Pizza Rustica

5422 College Avenue (Oakland)

Pizza Rustica slice.

Pizza Rustica's hideous, basil-filled nightmare.

One look at the picture of Rustica’s Margherita pizza should tell you all you need to know.  But in case you want details, here goes:

Pizza Rustica’s red, Cirque du Soleil-ish interior is like somewhere you’d go for a date before surviving the latest Julia Roberts movie.  Also, their pizza is flavorless and their view of proportions is…misconstrued.  The main portion of their Margherita pizza was completely and utterly smothered by basil leaves.  (Did this really happen?)  As if this weren’t enough, Rustica adds an extra layer of shredded cheese on top of the basil.  (Again – really?)  Each member of the army of basil was individually OK to handle, but collectively they were a full-on assault  of basil flavor.   The pizza underneath, by the way, mostly lay lifeless.  The crust was passable, but the only time I felt like I really tasted anything was when I caught a morsel of garlic.

This was not pizza – this was a Frankensteinian monstrosity!

Summary: Cafe Rustica is a good-looking restaurant producing terrible pizza.

Verdict: Stay away!

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Published in: on August 29, 2010 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Zachary’s Chicago Pizza

5801 College Avenue (Oakland)

Zachary's Chicago Style pizza

So ugly, yet so satisfying.

Yes, Zachary’s pizza is true Chicago style.  Is it “best this side of the Mississippi, if not this side of the moon” as Zagat Survey suggests?  No – but you still won’t be disappointed.

Let’s get down to it – Chicago-style is not exactly refined pizza.  Maybe it can be, but not in my experience.  That said, Zachary’s delivers the goods – a heaping, ugly mess of a pizza that doesn’t skimp on…well, anything really.  I can’t say it’s all well-proportioned.  I would actually judge it oversauced (a rare feat in the Berkeley pizza world).  None of the ingredients are of particularly high quality.  The sauce tastes too tart, too tangy, and is chunkier than I prefer.  The cheese is fine; it comes as a big, thick planar slab, and there is so much going on with this pizza that it’s hard to isolate it’s taste.  When I tried, I found that besides contributing to the pizza its rubbery texture, it does also add some decent flavor.  The crust is a little too dry and rigid for my taste.  Although I recognize that this is deep dish, and that the crust needs to serve as an architectural support for the stress of all the stuff piled on top, there’s room for improvement here.  Finally, there is probably a little too much salt.  But all in all, many of the flaws are hidden by the sheer mass of food on your plate, and somehow everything comes out pretty much OK in your mouth.  I guess proportions are less sensitive when there’s so much of everything.

The Oakland location (reviewed here – there is also one in North Berkeley) is crowded.  Expect to wait about an hour for a table (but you can order beforehand and have your pizza cooked while you wait).  The interior decoration is somewhat silly, but I like it.  There are dozens of paintings with variations on the theme of Zachary’s being the best (for example, the cookie monster claims he enjoys Zachary’s even more than cookies).  The tables are nice enough, and the service is a little rushed and cold, but given how busy the place was I can’t blame them.

Zachary’s is the pizza equivalent of a bazooka.   Isn’t that something worth trying?

Summary: Not altogether refined, but still a very fun experience and genuinely Chicago-style.

Verdict: Go there!

Published in: on August 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm  Leave a Comment