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Weekly Dish: Pizza Pizza

Pizza rules in the East Bay; Baci Bistro replaces Strizzi's in Danville; Petar's rumors; great burgers; and more in this week's Dish!



Margherita pizza at The Forge Oakland

Pizza, pizza, pizza. Seems like the new wave of upscale pizza places never ends. Are our tastebuds regressing back to those of children? Are were we retreating back to the comfort food of our youth to face a more uncertain world? Or maybe it's simply that pizza is easily accessible and delicious? I presume the latter, and am therefore pretty pumped about the newest wave of crusty, cheesy goodness headed to the East Bay. Let's recap, shall we, in no particular order ...

The Forge
Who: The first offering from Table 24 co-owner Michael Karp's Le Bon Temps restaurant group sports an impressive crew including executive chef Jeffrey Amber from Chow and Gigi, consultant Jeff Krupman, aka the Pizza Hacker, and yet another Jeff, Jeff Hayden, the sous chef who worked at Dopo and Boot & Shoe Service.
What: Very simple, Neapolitan-style thin-crust fired in an imported Italian wood burning oven. I got a little taste at a media preview on Tuesday and came away impressed—in particular, the delicate sourdough crust was pretty spectacular. Look for a full preview in next week's Dish.
When: They're opening either this coming Monday or Tuesday and will be open for lunch and dinner.
Where: 66 Franklin St., Oakland (Jack London Square), theforgepizza.com.

Pizza Moda
Who: From one of the owners of Fellini, a previous incarnation at that spot, which was also the short-lived Divino.
What: Italian-style thin-crust such as Margherita, Calabrian Chili, and Anchovy pizzas.
When: Open now for dinner, Wednesday through Sunday.
Where: 1401 University Ave, Berkeley(510) 841-5200, pizzamoda.com

Sliver
Who: It's a spin-off of the Gourmet Ghetto's beloved worker-owned Cheeseboard Collective.
What: Just one type of pizza each day (like Cheeseboard) using fresh seasonal ingredients. Also, a percentage of its profits will be directed to organizations working to end human trafficking
When: Open now for lunch and dinner, Monday through Saturday.
Where: 2132 Center Street, Berkeley, facebook.com/SliverPizzeria.

Pancoast Pizza
Who: From Philly-transplant Robert Pancoast and his wife, Julie.
What: The Pancoasts dish out New York-style thinner crust pizza including classics like the "esquared": Italian sausage with fennel, green olives, and little nuggets of ricotta cheese
When: Open now for lunch and dinner daily.
Where: 1516 S Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 954-1178, pancoastpizza.com

Jules Thin Crust
Who: Owner Heather Clapp already opened a location in Danville, and is bringing another one to College Avenue in Oakland's Rockridge district.
What: It's in the name. Yes, thin crust, but more of a California take with plenty of fresh, seasonal ingredients and lots of gluten-free options too. Jules is one of my favorites for lunch.
When: Danville is open now, and the Rockridge location, last time I checked, was schedule to open in early spring.
Where: 820 Sycamore Valley Rd W, Danville, (925) 743-2790, julesthincrust.com; 5804 College Ave., Oakland (coming this spring)

Build
Who: This will be the first restaurant (they plan more) for Wine Country hoteliers Lisa Holt and David Shapiro, who are taking over the building that previously housed the Shattuck Down Low.
What: It's going to be Roman-style thin-crust pizza with a creative twist: you'll be able to customize and build your own pizzas that the staff will fire up in less than 90 seconds in the wood oven.
When: Unclear, except that it will be this year.
Where: 2284 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.

Patxis
Who: Bill Freeman and Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz started their mini-chain of Chicago-style deep-dish pizzerias in San Francisco but have sent expanded all over the Bay Area, and as far out as Denver.
What: They've got two versions of thin crust, but their specialty is deep-dish, either stuffed crust or Pan Pizza (the Spinach Pesto is killer). They've also got plenty of health-oriented options such as dairy-free cheese, whole wheat crust, low-fat mozzarella, plus vegan and gluten-free crusts.
When: Lafayette is open now, and a new Livermore location is set to open in April near the Bankhead Theater, featuring a special indoor/outdoor bar. 
Where: 3577 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-0700, patxispizza.com. (downtown Livermore location opening this spring)

Zachary's
Who: This will be the fourth location for this beloved Oakland-based, worker-owned deep-dish restaurant.
What: Deep dish, deep dish, deep dish, Chicago-style...
When: Berkeley, Oakland, and San Ramon restaurants are open, but the big news is that Zachary's newest location is this close to debuting in downtown Pleasant Hill (likely before the end of the month). Stay tuned...
Where: 5801 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 655-6385; 1853 Solano Ave., Berkeley, (510) 525-5950; 3110 Crow Canyon Place, San Ramon (925) 244-1222; zacharys.com. Pleasant Hill coming soon!

