5008 Telegraph Avenue
Oakland (Temescal Neighborhood)
Well…I finally did it. I convinced the ladies to hop in the car and head over to Oakland to try this thin, wood fired pizza I’ve been hearing so much about. Now let me start by saying I’m a thin crust pizza aficionado. I worked next door to Upper Crust pizza in Boston for years and had a few too many slices for my own good. That being said, at Pizzaiolo, I thought the pizza itself was a bit overrated (and over-priced). But there are three noteworthy words I can cull from my experience that would bring me crawling right back: patio, burrata, and housemade sausage. Well, I guess that’s four, but anyway…
First, let me say that Pizzaiolo is damn crowded. Apparently, all of the time. And the waitstaff can be a bit self righteous about reservations. We simply called on our way over, were really nice about the fact that we realized we didn’t have a chance of getting in, but…was there any chance? And voila, we had a table on the coveted, outdoor patio waiting for us as soon as we arrived. Minor magic if I do say so myself. The patio has a very Austin, TX feel for those of you who’ve experienced the edgy food scene there. It is all fenced in with metal siding and colorful green wood panels, there are paper lanterns hanging in a haphazard way, a sand bocce ball court where couples gathered while waiting for their pizzas, wooden benches to sit and have beers before your meal, and great live music. I felt like I was hanging out on a friend’s back patio on a warm July evening–a bit of summer encapsulated.
We ordered the burrata to start. It came topped with sea salt and olive oil, and was served with thinly toasted slices of bread. The burrata was both light and substantial at the same time. I’ve had marginal burrata before that was too firm and bland in flavor. Not the case at Pizzaiolo. Each spoonful was light in texture with a rich, milky, savory flavor. When the burrata arrived, for a few moments, talk of Michael Jackson, Sarah Palin, and the rising cost of gas ceased.
For my entree I ordered the pizza with rapini and house made sausage. The pizzas are fairly large (8 slices) so they’re perfect for splitting with a friend. And, you have the option of adding an egg which I regret not doing as I coveted my neighbor’s summer squash and pounded parsley pizza with an oozing egg on top. The crust on the pizza was nice, although I won’t dream about it: thin (as promised), light, yeasty, and crispy. The cheese was a bit too mild and reminded me of cheap store-bought mozzarella, the chunks of onion were cut too large and detracted from other elements of the pizza, but the sausage…was the winner here. It had a little kick to it, not too spicy, not too greasy, and not too salty. It had a rustic look– crumbly and misshapen– and was full of flavor. I was a vegetarian for over ten years and, after beginning to eat meat again about six months ago, I can’t seem to get enough sausage or bacon. Pizzaolo’s housemade sausage is pretty high up there on my list.
When the bill came, we all sighed a bit at the $90 price for a few pizzas, a glass of wine, and an appetizer. Bummer. If Pizzaolo had blown me away, I wouldn’t have cared. But I was left wishing I’d ordered something different and had another glass of wine so I could linger on that patio for just a bit longer.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.