Pizzaiolo brings big pizza energy to historic Temescal.
When Chez Panisse alumni Charlie Hallowell struck out on his own in 2005, he and manager Omar White chose an unlikely location for their pizzeria: the former home of G&G Hardware. Pizzaiolo doesn’t have a sign of its own, but the hardware sign is still up. Look for it. The interior is spacious, with art-covered brick and plaster walls, a bar and a back room with a huge dinner table. Even with all the seats, Pizzaiolo is mobbed when the doors open each night. Thankfully, chef Hallowell recently allowed reservations. Make one.
The restaurant’s powerful wood oven requires a skilled pizzaiolo (pizza maker) to cut excellent pizza pies.
There’s a short but compelling pizza menu, but we couldn’t pass up the traditional Margherita pie ($12) with prosciutto di Parma. Gobs of fresh mozzarella paired nicely with the tangy tomato sauce and supple crust. The prosciutto was $4 extra, and well worth the added expense.
Rambasicci ($14) was new to me, but welcome. Cabbage was stuffed with spiced ground pork, pine nuts and currants, served in broth and sprinkled with shredded cheese. The meatball-like filling was beyond luscious, with incredible flavor.
A seemingly simple plate of spaghetti ($14) came lightly tossed in olive oil and topped with sliced artichoke hearts, chile flakes, mint and breadcrumbs. Thankfully, the flavor was more complex than the menu suggested.
At Pizzaiolo, even desserts are top-notch. Braeburn apple and cornmeal upside down tortino ($8.50) paired with a scoop of cardamom-brown sugar gelato & apple syrup. The tortino was warm, like a good cornbread muffin. Apples added nice sweetness, and the gelato’s cardamom flavor further elevated the dessert.
To prepare for our long night drive back to Los Angeles, I downed a strong Blue Bottle espresso ($2), made with the Bay Area’s favorite beans. Cocoa nib brittle was a nice touch.
Even after eating for three days at well-regarded Napa Valley restaurants, Pizzaiolo still impressed me. I had high expectations for the pizza, which has made every Bay Area critic’s Best Of list, and it was indeed good. What I didn’t expect was the depth of flavor as I ate my way through the rest of the menu. Even dessert stood out. And the prices were more than reasonable. With so many strengths, I could easily see Pizzaiolo becoming a tradition on future Bay Area trips.
Leave a Comment