The Star
Who: Per GrubStreet, The Star comes from Jon Guhl, who co-founded  the popular Bay Area mini-chain of Little Star Pizzas (there's one in Albany). The Star replaces Milano on Grand Ave in Oakland.
What: The Star, reportedly, will share many aspects of Little Star, which is known for its deep-dish pizzas with cornmeal crust, but will have some differences in vibe and menu.
When: No word yet.
Where: The Star: 3425 Grand Ave., Oakland. Little Star: 1175 Solano Ave. Albany, (510) 526-7827, littlestarpizza.com


Strizzi's, which has been dishing out Italian fare for 20 years in Danville just off of Blackhawk Plaza, closed its doors, but not for long. Replacing it will be a new location of Baci Bistro and Bar, Danville-residents Michael and Sabrina Hughes' casual fine dining restaurant in downtown Pleasanton (where they also own Cafe Main). According to Sabrina, the Hughes will be taking over the space on February 1 and hope to reopen as Baci Bistro by March 1. She said the menu and vibe would be very similar to their location in Pleasanton, which specializes in steak, fresh seafood, and Italian fare, while the vibe would be a little more family friendly and affordable befitting its location near a shopping center versus a downtown. "We live in Blackhawk and we've always wanted to open a place in Danville, so we're really excited."

And don't be too sad Strizzi's fans, their three other locations in Pleasanton, Livermore, and Fremont will remain open.


Rumors, rumors. Beyond the Creek had a tasty one about a Mccormick and Schmick's replacing the shuttered Petar's in Lafayette. Well, all I can say is that's pretty close but not quite right. Can't say anything yet but I should have the full scoop for you next Wednesday so stay tuned...

Meanwhile, I was glad to hear that Petar's longtime popular entertainer Diamond Dave Hosley has landed on his feet and will be performing a weekly gig at Dan's in Walnut Creek on Thursday nights through April. Also, look for a special performance at an Oscar Night soiree at the Rheem Theater on February 24 to raise money to replace the busted elevator there. Rock on Dave. Go to his Facebook page for more details...


A couple of openings to report...

Anfilo Coffee debuted on Grand Ave. in Oakland, right next door to Farley's East. They're doing coffee Ethiopian-style, "a smooth, rich brew that’s heated over an open flame and poured, unfiltered, out of the jug-shaped clay pot known as a jébeena." This according to the East Bay Express, which has a nice write-up on Anfilo. 35 Grand Ave., Oakland, (510) 828-2759, anfilo.com.

Chef-owner Rebecca Bernstein Redwine is switching up the concept of her Cioccolata Di Vino on Shattuck Ave. Tomorrow (Thursday), she's debuting Oggi Restaurant and Wine Bar, which will feature an Enoteca-style menu of seasonally-changing savory small plates (and less of an emphasis on desserts). Dishes will include starters like  roasted garlic bread on housemade ciabatta and stuffed medjool dates with gorgonzola and crispy bacon, larger dishes such as roasted pork chop with soft polenta and Italian-style baby back ribs, plus daily changing pasta and pizza specials. Prices look reasonable (mostly under $15), and there are three- and four-course prix fixe dinners offered nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. for $22 to $27. 1801 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 898-1392, oggiberkeley.com.


And a few closings to report: Me and My Friends Cafe in Pleasanton, Vice Ultra Lounge in Walnut Creek, and Fat Cactus Bar & Grill in San Ramon have all shuttered in the New Year. According to Yelp, there's a place called Maui Burger Co. replacing Fat Cactus...


The Good Food Awards winners are in, celebrating American food producers and farmers who produce food that is "tasty, authentic and responsibly produced." Here's a link to all the winners, but a quick shout-out to East Bay champs: Alameda's St George's Spirits (for their Agua Libre California Agricole Rum & Aqua Perfecta Poire Eau de Vie); Berkeley's Fra' Mani Handcrafted Food (for their Salame Toscano); Hayward's Columbus Foods (for their Finocchiona); Berkeley's Cultured Pickle Shop (for their Japanese Cucumber and Arame Kimchee & Kasu-Zuke Jalapeños); and Emeryville's Inna Jams (for their Pretty Spicy Fresno Chili Jam).


We mentioned this briefly in last November's issue, but Wente Vineyards has started raising its own beef to use at their restaurant in Livermore. To kick the program off, they'll be hosting Wente Estate Beef Week starting Monday January 28 in which executive chef Matt Greco is offering some menu items featuring such dishes as aged charcuterie, bone marrow and beef chorizo sourced from their own estate. That will include a la carte items as well as a special four-course prix fixe menu for $75. The cattle is grass-fed, allowed to roam 1,600 acres on Wente's estates, and then the beef is dry-aged for 21 to 28 days for flavor and tenderness. I'll be getting a sneak taste later this week so tune in next week for a review. And click here to check out the menu.


Speaking of sustainable meat, I had a chance to go to a special dinner at Belcampo Meat Co.'s new butcher shop/restaurant up in Larkspur last week. It was a pretty meat-tastic meal (burgers, lamb shoulder, meatballs, beef tallow fries), but more impressive than the food (which was great) was the how all that meat is sourced. The Jack London Square-headquartered company is actually trying to control the entire means of production for their meat: that includes a large sustainable ranch in northern California for their animals (everything from squabs to cows), a humane slaughterhouse also in Northern California that was designed by specialist Temple Grandin, and finally the last link in the chain: a series of butcher shops of which the Larkspur location is the first (they're looking to open another in San Francisco and two more in Los Angeles). With all the questions about what's actually going into mass-produced meat (hormones anyone?), this is a worthy, ambitious project and the butcher shop is worth checking out (if only because it's a pretty space) if you're in the area.

And if you're curious, the Larkspur shop is actually debuting its Meet the Farmer series this Saturday, January 26th, in which Belcampo's Swine and Poultry Division Director (yes, that's his real title) Kylan Hoover will give guests an inside look at different kinds of pigs, while offering up free pork treats including BBQ spare ribs. There are two talks at 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. 2405 Larkspur Landing Cir, Larkspur, (415) 448-5810, belcampomeatco.com


Special Dinners coming up this week:

Hopscotch in Oakland is hosting a Whiskey of the Worlds dinner this Monday, January 28 featuring a five-course menu each paired with a different whisky chosen by spirits expert Steve Beal. Tickets are $80, CLICK HERE for all the details and to reserve a spot.

Also, Romney Steel's The Cook and her Farmer, the cafe, oyster and wine bar coming to Old Oakland, is hosting a series of pop-up dinners at Berkeley's Guerilla Cafe starting this Friday, January 25 (also February 8 and 22). Happening from 6 to 10 p.m. the dinner will feature Tamales Bay oysters, platter salads, crab gumbo and local wine and beer. Call (510) 798-1895 to reserve a spot.

We wrote about Little Shop Artisan Box, a CSA for local artisan food producers, in our January issue. Well they're co-hosting a pop-up dinner this Friday (January 25) in Uptown Oakland, a five-course dinner prepared by former Toast chef Peter Jackson that will feature all of the products in this month's artisan box—the theme for January is spice, and the name of the dinner is Spice-adelic. You'll also get to meet the actual food producers at the event: sounds pretty cool, go to littlebox.eventbrite.com for tix.  littleshopartisanbox.com


To cap things off, a little collage of some delicious things I ate in the last week. Tough job, I know...

Burger with aioli, caramelzed onions, and pickles at Plum Bar in Oakland Smoked salmon salad with lemon thyme vinaigrette at Cypress in Walnut Creek
Citrus marinaded shrimp and chicken skewers at Citra Grill in Walnut Creek Meatballs and tomato cream at Belcampo Larkspur

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ESTATE BEEF WEEK MENU

Amuse

First Course
charcuterie
bierwurst
shank rillette with leek confit and celery root hay
smoked texas style sausage with coffee molasses barbeque sauce
croquette with grilled cabbage, raisins, zinfandel

Second Course

crispy clams in beef chorizo broth
kale oil, bone-marrow butter and crouton

Third Course

28 dry-aged short loin with béarnaise
olive oil roasted potatoes with sea salt and thyme
mustard kale braised with bacon and onion

Dessert
apple pie with leaf lard crust
brown butter ice cream

*Four Courses $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity

*Menu may have some variation

*Various beef dishes are also available a la carte