A gluten-free pizza at Pizza Antica at Santana Row.
After hosting a cooking demo in August at Santana Row in San Jose with Chef Bradley Cenyowa of Pizza Antica, he had me intrigued.
Responding to customers’ needs, Pizza Antica — which has four locations — had begun to offer a gluten-free pizza crust.
It can quite challenging to get the texture just right in gluten-free bread and other baked goods. But Cenyowa is such a fan of the gluten-free crust at the restaurant that he eats it, himself, even though he does not suffer from celiac disease.
He invited me in as a guest of the restaurant to try it for, myself.
If you’re gluten-intolerant, the server will hand you a separate gluten-free menu to peruse — a nice touch. My husband and I — neither of us have issues with gluten — got both menus just to check them out.
The always busy restaurant.
We started off with the bacon, lettuce, tomato chopped salad ($10.25), which the kitchen thoughtfully split onto two plates for us. The salad is a tumble of textures in every fork-full. You get crunchy romaine, crisp bacon and fluffy bits of hard-cooked egg. There’s just enough Dijon dressing to coat everything, but not drown it.
If you’ve ever wanted to perfect pizza-making at home, now’s your chance.
Join me at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara when I host a cooking demo with Chef Howard Bulka of Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village.
Bulka, who left the world of fine-dining to research the fine points of pizza making, will show you how to create a superb dough using a starter that will add so much more flavor to your crust.
Meatballs at Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Palo Alto.
Howard Bulka is one of those chefs who will get fixated on something, then research and tweak it to death until it’s just right.
Such was the case when he decided to trade decades of preparing fancy, fine-dining, prixe-fixe menus for pizza instead.
Howie’s Artisan Pizza opened in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village four years ago. Crowds have been lining up ever since for the pizzas, constructed with a bread flour-dough, which takes two days to mix and proof before being turned into pies that are baked in a gas-fired brick oven at 600 degrees for 5-6 minutes.
These are multi-dimensional crusts with puffy edges of air holes that provide chew and crunch, and centers that get thinner and crisper.
The whimsical art work on the walls.
The dining room.
Recently, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. We started with the Chinese Chicken Salad ($10). The generous-sized salad is more than enough for two to share. A mountain of chopped romaine is tossed with cucumber, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, chicken chunks, crispy won ton strips and a creamy, mustardy dressing. It’s almost like an Asian version of a chopped salad.
Huckleberry sorbetto at Campo 185.
Months ago on a lark, just because I happened to be wandering through downtown Palo Alto on a chilly afternoon, I stopped into Campo Pizzeria to grab something warm for lunch.
At the time, the name of the restaurant included the word “pizzeria.” Back then, the kitchen was also headed up by Chef Sean O’Brien, formerly of Myth, Gary Danko and Zinnia, all in San Francisco. I remember the pizzetta dough as quite crisp and the cup of minestrone truly impressive in the way it maintained the integrity of each and every vegetable.
Fast forward to earlier this month, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. Now christened Campo 185, in reference to its address on University Avenue, the “pizzeria” moniker had been jettisoned, though pizzas are still on the menu. What’s more, a new chef now runs the place — Robert Holt, former executive chef of Marzano in Oakland.
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.
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.