Noshing on Pizza at Oakland’s Marzano

Calamari pizza, anyone?

There was a time when my husband was on a kick to eat at every San Francisco Chronicle “Top 100” restaurant in the Bay Area. Not in one year, mind you. But just to be to able to check each one off the list eventually.

There was a time when I was fully employed, too. Ahh, the good old days. (Am I sounding like my parents yet?)

Since those two factors went together hand in hand — one does need a certain amount of income to knock off that full list — the hubster rejiggered his goal when I was laid off from my job as the food writer at the San Jose Mercury News.

Now, we still try to make it to restaurants on that list that we haven’t been to yet. But these days, they’re apt to be the more moderate-priced ones than the go-for-broke ones.

Marzano in Oakland fits that bill perfectly.

The warm, lively Oakland restaurant is indeed on that list. It’s easy to see why. It’s a neighborhood spot that’s comfortable enough and priced well enough to chow down at regularly — even in these tough times.

The wood-fired oven turns out pizzas that are blistered, thin in the center, and with a thick, chewy edge. The crust has a lot of character, full of that deep-fermented flavor of well-made artisan bread.

The "Bianco.''

Ten pies are offered on the menu. The hubster went for the “Bianco” ($14) — prosciutto, wild arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano, and extra virgin olive oil. I had my eye on the “Calamari” ($14) — yes, rings and tentacles strewn over the pie with spicy tomato sauce, gremolata, Pecorino, baby artichokes, red onion, and radicchio.

The mound of fresh greens on both pizzas were a nice touch — almost like a mini salad and pizza all in one. My calamari were tender, with a pleasing smokiness from the oven.

Nope, that's not chocolate on the soft-serve. Guess again.

My husband’s pizza was an especially winning combination. In fact, at home when we make our own pizza, we often top it with thin slices of prosciutto, arugula leaves and shards of Parmigiano. A drizzle of truffle oil sends it over the top, if you happen to have some on hand in your kitchen.

Dessert at Marzano was Straus Family Creamery soft-serve.

After going wild for the vanilla version drizzled with olive oil and sea salt at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur, I couldn’t help but try Marzano’s spin on it. A swirl of vanilla ice cream came brandished with a hit of sea salt — and syrupy reduced balsamic. The back note of tartness from the vinegar takes a moment to get used to. I still love the touch of salt on it. But I think the olive oil still wins me over more.

Either way it’s topped, it’s a sweet treat that won’t break the bank.

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  • Hmmm, calamari pie sounds good!

  • I’m a sucker for wood fired ovens.

  • re: “There was a time when my husband was on a kick to eat at every San Francisco Chronicle โ€œTop 100โ€ restaurant in the Bay Area. Not in one year, mind you.”

    There is actually a person who did that. In one year. He called in once when The Chronicle’s restaurant critic, Michael Bauer, the author of the top 100 list, was on Ronn Owen’s talk show. He was surprisingly sane and had smart observations about the places.

    Here’s a story — I think this is the guy. He also enlisted others to do it:

  • And by the way — visiting all 100 cost the guy “382 hours and $18,420.95.”

  • The calamari pie sounds like the way to go. Can’t be better than that, right? What a good idea.

  • The pizzas sound great, but that ice cream looks fantastic! Wish I could dip a spoon into the screen.

  • I am drooling over the ice cream. Delicious. And the pizza too of course!

  • Moe: My gawd! $18,420!! Good thing Meat Boy and I didn’t try to get to all 100 in one year. Yowza!

    I hear some people do a variation of this, too. Nick Peyton, the co-owner of Cyrus in Healdsburg, told me that a member of his family picks a specific letter of the alphabet every time the new Zagat’s comes out, then tries to eat their way through the restaurants that start with that specific letter.

  • I need to make my way to Oakland more for my food trips. There’s so many great looking spots to visit just like this.

  • omiGOSH, that pizza looks divine and the ice cream. Boy, it’s good thing that restaurant isn’t close by or else I’d gain a ton of weight. Pizza and ice cream are my favorites!

    I love how you are looking for good food that also fits a budget–something that most of us can relate to.

    BTW, any recommendations on ok places in the south bay? (Oh-OK. Probably not, huh LOL?)

    I’m sorry to hear that you got laid off. That is such a bummer ๐Ÿ™

  • Lisa: Ye of little faith. Hehheh. There are indeed tasty, affordable places to eat in the South Bay, though, they probably don’t get the press that other eateries in the Bay Area do.

    Look no further than my post a few days ago on Dia de Pesca,, the little taco truck that turns out the best fish tacos you’ll ever have. It’s permanently parked in parking lot in San Jose.

    Also, don’t forget great Vietnamese places such as the food court at Grand Century Mall in San Jose, Vung Tau restaurant in San Jose, and 19 Market in San Jose.

    Then, there’s the wonderful clam ramen at Tanto in Sunnyvale and San Jose. Also, Ramen Halu in San Jose.

    Moreover, don’t forget about the fun Falafel Drive-In in San Jose.

    The teeny Slice of New York on Stevens Creek in San Jose also makes some fabulous pies.

    Those are just a few bargain eateries. I’m sure Food Gal readers in the South Bay could name many, many more, too.

  • I would love to try a calamari pizza, never had one like that before! The ice cream is yummy!

  • Well, Carolyn, to think that our paths cross now and again. My extended family and I were at Marzano’s Saturday night as a part of my desire to get out to at least a couple of Top 100 restaurants this year. (I’ve topped my total for last year, which was zero.) We enjoyed the quattro formaggi and pepperoni pizzas (we had kids in tow) and the calzone. All wonderful choices, though my 16 year old daughter, who is not the picky type, observed that this was more “adult” pizza, and I’d have to agree. Yum!

  • GeoffL: Very true. It is more grown-up pizza, that’s for sure. How’d the soft-serve go over with the kids?

    And knocking off one on the Top 100 list is a mighty fine start. Here’s to exploring others. But, hopefully, in a way that won’t force you into debt to the tune of $18,420. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • “Straus Family Creamery” alone would make it worth-while for me ๐Ÿ™‚ I love their butter and cream, and swear its better than others! And the food looks gorgeous..

  • I have white clam pizza already on my to-try list and now I’ll add calamari! But your husband’s pizza Bianco with prosciutto and arugula is a combination that I don’t need to wait for! I’m a recent convert to arugula and can’t believe how long I’ve missed out on its peppery goodness. We’re a little tight on budget as well so visits to our fave pizza place have been few and far between. I’m seriously considering jerry-rigging a pizza oven at home (I’ve seen several DIY articles recently) but am afraid I will burn down the house . . . ๐Ÿ˜Ž

  • the quattro formaggi pizza was very good – all of the flavors meshed perfectly together – best 4 cheese pizza i’ve had in the bay.

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