What foods have you missed most during shelter-in-place? French fries, or most any fried foods for that matter, and sushi? That’s the consensus among my friends and family. Understandable, given that those are things most of us rarely prepare for ourselves at home.
Ozumo comes to the rescue on so many of those fronts. Former professional baseball player Jeremy Upland founded the restaurants after falling hard for Japanese cuisine during his time playing in the Japanese Pacific League. Its location in San Jose’s Santana Row is especially convenient because there are plenty of free parking lots just yards away.
To satisfy those fried foods cravings, look no further than karaage ($14) and Ozumo shrimp ($18).
I’m not going to lie — when you get these to-go, their crunchy coatings will suffer a bit by the time you get them home. But the fried white shrimp coated with shichimi can be re-crisped fairly well by just searing them in a hot frying pan on the stovetop. The accompanying yuzu-honey aioli is sweet and creamy like Japanese Kewpie mayo, with a citrusy and spicy edge. Our little plastic container of it got slightly melted when it was tucked inside the to-go container with the straight-from-the-fryer shrimp. But you can always transfer the sauce to your own dipping bowl at home.
When it debuted in downtown Palo Alto in 2018, Bevri was thought to be the first Georgian restaurant in all of Northern California.
Russia-born Pavel Sirotin, who also works at Google, opened it with his brother and sister-in-law because he missed his favorite homeland noshes. Over the years, word has spread about this unique gem of a place, and even more so now after the restaurant was featured on a recent episode of “Check, Please! Bay Area Kids Special.” Sirotin says a lot of newcomers have discovered Bevri as a result of that show, with many of them racing in and declaring, “I want what those kids had!”
It’s all available for takeout, too. If you are a carb lover like I am, you simply must order the iconic khachapuri adjaruli ($21), the soft, puffy, canoe-shaped bread whose center is molten cheese. The bread comes packed in a pizza box so it won’t get smooshed on the drive home. A separate container of butter, and a raw egg yolk is included. Warm up the bread in a toaster oven, then plop the yolk and butter in the center, and mix it into the warm cheese. Tear off a hunk of bread, dip it into the center like fondue, and prepare to experience bread-and-cheese nirvana.
If you don’t want to contend with a raw yolk, there is also the khachapuri imeruli ($18), which is more like a flattened round bread that has a filling of soft, stretchy, mozzarella-like cheese. It’s also wonderful, but not as quite as special.
Handmade pastas you can’t wait to twirl a fork into. Pizzas that make you lunge for a slice. An impressive Italian wine list. And creative cocktails that always put you in a peppy mood.
Vina Enoteca has long been one of my favorite Italian restaurants because it offers all of that with aplomb.
Ordering online is a breeze, as is parking when you pick up your order. These days, there’s plenty of open parking slots in the adjacent lot behind the Stanford Shopping Center. Walk up to the host stand outside to pick it all up.
My husband can never resist a pizza topped with prosciutto. The Pizza Emiliana ($22) is like the super-model version of that.
Pizza Antica, Santana Row San Jose, Lafayette, Mill Valley
The original Pizza Antica at San Jose’s Santana Row has been a huge draw since it opened its doors in 2003. Even in the midst of a pandemic, with only takeout and outdoor dining on the Row available, it remains ever popular.
When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant last week, I found the takeout system easy as can be. There’s plenty of parking at Santana Row these days, so once you find a spot, just walk to the restaurant’s front doors to pick up your to-go food that you can order ahead of time online.
You can never go wrong with pizza here. The thin yet pliable crusts sport those lovely charred leopard spots from the oven. The Margherita ($17) is a solid, classic rendition with sweet tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella and fresh basil leaves on a crust with a noticeable yeasty, developed flavor.
Two years ago, the original Pasta Armellino opened to great anticipation in downtown Saratoga. After all, who wouldn’t be excited about the Michelin-starred chef of the Plumed Horse (right across the street) plying his skills on hand-made pastas at moderate prices?
That casual eatery has done so well that last month, a second Pasta Armellino appeared on the scene at Main Street Cupertino, albeit much more quietly. Then again, it’s not easy for a new business to muster blustery fanfare during a pandemic.
Yet if you are a pasta lover like I am, you should be rejoicing mightily. Because these are supple, toothsome pasta dishes that will surely leave you giddy from the first forkful.