomato, we couldn’t tell which side was which pizza. The taste was very similar so really, do they need all that many choices?
The Star, though, has more than pizza. (Although it’s really the pizza that people come for, especially the constant flow of people I saw coming up to the bar to pick up their takeout orders.) There’s a full bar with a cocktail list, and salads and sandwiches.
Unfortunately, the other things weren’t as exciting. Our Goddess Salad ($8) was plentiful and fresh, but the creamy pesto dressing lacked flavor. And the meatball sandwich ($11) had good flavor, but the meatballs themselves were just a tad rubbery.
If you do need a starter, definitely get the spicy baked wings ($8 for a small order). Along with being baked (instead of fried), the spicy flavor was tangy and tasty.
Our service that night was a bit off. We pretty much ran the show, often telling our server what we needed instead of the server checking on our needs or trying to flag her down, and our dishes came out in an unusual order. Literally this is the order of the dishes that came to our table: salad, pizza, spicy wings, garlic bread and finally meatball sandwich. (It really should have been garlic bread, spicy wings, salad, meatball sandwich and pizza.) There really was no rhyme or reason to the flow of dishes from the kitchen.
Side note: They warn you that the deep dish pizza takes 45 minutes, but we got our after just 35 minutes.
The Last Bite
The Star offers up a great deep dish pizza, well-balanced and nice with the cornmeal crust, but the other items aren’t really strong supporting players, just average. With the pizza as the primary star, it might be better to eat at the bar ordering a drink and pizza or getting takeout.
Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The Star, 3425 Grand Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.843.7827. Open Sun.–Thu., 11:30 a.m.-–11 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–midnight. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. Takeout available. thestarongrand.com