i’m on a straight up no-holds-barred godzilla-style food rampage throughout the bay area before i leave for london. last night’s ravenous feeding involved the truly kickass pizzaiolo in oakland. i met the chef/owner, charlie, when he hired the go game to run an event for his staff. i won’t blow up any spots, but let’s just say charlie and team dirty sanchez showed quite a lot of…spirit. did you happen to spot a dude in a girl’s raincoat and no pants running around the mission last week? there sure are some crazy peeps in this hood.
charlie used to work at chez panisse, so his food is also sustainably sourced, based on fresh ingredients, and well-known to be fucking ridiculously delicious. i love their philosophy, as stated on the website:
Whenever we can, about 98% of the time, we buy only locally grown, organic, seasonal meat and produce. We buy from small farmers we know and love, people we eat with, drink with, and share our lives with. We buy whole animals from ranchers we know and trust: We buy organic flour, milled in Oakland by people who bring their children to Pizzaiolo for dinner. We change the menu every day to reflect the offerings of these remarkable local food purveyors in their freshest most beautiful form.
so, is the food remarkable, fresh, and beautiful? a resounding and wholehearted fuck yes. just check out the new potato pancetta rosemary fontina pizza:
it was, in a word, perfection. the ideal interplay of so many rich flavors made even more decadently excellent by our addition of an egg on top:
we ordered two appetizers and they were fantastic: a chicory caesar salad that basically redefined my idea of what a caesar can be. standard caesar salads represent everything airport food to me: limp browning bits of romaine and some gratings of stale and rock-hard parmesan, topped by a cloying, gummy dressing that looks like someone scraped mayonnaise straight from the container and then spit on it. i don’t order caesar salads ever, but our waiter promised it would be awesome. and the zesty anchovy-heavy dressing on the subtly bitter chicory blew every other caesar salad i’ve ever had out of the water. we also had a fantastically light and flavorful avocado and pickled beet salad with kumquat vinaigrette and spring onions. the avocado was perfectly ripe, with a soft smooth texture that complemented the crunch of the onions and a butteriness that set off the sweetness of the kumquats.
we also were lucky enough to enjoy two other starters sent out by charlie – a spring antipasti with flatbread, ricotta, smashed peas, pickled carrots, and some kind of delicious fritter thingy as well as a dish of asparagus from the wood oven with a hard boiled egg, pancetta, and mustard. jesus christ. who knew smashed peas could taste so good? four apps down and still a pizza to come. our waiter (someone i vividly remembered from the game thanks to a detailed and unrepeatable description of why his team was named sylvia plath) suggested we could always take some of the pizza home. annie and i laughed, and then vigorously debated ordering the meatballs as well. upon hearing our discussion, charlie sent out a half order for us to try. i wasn’t exactly surprised – judging by the photos of the pizzaiolo crew from the go game, he sure is proud of his…uh, meatballs.
oh holy fucking shit. these meatballs were, in the words of charlie himself, soft clouds of heavenly porky goodness. light and fluffy, yet deeply rich and flavorful, and exactly what meatballs should taste like. annie, who went through about five years of a serious meatball obsession in her younger years, proclaimed them the best meatballs she’d had in her life.
if you’re not yet convinced by these photos to speedily make your way to oakland to eat at pizzaiolo, there’s something seriously wrong with your eyes or your stomach. alternatively, after reading this post, you may be convinced that there’s something wrong with my eyes and stomach, having put down all six of the above dishes with only one other person to eat with. eyes too big for our stomachs? fuck no. who do you think i am? there’s no way i’d leave such a good restaurant without going for dessert. down went the pumpkin bread pudding. unsurprisingly, it was amazing.
however, it’s quite possible there is actually something wrong with my head, as i actually tried to convince annie we should also order the vanilla panna cotta with blood oranges as well. luckily, my roommate is considerably smarter than me and reason ultimately prevailed. final verdict: run to pizzaiolo immediately. the food is more than worth the wait. they’ve got some cool art too. and a super fun, energetic, crazy, happy, dedicated, and down-to-earth staff that knows how to have a ridiculously good time and serve a great fucking meal. charlie is incredibly talented with his food and also an extremely generous and entertaining guy. just don’t tell him i told you he looks good in a little green raincoat.
goodbye pizzaiolo. i will return for more awesomeness and the vanilla panna cotta next time.