Thin Crust Pizza, Peninsula-Style
855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
Town & Country Village
Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted
I have to admit I sometimes roll my eyes when I see the word “artisan” slapped on a lot of things these days. And the latest is artisan pizza, brought to you by Chef Howard Bulka in Palo Alto.
And really, what is an artisan pizza? Basically it’s a hand-made pizza where attention is paid to every detail from the fermenting yeast that goes in the dough to the freshness of the broccoli rabe that tops it. Howie’s Artisan Pizza, which opened just two months ago, puts a lot of pride in its pizza and have been attracting the crowds, from college students from nearby Stanford University to the young families along the Peninsula.
I was at an event at Stanford a couple of weekends ago, so I was looking for a quick lunch first. Howie’s sells a $5 slice for lunch, but I figured I’ll sit down in the casual dining area just to see what an artisan pizza is like.
The menu isn’t just pizza, though. They sell several appetizers, salads, sandwiches and soft serve ice cream with olive oil (it's like the ubiquitous dessert for pizza these days). As I looked over the pizzas, I couldn’t decide and my waitress suggested I split my pizza and get two options. I love it when they suggest that.
So I ended up with half a Sausage and Broccoli Rabe and half a Pancetta, Red Onion, Red Chili pizza ($15.50).
When my pizza arrived, it looked like all the latest trendy wood-oven, thin-crust pizzas I’ve seen in San Francisco. That means the puffy, slightly burnt edges, and of course the thin crust with the bit of salty flavor.
Side note: The pizza also arrives on a corrugated cardboard square, which I thought was a nice, natural touch.
The pizza was so fresh that it was really difficult to eat it because the mozzarella cheese held everything together like glue. I noticed that as it cooled, it was easier to rip apart. I took a bite first out of the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, which was topped with house-made fennel sausages and bright green broccoli rabe.
I wasn’t a fan of the sausage slices, which had a texture that seemed really processed. (I like my sausage with real meaty chunks.) All the ingredients made the center of the pizza a bit soft, but at least it wasn’t chewy or droopy like the pizza I had at a pizzeria in the North Bay.
While I don’t usually like red onions, my waitress convinced me to get the pancetta pizza with red onions because it was her favorite and she guaranteed that the onion would be thinly sliced. And she was so right. The onions were thinly sliced and it just melted into the pancetta and the red chili.
The red chili was actually a nice touch (although there was a section that I wished it was more evenly spread around and not in one giant clump that was burning when you ate it). It really awakens your tastebuds to all the other flavors.
In the end, I was impressed by the freshness of the ingredients but felt the thin crust could be crisper.
This is just a mini review since I only had room in my stomach to eat a pizza, and didn’t get to try other things on the menu. Howie’s Artisan Pizza looks like a fun place to hangout, and the pizza is decent for the area but I feel I’ve had better pizzas closer to home. So Howie’s is a reliable drop-in place for pizza if you’re in the neighborhood.
I've tried my share of pizza this past couple of years, and so far these are my favorite places in the Bay Area:
Marzano on College
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Thin Crust Pizza, Peninsula-Style