Pizzaiolo

Pizzaiolo
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.

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