Category Archives: Pizza

The Newest Il Fornaio Opens in Santa Clara Square

A bountiful Mare Chiaro at Il Fornaio in Santa Clara.

A bountiful Mare Chiaro at Il Fornaio in Santa Clara.

 

So conditioned are we these days to thinking negatively about chains that we often dismiss them without a second thought.

But bigger doesn’t always mean mediocre or less personalized.

Case in point: Il Fornaio.

The Italian restaurant chain started in the Bay Area, but now has 23 establishments not only throughout California, but also in Colorado, Virginia, Washington and Nevada.

I admit I hadn’t dined at one in quite awhile, even if I’d always had fine experiences at them, including when I held my wedding rehearsal dinner at the San Francisco locale years ago.

So, when I was invited in to dine as a guest at the newest Il Fornaio, which opened last month in the new Santa Clara Square retail-residential complex, I knew it would be satisfying, but I honestly had forgotten just how good the food really can be.

After all, it may be a chain, but it takes the time and effort to make its own breads and pastas, which is no easy feat. And it does so exceptionally well.

Fetching a bottle of wine.

Fetching a bottle of wine.

The Santa Clara restaurant is a huge 150-seat affair housed in a 6,200-square-foot building that has the air of a modern-day Tuscan farmhouse with soaring ceilings, weighty wood posts, a wide-open dining room, an open kitchen, and stylish glass-enclosed wine storage cases that reach to the ceiling and are accessible by a library ladder.

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Christmas Biscuits? Why Not!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

Merry Christmas with out-of-the-oven, homemade biscuits!

 

As you ready to open presents this Christmas morning or prepare for the big holiday feast to come tonight, wouldn’t a pan of fresh, warm biscuits hit the spot?

Imagine them slathered with sweet butter and marmalade for breakfast today or alongside glazed ham tonight.

Is your mouth watering yet? I know mine sure is.

Biscuits don’t get any easier or more irresistible than these from Howard Bulka, chef-owner of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Palo Alto and Redwood City.

The Palo Alto location is all about pizza. The Redwood City one, with its much larger and fully equipped kitchen, goes beyond the charred, flavorful pies to include everything from house-made pasta to classic burgers, too.

What’s more, the Redwood City one also offers weekend brunch, which includes an astonishingly great array of baked goods. This is where you’ll often find these heavenly biscuits offered.

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From Truck to Storefront: San Francisco’s Del Popolo

Winter squash pizza at the new Del Popolo restaurant.

Winter squash pizza at the new Del Popolo restaurant.

 

After three years of rumbling around San Francisco, the hulking Del Popolo pizza truck — with its 5,000-pound oven hauled around in a deconstructed shipping container — has finally added a real brick-and-mortar venue.

Opened just about a month ago on Bush Street in Nob Hill in a 1,700 square foot space once used by a theater company, the new pizza joint is as full of character as its justly famous pies.

The centerpiece, of course, is the imported Italian wood-fired brick oven easily viewed from anywhere in the small dining room.

The dark gray walls enclose the space with a sense of coziness. The plethora of “Soviet-style” oil paintings hanging all over the walls add whimsy. Owner Jon Darksy apparently purchased them all online and put them on display in a nod to Del Popolo’s name, which translates to “of the people.” General Manager Essam Kardosh says the staff has so taken to them that they’ve made up back stories for each of them.

The blazing wood-fired oven.

The blazing wood-fired oven.

The fun, eccentric decor.

The fun, eccentric decor.

When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, the place was already humming and packed when I arrived at 6 p.m.

You may come here for the pizza. But don’t neglect the rest of the menu, which is overseen by Chef de Cuisine Jeffrey Hayden, who has worked at wd50 in New York; Blackbird and Alinea, both in Chicago; and Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland.

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Look What Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Redwood City Is Cooking Up — A Sweet Surprise

Prosciutto and arugula pizza at the new Howie's Artisan Pizza in Redwood City.

Prosciutto and arugula pizza at the new Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Redwood City.

 

If you’re already a fan of Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Palo Alto, you’ll want to check out its second location, which just opened three weeks ago in downtown Redwood City.

If you’ve yet to experience Howie’s, here’s a great excuse to finally do so.

That’s because the second Howie’s is larger. The dining room is about the same size in both locations. But the Redwood City one boasts an expansive, heated patio that essentially doubles the seating capacity.

Howie’s in Redwood City also has a much more extensive menu. The Palo Alto location only has a pizza oven. The Redwood City location has that same primo oven, plus a full-on kitchen. That means you’ll not only find impeccable pizzas with what I think is probably the best crust in the Peninsula/South Bay, but also burgers, awesome fries, and desserts like banana cream pie and rhubarb crisp.

What’s more, this Howie’s also has a liquor license and a bar manager, Ryan Ingram, with some serious mixology chops. That means he’s making their own grenadine for the Scofflow ($11), a blend of Templeton rye, vermouth and lemon; and his own pineapple gum syrup for his namesake Ryan’s Pisco Punch ($10).

The large, heated patio seats as many as the dining room.

The large, heated patio seats as many as the dining room.

The dining room.

The dining room.

Cocktail action.

Cocktail action.

Chef-Owner Howard Bulka is already contemplating adding nightly blue plate specials. He also plans to start brunch service soon, which will include a very special treat you won’t want to miss. But more on that later.

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Oak & Rye and Oh, Those Pies!

The "California 2.0'' at Oak & Rye.

The “California 2.0” at Oak & Rye.

 

It’s taken me nearly a year to finally make it to Oak & Rye, the much lauded pizza joint in downtown Los Gatos. But it was well worth the wait.

You see, the restaurant does not take reservations unless you come with an army of 10 people. That means you have to play the waiting game. And given how popular the place is, the wait can be extensive.

But finally, I cleared my schedule, and arrived with my husband around 5:30 p.m. on a recent Saturday. Good thing we got there when we did, too, because while we were seated immediately, a mere half hour later the place was packed.

It’s easy to see why. It’s a loud, lively place with creative cocktails and a menu sure to please most any palate. It’s got an idiosyncratic vibe, what with its framed vintage album covers from the Blues Brothers and Culture Club on the wall, not to mention a gleaming bronze boar head mounted as if it’s keeping an eye on the kitchen.

The mascot, perhaps?

The mascot, perhaps?

Old album covers grace the walls.

Old album covers grace the walls.

Our table was right next to the open kitchen, whose centerpiece is the copper mosaic wood-fired oven.

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