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Pizzaiolo

November 29, 2005

There was a great deal of anticipation in the East Bay’s foodie circles for the opening of ex-Chez Panisse Charlie Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo in the burgeoning Temescal, and the fact that some months later, people still crowd on Telegraph Avenue near the eatery, indicate that the initial infatuation has not faded. (Awhile back, when we first wrote this review, we reported that Pizzaiolo does not take reservations. This was the case, then. But the folks at Chowhound now to seem to be reporting that they have begun to take reservations for parties of all sizes!) Located on a once-forlorn stretch of Telegraph, where the most visibly prominent business was a pawnbroker, the new crowds and the recent flurry of shops and restaurants to the area indicate that the Temescal has finally established itself as a unique, vibrant Oakland district – and Pizzaiolo shines as one of Temescal’s brightest jewels.Pizzaiolo specializes in wood-fired thin-crust pizzas, though they also have a decent selection of antipasti and pasta dishes for those who seek other fare. The menu changes daily, and the ingredients used are the freshest and are very clean-tasting; not at all surprising, given chef-owner Hallowell’s eight-year apprenticeship under Alice Waters. The farro, prepared with North Carolina white shrimp and spinach,

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was wholesome, hearty, and full of flavor. The butternut squash pizza with leeks and Gorgonzola,

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was a truly imaginative delight. Each scrumptious bite featured a soft, sweet infusion of leek and squash followed by a flavorful wave of Gorgonzola. The composition of the pizza was very well put-together, and the distinct flavors melded effortlessly. Although they serve fundamentally different types of pizza, the fresh creativity of Pizzaiolo — dare we say it — surpasses Zachary’s for flair and sophistication.

Pizzaiolo sports a casually hip atmosphere, and a rather high-volumed bustle, accentuated by the click-clack of shoes against hardwood floors, but the diners that seem to frequent this eatery are a poor reflection of Oakland’s diverse population, undoubtedly due to a high influx of denizens from nearby whitewashed Rockridge. Although the food is delicious, the servers do not have a commanding knowledge of either the Italian language or of their own menu (which is likely due to the fact that some key pieces of information on the menu are written only in Italian with no translation), and service is, on the whole, rather abrupt and in need of smoothing. The restaurant is only a few months old, though, and this smoothing will undoubtedly come with time. Nonetheless, Short Exact heartily recommends this restaurant, and we are already looking forward to our next visit.

RATING:

COST:

5008 Telegraph Avenue (between 49th St. and 51st St.)
Oakland, CA 94609
Phone: 510.652.4888
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 5:30-10:00 pm.

Cuisine: Pizza, Italian
Neighborhood: Temescal

How to get there: Pizzaiolo is directly served by AC Transit Line 40, and is quite close to the 43 line. BART riders can use MacArthur station (2/3 mile away) or Rockridge station (1 mile away).

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4 comments

  1. MMM…pizzaiolo is so tasty. You should consider reviewing Dona Tomas right next door. That may be one of my favorites in the East Bay.


  2. Dona Tomas is definitely on the list! One day hopefully, it too will be here.


  3. One note: Pizzaiolo at first did not take reservations, then adopted a limited reservations policy. They now seem to take full reservations, so the above review has been updated to reflect this.


  4. Update: Pizzaiolo is now open on Mondays as well!



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