Hot Discovery: the East Bay’s Pizzaiolo, where Tai and I recently had killer pizza as good as in Rome – the kind with the thin, delectable crusts, and sensitive, deeply delicious toppings. Mine had ricotta and wild nettles – Tai’s was a classic Margherita with red sauce and buffalo mozzarella. Exceptional! Both $15 and 16 inches across. But, surprisingly, so were our generous and addictive salads.

Her’s was a simple toss of superb greens ($7) in a lemony vinaigrette that was actually good enough to be called “memorable,” and when was the last time you felt that way about a green salad?

Mine was a re-invention of the Caesar – “it was time the Caesar was reconsidered,” Tai murmured appreciatively – instead of Romaine lettuce, the foundation for garlicky Caesar dressing was a bouquet of tender pale green chicory – one of raddichio’s cousins – and the real secret weapon of this dish was the use of dazzling, fresh, huge baguette toasts – wood-fired – that gave a whole new luster to the idea of a crouton ($8.50). Someone in the kitchen had actually thought about the large, intensely-garlicky baguettes. They weren’t simply the pre-made after-thought that most croutons are. In fact, I usually toss aside croutons like old lovers whenever I find them on my plate (the croutons, not the lovers).
These were to die for. Add a glass of winning, if pricey, Dolcetto di Alba, Il Columbo ’03 ($9) and heaven approached. Our dessert was equally luscious – a panna cotta ($8) drizzled with pomegranate glaze splashed with lemoncello (yes, the very elixir that got Danny DiVito in so much trouble recently).
Now whether you choose to make the treacherous crossing from Santa Cruz, over the gridlock that is 880, to Oakland just for this sort of outrageously good dinner, is your call. BUT if you happen to be anywhere near the East Bay, Pizzaiolo is more than worth a detour. I’m not kidding. Pizzaiolo – 5008 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland 510.652.4888.