Category Archives: Pizza

Pizza Perfection at San Francisco’s A16

Marinated sardines with frisee and apples at A16.

As the saying goes: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In the case of San Francisco’s A16, that’s a very good thing. The restaurant, which specializes in the cuisine of Campania, has weathered quite a few chef changes over its eight years. But you’d never know it. The narrow restaurant is always packed. And the food is consistently stellar, especially the pizzas and pastas.

That was the case on my most recent visit there last month, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

Executive Chef Christopher Thompson took over the helm earlier this summer. He also journeyed to Naples this year, where he became a certified pizzaiolo in Neapolitan-style pizza.

The Margherita with added prosciutto di Parma.

Of course, we had to have one of those pies. We opted for the Margherita ($15) with tomato, mozzarella, Grana Padano, basil and a splash of olive oil. The blistered crust was crisp, even holding up well enough in the center to the milky mozzarella that had melted delightfully to become one with the sweet tomato sauce. You can tell the sign of a great crust in that it should have a developed flavor all on its own. This one does. It also had plentiful air bubbles to create a wonderful chewy texture in parts.

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Portola Valley Welcomes the Portola Kitchen

How about a decadent Belgium waffle for dessert? At Portola Kitchen, you can so indulge.

You gotta love a restaurant that offers you a perfectly crisp and light Belgium waffle with Nutella sauce — at the end of dinner.

That’s one of the joys of the new Portola Kitchen, which opened last month up in the tree-lined hills of Portola Valley.

It’s in the old Mike’s Cafe building in the Ladera Shopping Center, a little oasis of eating and shopping, where you’ll also find the wonderful Bianchi’s Market, an Old Port Lobster Shack, and the well-stocked Ladera Garden Center.

The restaurant space has been given a total redo with a rustic, warm vibe. Banquette dividers are constructed of unfinished wood. The bare wood tables, fashioned from old barn siding, still have grooves and knots in them to add character. Even the soaring beamed ceiling is reminiscent of an old barn. There’s a long bar with TVs, an open kitchen, and seating outside to take advantage of the temperate summer evenings.

Chef Guillaume Bienaime is the latest in a long line of fine-dining chefs to go more casual these days. He last headed the kitchen at the well-regarded, white-tablecloth Marche in Menlo Park.

Chef-Owner Guillaume Bienaime in the open kitchen.

Gotta have a snazzy meat slicer, right?

A plate of food ready to be served. The bar is in the background.

At Portola Kitchen, he creates a menu friendly on the pocket and a variety of appetites. All the pastas are made in-house, as is the sausage. The wine list is half Californian and half Italian. There also are wines on tap to enjoy by the glass.

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A Very Rewarding Redd Wood

A magnificent lardo-draped pizza at Redd Wood.

Redd Wood is one of those restaurants that could easily qualify as your favorite neighborhood joint.

With a cosmopolitan, masculine-chic vibe, plus affordable pizzas and pastas done superbly, it’s the kind of place you can comfortably return to again and again.

Now, if only I could afford to live in Yountville — well, then I’d be all set.

Barring that, at least I was fortunate enough to be invited recently to dine as a guest for lunch at Chef Richard Reddington’s newest restaurant. His first, of course, is the Michelin-starred Redd, a much tonier establishment just a stroll away in downtown Yountville.

The entrance.

So many Napa Valley restaurants sport a Mediterranean look. Redd Wood has none of that. Instead, it looks like a trendy New York restaurant, with its black leather tufted booths, train station clock, marble general’s desk turned service station, and striking ship’s buoy that’s been dipped in bronze and refashioned as a light fixture.

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Scrumptious Snapshots from New York, Part I

Eating my way through New York, including this pasta at Eataly.

NEW YORK, NY — Yes, the hubby (aka Meat Boy) and I sneaked off to New York last week for one of the first real vacations we’ve had in a long time.

By that, I mean it was a trip that didn’t solely revolve around my work as a food writer. Instead, it was merely for relaxation and enjoyment — plus lots of good eats, of course. To make sure I actually did take time off, I wasn’t allowed to lug around my usual heavy camera, but only a tiny point-and-shoot. I had to ration my shots, too. After all, it’s not really a vacation if it’s viewed only through the lens of a camera and not the full spectrum of your own eyes.

Hope you enjoy the highlights:

When in New York, you've gotta have a bagel. Or two. Or...

Barney Greengrass

After taking the red-eye from San Jose to New York, we caught a couple of hours of shut-eye at our hotel before venturing to this 100-year-old institution. If you’re in New York, you’ve got to have a bagel or two, right? And what better place than at Barney Greengrass, famed for its smoked sturgeon.

Grab a table where you can at this tightly packed store flanked by deli cases.

My famished husband tore into a plate of smoked sturgeon scrambled with eggs and onions ($18.50), plus a bagel on the side, while I noshed on a sesame bagel stuffed with cream cheese, capers, onion, tomato, smoked sturgeon and Nova Scotia salmon ($20.75). Hello, New York!

BaoHaus

Chinese steamed buns filled with all manner of inventive fillings is the bill of fare at the shoebox-size BaoHaus started by the irreverent, lawyer-turned-street food-restaurateur Eddie Huang and his brother, Evan.

The zany artwork at BaoHaus.

Steamed buns filled with fried chicken (back) and pork belly (front).

The “Chairman Bao” ($2.99) is a fluffy white bun caressing juicy braised pork belly, cilantro, crushed peanuts and a hit of Taiwanese red sugar.

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Crazy For Cupola Pizzeria

A meat lover's dream pizza at Cupola Pizzeria.

I don’t know if it’s the 5,000-pound Italian wood-fired oven that they managed somehow to lug up to the top of the San Francisco Centre shopping mall. Or the fact that they’re cooked in a fiery 850-degree heat over almond wood.

But the pizza crusts at Cupola Pizzeria are light, airy and downright ethereal.

When I was invited as a guest of the restaurant recently, our server even joked that the delicate crust makes it entirely too easy to polish off a whole pie by one’s self.

The casual restaurant, done up with bar-height tables for eating, is a great place to take a load off after spending a day perusing all the shops below, especially because it has a good selection of wines and cocktails. Opened last summer, this the Lark Creek Restaurant Group’s first pizzeria. And it does the company proud.

The monster of an oven.

The casual, lively dining room.

Order a la carte or enjoy the “La Festa di Tutte Le Feste” (Feast of All Feasts) for $30 per person. The latter gives you small tasting portions of an assortment of antipasti, starters and pastas, along with a pizza or two (depending on how many are in your party), plus dessert, making it a great deal for those who want to try almost everything on the menu.

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