Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 34
Pizzone, Palo Alto
Let’s start by saying that I’ve never paid nearly $70 for one pizza before ($69.90 to be exact).
But Pizzone’s pie is unlike most.
For one thing, it’s a massive 18-inches in diameter and 1-inch thick all around.
It’s also Milan-style, meaning that it’s airy, soft, fluffy, and more like focaccia.
Milan-native Dario Presezzi, founder and CEO of Redwood City’s Biotechforce Corp., put his entrepreneurial skills to use in a different way this summer when he opened this ghost kitchen inside of Palo Alto’s Vina Enoteca.
That means it’s pick-up and delivery only. And if you pick it up yourself, just note that you do so at a side door just to the left of Vina Enoteca’s main entrance.
By the time you get the pizza home, the cheese may have congealed just a bit, so you can rewarm it in the oven or zap it in the microwave for the briefest of seconds.
The pizza comes either in a box of two slices ($9.90 to $11.90, depending on the toppings) or as a full pizza (12 slices that will serve 6, starting at $54.90). Because the crust is thick, two slices will definitely fill you up comfortably, too.
There are five vegetarian pizzas to choose from, and four meat ones. The beauty of the whole pizza is that you can choose up to six flavors on one pie, which is what I went with.
For the veggie ones, I chose the squash, which is adorned with golden rings of delicata (though, the web site calls it butternut), salsa verde, mozzarella, and tomato sauce. The sweetness of the squash provided a wonderful contrast to the righteous herbaceousness of the green sauce. The veggie grill — crowned with grilled eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper — was like my favorite backyard side dish on top of a pizza, along with more of that mozzarella and tomato sauce.
On the meat side, the Rapini features plenty of that Italian bitter green interspersed with crumbled Italian sausage, a touch of chili pepper, mozzarella and tomato sauce. It tastes like a favorite pasta. The Salame has circles of thinly sliced Italian salami atop mozzarella and tomato sauce.
The Coppa is strewn with chopped marinated radicchio with sweet, silky, fatty slices of coppa that fairly melt in the mouth. My favorite might have been the Porcini with plump woodsy porcini mushrooms paired with slices of thin, sweet, buttery tasting ham that provided a deep depth of flavor.
Pro Tip: If you happen to pick up your Pizzone pizza between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, you can also make a stop at Vina Enoteca’s mercato, its marketplace in the same building. You can either pop into it or order ahead online to purchase bottles of wine, fresh house-made pastas and sauces, and take-and-bake frozen croissants.
Standard Fare, Berkeley
When you learn that Kelsie Kerr was a long-time chef at Chez Panisse, it’s no surprise then that her Standard Fare serves up wholesome California-style food with impeccably fresh ingredients. It’s simple food, full of vitality that you can feel especially good about enjoying.
She opened the casual West Berkeley spot in 2014. Because it’s always been largely a takeaway place, it may have adjusted to the pandemic easier than most, though its hours have been shortened as a result.
Come for breakfast or lunch. Because many of the items come with a choice to pick it up hot or cold, you can easily swing by in the afternoon to pick up something that you can stash in your fridge to reheat for dinner later on that night.
The menu changes every day. If you sign up for Standard Fare’s newsletter, you can peruse the menu in advance, too.
Sandwiches come on house-made focaccia that has enough structure to hold everything in but is soft and yielding enough to bite into with ease.
A recent fish sandwich that featured locally line-caught lingcod ($13.50) put any run-of-the-mill tuna sandwich to shame. The silky, flaky fish was dressed with preserved yuzu and tarragon, and layered with tomatoes, gypsy peppers, and sauteed onions. Aioli added creaminess and richness, and a vivid chrysanthemum greens added a sweet grassiness that was far more interesting than any lettuce could be.
Standard Fare always has a vegetarian sandwich option, too. On this particular day, it was roasted eggplant and kale ($13) on more of that house-made focaccia, topped with hummus, cherry tomato confit, cilantro-sorrel pesto, and peppery mizuna greens. As you can tell, the condiments and garnishes at Standard Fare are, well, anything but standard, giving these sandwiches real distinction and bold flavor.
The sandwiches all come with a few pickles, separately wrapped up. This time around, it was crunchy, tangy carrots and yellow beets.
Additionally, there are always a couple of lunch entree specials. I tried the Ropa Vieja (Cuban braised beef; $16.25). It may have been a modest amount of meat, but it was also grass-fed beef from Tomales Bay’s Stemple Creek Ranch, where the animals are raised humanely on land that’s almost all certified organic.
The beef was braised with tomatoes, sweet peppers and capers, rendering it succulent and tender. Alongside was some fluffy rice and delicious black beans. A crisp, mildly pickled cucumber salad added a nice burst of freshness.
Don’t neglect the sweets here. They are top-notch. The wedge of strawberry-peach olive oil cake ($7.10) was incredibly moist, lush and buttery.
The cookies (a bag of five for $3.75) are crisp and tiny, about the size of silver-dollar pancakes. The chocolate chip, and the oatmeal chocolate-chip had great snap and butteriness. They’re crunchy-crisp, almost like sables.
Pro Tip: Yes, Standard Fare offers only to-go food. Prior to the pandemic, it did have a few stools inside by the window available, where you could park yourself at while you ate. But with the pandemic, that’s off-limits. However, there is a parklet, as well as clever bench-like seating fashioned out of the long, cement step foundation right outside.
While you’re there, pop into Third Culture Bakery, just steps away, for fun and delicious mochi muffins, butter mochi donuts, mochi brownies, and artisan matcha drinks.