Great Pizza, mediocre everything else....
Ate here last night with a group of 4. We arrived early but because the bar was packed went across the street and down half a block to a great little wine bar we noticed on the way in. We returned right at our reservation time and were seated immediately.
After a fairly long wait the water buzzed by to take our drink order. In the interim we ended up asking some menu questions to the man filling our waters since he was the only one giving us attention. We all ordered pretty standard drinks but apparently they aren't able to make some simple drinks like a cosmo or gimlet with lime. The drink menu is a bit old fashion, with a dozen whiskies and other drinks like cognac while having only two vodkas (obviously an intentional move) and a couple beers, though the wine selection is pretty good.
Apps - The "La Tacera" salad was decent but smothered with too much dressing and too few apples and walnuts, while the "Puntarelle" was a bit bland and chopped into really small pieces.
For dinner we shared: butternut squash ravioli, margherita pizza, and marinara pizza with sausage. The ravioli at $14 had just 5 raviolis, with the filling a very small part of the ravioli. They tasted rather bland which wasn't helped by the rather bland wild nettles on top. No one wanted to eat the last one.
The pizzas were great. They were light, crispy, and flavorful; definitely worth trying. They are made with a delightful thin crispy crust and nice mixture of sauce and cheese - lighter on the cheese than normal pizza, which works great (except when the cheese slides off a piece, which happened to one of us).
Dessert -tart with pine nuts and ice cream and a chocolate mousse-ish item (can't remember the name). The tart had above average flavor complimented nicely by the nuts. The "mousse" was decent but not memorable.
Overall, I'd probably go back and just get a pizza, but the appetizers, service, desserts, and drinks, were all just okay and the ravioli was poor.
Best food on the planet, friendly service, party in your mouth.
After going to Pizzaiolo, I finally knew what it was like to taste true gormet food. I consider myself a picky eater, but just the presentation of the food alone made it appetizing to me. The food is a new experience every time I step foot in the restaurant. The creativity of each dish provides such a unique dining experience that I have not been able to find anywhere else. The pizzas are unlike anything you have ever tasted in your life. The potato pizza is amazing and my personal favorite dish is the pork meatballs. You haven't had meatballs until you have Pizzaiolo's meatballs. It is like a party of flavors in your mouth.
If you read the negative reviews, half of the people haven't even tried the pizza. How can you lay off pizza when the name of the restaurant is PIZZAiolo? There is a reason. This restaurant adds to the uniqueness of the Bay Area and exemplifies gourmet food.
Cheers to the best meal of your life.
My letter to Pizzaiolo.
I sent a letter to the owner (edited b/c of character limits):
As you know, many of the residents near Pizzaiolo are very diverse yet my boyfriend and I were two of very few people of color in the entire restaurant. I say all of this to set the stage for what my boyfriend experienced when he came alone to your restaurant yesterday. He asked questions about the pizza and he sensed impatience and frustration from the staff. And then a simple request??Can you cut the pizza in smaller pieces?? The waitress asked the folks in the kitchen. He saw them talking it over?he saw them looking at him, he heard ?no? and from the wait staff he heard ?too bad.? And then there was a subtle bit of snickering from a group of waiters. The waitress tried to explain that they could not do what he?d asked but stumbled with no good explanation. He wanted to turn around and leave without his order. Because our SF friends were waiting, he arrived to movie night upset, refusing to ever give Pizzaiolo his hard-earned money again and, with three pizzas that we all agreed were delicious.
This experience resembled the Seinfeld episode about a ?Soup $azi? whose soup was so wonderful that he discriminatively rejected his customer?s requests. My boyfriend meant very little to the restaurant staff whose accolades are international.
It is difficult to say that discrimination by ethnicity exists in a place as diverse as the Bay Area?it?s subtle. But being Black all of your life affords you keen reconnaissance skills that help you become familiar with these subtleties. And with the North Oakland neighborhood changing, it?s just hard to believe that the general demographic of your restaurant patrons, those who have elevated the restaurant to its current status would ever receive the same treatment that my boyfriend received. And if ever so, they surely would confront the staff or choose never to eat there again.
Thanks for listening.
My new fave place. I haven't had a meal less than very good here since they opened, but recently I have had some rockin' great dishes. The pizzas of course are very good. The crowds and some poor seating options remain (secret -- if a warm night you can often grab an outdoor table on the back patio, but it can feel rather pedestrian and lonely back there on plastic lawn chairs). The wine list seems to have moved more high end pricey, so I've been hitting the cocktail list. Drinks are well balanced and innovative. Now the food: Best chicken potpie I think I've had; best deep fried whole NC prawn with hot pepper appetizer; some awesome salad combinations; good desserts and espresso. Generally friendly service, but can get scarce when the place is crowded which is often.
Delicious food, Service is better, Reservations now taken. Tried Pizzaolo when it first opened and did not go back for over a year due to the long wait, cramped dining and petulant service. The food was the only thing that drew me back for one last try. Happy to say that they now take reservations, are trying harder on the service and the food is still delicious. Addition of fresh, interesting cocktails is a nice touch. Tip: call for a reservation - you'll have a much better experience.
Great pizza in a cool hip spot. This pizza here is amazing. You will usually have to wait a long time to be seated but if you show up an hour before closing you can usually be seated quickly. I have always found the staff to be nice and knowledgable in regards to the menu and wines.
Inconsistency Worth Noting. I first ate here right after Pizzaiolo opened. Everything, from the antipasti to the four pizzas we shared, were superb. The servers were very helpful without getting in your face. Fast forward to tonight....round two at Pizzaiolo. The woman who seated us was awfully rude and service was horrendous. After waiting for twenty minutes, our orders were finally taken. Antipasti was very good, so I figured maybe the night would turn out OK. Then, we waited. And waited. AND WAITED. 50 MINTUES LATER, our pizza arrived. To add to this, the pizza was very bland. Who knew that cherry tomatoes, genoa salami, bufala mozzarella and parsley could be such an uninspiring combo? So what does this mean? The next time I go, Pizzaiolo will be just an average experience, balancing out one awesome dinner with a second mediocre one? Maybe I should take a celebrity with me next time, to ensure speedy service and food that's made to wow the tastebuds.
Wood-fired crusts are king at this upscale pizzeria in Oakland's Temescal district..
Housed in a former hardware store, this bustling eatery features stripped-down brick walls, hardwood floors and an exhibition kitchen with a beautifully tiled wood-fire oven. Near the entrance, a long bar seats solo diners and a parade of antsy foodies. Families and groups of Oakland denizens spill out the door, sipping glasses of wine and draft beers, while waiting for one of the oversized dark wooden booths.
The single oven, helmed by former Chez Panisse pizza guru Charlie Hallowell, churns out perfectly blistered, thin-yet-chewy crusts topped with choice local ingredients like mushrooms and house-made sausage. The classic margherita and marinara are mainstays, while combinations change seasonally. Antipasti, like the sweet citrus salad with fennel, avocado and blood oranges, are decidedly not big enough to share, but are well worth a double order. Rotating entrees, like braised pork with Anson Mills white polenta, make occasional cameos.
Mediocre Food and Bad Service.
The pizza arrived charred and the entree arrived with hair on the polenta cake. After several attempts at flagging down our waiter, I mentioned this to him. He said, "Oh", grabbed two spoons, removed the polenta cake in front of me and left. There was NO apology, NO compensation and NO replacement polenta cake.
I am NEVER going back. The service was lousy and the food is mediocre.
Great food, no respect for diners.
I've been to Pizzaiolo about 12 times, many times last fall, then tapering off since. The food is fantastic, the calamari and garbanzo beans are a revelation, the pizzas sublime. Good wine list and good service. The food is truly some of the finest I've had in many years.
The problems with this place could easily be fixed if the owners gave a damn about their diners. The lack of reservations is truly awful. The neighborhood is scary and cold, there is nothing at all enjoyable about standing out front (no shops, lots of bums). A pony wall should be put up between the bar and restaurant, and the front window table should be made available for waiting diners (yes, I've done some restaurant designing). The bar is always full, I have yet to find a space to stand at the bar while waiting.
THE BACK ROOM is a smelly, ugly space. Flourescent light, one large communal table - after waiting 90 minutes, being seated in this room to eat my $75 per person meal is just insulting. Pizzzaiolo needs to put in some decent tables and lighting, and do something about the bleach smell. Even when I was lucky eonugh to get a booth table in the main dining room, my group was forced to sit all along one side because the sun was beating in the window with enough force to blind anyone sitting facing the front windows. How could they not realize they need to put up some shades? COMFORT while dining is part of the experience, and this restaurant is literally painful to visit. I don't know why the owners of this place hold their customers in such contempt, but I wouldn't expect this place to remain popular unless they change. We still occaisionally go back because the food is so wonderful, but I always feel like a chump when we do!
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