Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dish to Go: Zachary’s Chicago Pizza

Love It or Hate It, It’s a Neighborhood Institution
5801 College Ave., Oakland (two other locations in San Ramon and Berkeley)
Rockridge neighborhood
PH: 510.655.6385
Open daily, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. (until 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday)
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

Before there were Pizzaiolo or Dopo, there was Zachary’s, the neighborhood joint dishing out Chicago-style, deep-pan pizza for 25 years.

You can always count on a crowd at this popular pizza restaurant, just as sure as you can count on the aroma of freshly baked pizza dough wafting through the area near the Rockridge BART station and now next door to the Trader Joe’s on College Avenue.

Because waiting for a table can be forever, as you jostle through parents with small kids or college kids from UC-Berkeley, I often just go to Zachary’s for take out. Since I live just 15-minutes away, it’s usually not a problem to get a piping hot pizza on my dinner table.

The take out system at Zachary’s is pretty impressive, although I’ve heard people complain about the service. Most times I’ve gone, I haven’t had a problem getting my pizza. There’s a take out counter in the front right before you turn right to wait for a table at the restaurant. You can order your pizza or phone ahead and pick up. There are also some pre-made pizzas of some of the popular kinds that are half-baked that you can buy and bake at home.

Once I ordered a pizza and then went to Trader Joe’s next door to shop, and 20 minutes later just returned to pick up my pizza. When you’re waiting at the counter, you can see the kitchen staff work like a well-oiled assembly line as they bust out pizza and pizza.

Here’s one of my favorite pizzas. It’s the Mediterranean ($12.45 for a small thin crust) made with red bell peppers, green olives, artichoke hearts, feta and jack cheese. I order the thin crust because I think they do that the best even though they’re originally known for the deep-pan. I love artichokes on all my pizzas and the jack cheese kept all the ingredients melded together. The crust has cornmeal flakes, which can feel odd if you’re not used to that.

Once I thought it might be interesting to try a half-baked pizza. When you pick it up, they give you instructions on what degrees to cook your pizza and for how long. Here’s a small Chicken Pizza ($12.45) coming out of my oven. OK, so the idea with the half-baked is that you can pick it up early in the day and then pop it in the oven right before dinner and you have a hot and tasty pizza. Problem is, if you get distracted like me you end up burning the crust a bit. Anywho, it still tasted good (with chicken, mushrooms, fresh basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese) but I probably will leave the baking to Zachary’s since I live so close.

Here’s a sample of their “stuffed pizza,” which is the new way they’re calling their deep-pan. I don’t know why they felt the need to change the name from deep-pan to stuffed pizza, because as you can see, it doesn’t really look stuffed—just totally topped with a layer of tomatoes. This is the Spinach & Mushroom ($17.95 for the small stuffed pizza), which is considered Zachary’s famous pizza that is often ordered.

It’s like a lasagna pizza with spinach and thinly sliced mushrooms all covered with a gooey blend of cheese and, like I said, a lot of tomatoes. I liked it and it was very comforting, but it was a bit too much tomatoes for my tastes. I thought the deep dish was a nice change, but I still prefer the thin crust.

There are many people who will debate whether Zachary’s is the best pizza in the Bay Area (it’s often voted among the best by readers of those weekly papers). I think it has a festive atmosphere and it’s a perfect place for kids, although some people might describe it as a madhouse. For me, it might not be as fancy as Pizzeria Delfina, for example, but it does hit the spot for a quick take home dinner.

Single Guy rating: 3.5 stars (Mad rush but worth it)

Explanation of the Single Guy Chef’s takeout rating system:
1 star = Might as well cook yourself
2 stars = Nice to know it’s an option
3 stars = Definitely will return again
4 stars = I have its number on speed-dial
5 stars = Can I live here?

Zachary's Chicago Pizza on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

I love Zachary's! I just wish it wasn't such a hike for me to go to it from the South Bay. Oh well, good things are worth the trek, aren't they? And this cheesy, super tomato-y, thick hunk of love is all that it's cracked up to be.

Chubbypanda said...

It's not burnt. It's "extra crispy", just the way my wife likes it. =)

Anonymous said...

lol chef ben, the same thing happened to me with the last pizza that I got from zacharys!

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