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.
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.
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.