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 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.
The signature Myzen Ramen bowl.
Owner Sterling Zhuang knows that people may wonder what a Chinese guy is doing opening a Japanese ramen restaurant.
But Zhuang spent six months living in Tokyo, learning the finer points of ramen from a Japanese friend, before opening Myzen Ramen in Sunnyvale this summer. He also hired an all-Japanese crew for his kitchen.
One top-notch ramen establishment. And that’s saying a lot, given the plethora of ramen places in the South Bay.
I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently. I took along my Japanese-American husband, who of course, was quite skeptical at the start. But in the end, he was won over, having eaten his words, and a whole lot more.
Lone diners can sit at the bar that fronts the kitchen.
The brightly-lit dining room has tables packed close together. But you understand why when you see the lines at lunch-time. At dinner on a weeknight, the place was still nearly full.
Get to know sunchokes.
They look like the love child of ginger and potatoes.
They taste deliciously nutty, sweet and a bit artichoke-like, and have a a texture akin to a creamier water chestnut.
Do you know sunchokes?
These knobby tubers are also known as Jerusalem artichokes.
They’re a pain to peel, as you can imagine. They’re also not easy to find in stores. I’ve bought them at Sprouts and Draeger’s in the past.
And for some people, unfortunately, they are not easy to digest. In fact, their nickname is, um, “fartichokes.” You can read more about that in this enlightening — and slightly amusing — Bon Appetit article.
If you’re trying them for the first time, you probably want to go easy on how many you eat just to see how well your body takes to them.
Avocado toast — with uni — at Bar Crudo.
For folks like my husband, the antidote to too much fancy food is a good ol’ burger.
For folks like me, it’s fish.
Raw fish, to be exact.
So when I was invited in as a guest recently at Bar Crudo in San Francisco, I jumped at the chance.
After all, with the overload of cookies, rich appetizers and big hunks of meat at this time of year, what better way to give the body a rest than with raw fish — Italian-style.
Plus, the restaurant is proudly celebrating its 10th year.
The packed dining room.
You can sit at the bar, too — if you can snag a seat.
I still remember its teeny-tiny, original Bush Street location. Now ensconced on Divisadero Street, it’s still not huge. But the long, narrow quarters here definitely offer more breathing room.
On a recent Saturday night, it was packed inside, with even more folks outside, hoping to snag a table.
Restaurants with the best views don’t always boast the greatest food.
Not so with Menlo Park’s Madera restaurant,which has one of the prettiest dining rooms around, and a most talented chef in East Bay native, Peter Rudolph.
Get a taste of his elegant, farm-to-table cuisine when he joins me for a cooking demo, 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara.