My mother once gave me a cookbook for Christmas, and the inscription inside read, "to a lifetime of good food and its community." Working in the food business is hard. You're cooking when most people are eating, spending weekends, nights, holidays on your feet and behind the stove. You miss a lot. It's no wonder they call the meal served to staff before their shift family meal--most cooks see more of their saute pans then they do of their loved ones. So it's only natural, necessary, even, that you build a community into your work. And a community of food loving coworkers cum friends is the best kind. Restaurants are all about hospitality--you're in the business to make folks happy, and your friends are the lucky benefactors of this spirit of generosity.
All of this build-up to say: I had a great dinner last night. I accompanied some good friends to the newly opened restaurant of their good friend, Charlie Hallowell. They're all Chez Panisse alums (a community with a fine pedigree, no less) and Charlie's new spot, Pizzaiolo, on Telegraph in Oakland, California, is just the greatest.
Maybe it's the warm wooden booths and tables, the communal table in the back room, with photos of his two children on the wall, the exposed brick and the buoyant, happy feel that the room has. Well, it's probably the food. Long cooked romano beans with an anchovy vinaigrette, a crisp toast slathered with aioli and topped with little cherry tomatoes, manila clams with chickpeas in a perfect broth--and pizzas, with buffalo mozzarella, broccoli rabe, sausage, and toasted crust, salty enough, with little blackened spots. It's affordable and wonderful, with a nice wine list and good desserts. All of which means that it feels comfortable and good, and I'll have to come back often. Thanks, Charlie.
You can check out pizzaiolo's menu at www.pizzaiolo.us