Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland

Fire Hot Pizza Near the Lake
3308 Grand Ave., Oakland
Grand Lake neighborhood
PH: 510.763.2668
Tue.-–Thu., 5:30–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 5–10:30 p.m.; Sun., 5–10 p.m. (closed Mondays)
Major credit cards accepted, no reservations

Typically, the word “boot” isn’t associated with pizza, unless you’re thinking about a leathery crust. So yeah, not what you’d want to imagine when thinking pizza. But somehow, the people behind Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland make it work as evident by the regular crowds who make their way to this neighborhood pizzeria.

Boot and Shoe is the second restaurant from Charlie Hallowell, who opened the highly successful Pizzaiolo in the Temescal neighborhood. In Grand Lake, he took over the space of a former café that was once a shoe cobbler. Like Pizzaiolo, the focus is on the wood-fire Neapolitan-style pizzas but Boot and Shoe seems to focus on it more with its limited menu.

The Grand Lake area is also close to my gym, so that made it convenient for me to drop in for pizza after a work out. (What? You never heard of the post-work out pizza diet?) I try to get to Boot and Shoe soon after it opens because a few minutes later and you’ll end up having to wait since it doesn’t take reservations.

It’s easy to find a spot at the bar, however, which is a separate room in the back where I ended up on one visit. The bartenders are friendly and laid back, but it is a pretty dark spot so not that great for taking pictures.

I started off with the arugula and frisee salad with toasted hazelnut and moliterno al tartufo ($9). While a salad sounds simple, there’s something about Boot and Shoe’s salads that are just so refreshing and bright. It must be the quality ingredients, like the fresh moliterno a tartufo, a sheep’s milk cheese.

For the main event, I got the housemade sausage pizza with greens ($16). The pizza crust is puffy and airy on the edges and slightly chewy in the center, but it’s a nice complement to the massive toppings of sausages and greens, which I think was rapini or nettles. But what Boot and Shoe’s pizza makers do well is the burst of flavors you get here and there (but mostly in the center of the pizza).

My only gripe was that the pizza came with red onions, which I’m not a fan of but a common ingredient in pizza. It wasn’t included in the menu description, so I always have to remember to ask.

On my next visit, I sat in the front dining area, which is made up with a few communal tables. Even though the restaurant was crowded already soon after it opened at 5 p.m. on a Friday, I was able to get a seat on the edge of one table since I was by myself.

In the main dining area you can see the pizza makers busy pumping out those pies, which meant the service is really fast and you get your food fairly quickly. This time I tried the fluke crudo with kumquat ($12) as a starter, and the combination of raw fish and kumquat looked really familiar. Boot and Shoe’s version adds avocado and some celery, and everything combined nicely with the fresh, raw fluke. Again, a simple presentation highlighting the quality of the ingredients.

For my pizza, I got the wild nettles and ricotta salata pizza ($16), one of the regular options on the menu because of its popularity. And it was a good thing my server described the pizza, which has no tomato sauce, because the main ingredients include wilted wild nettles and thinly sliced red onions. So I ordered it without the red onions.

The pizza, even without the red onions, looked heavy with the toppings because of the ribbons of fresh ricotta salata cheese. With so much of the nettles, it is a bit of a challenge eating the slices that couldn't hold up their shape when picked up, but I loved the combination of the nettles and the light sauce.

This time I got dessert, which was a caramel pot de crème ($6.50), which tasted like a combination of caramel and butterscotch, with just the right amount of creamy texture and density for richness.

The pizza at Boot and Shoe can be creative with ingredients like wild nettles, potatoes, or spring onions, which is what East Coast people must think of when they think California pizza. But Boot and Shoe definitely does it with a modern twist while still offering something for the purists like the marinara or margherita.

While the pizzas are just as good as Pizzaiolo, there’s a different vibe at Boot and Shoe, which has more of a rustic or rougher edge to it, like the unfinished walls exposing the crawl space of an office. Not exactly polished, but warm and satisfying.

Single guy rating: 3.5 stars (Modern California Pizzas)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Boot and Shoe Service on Urbanspoon


Carolyn Jung said...

You had me at kumquat crudo! MMM. And love how the crust on those pizzas have such a puffy edge. Can't wait to try this place soon.

foodhoe said...

ooh, I love Pizzaiolo, this looks good. Are they open for breakfast? I like the idea of a post-workout pizza diet. Is it working?

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, Boot and Shoe is only open for dinner. Pizzaiolo is the place that's open for breakfast. But maybe Boot and Shoe might follow its lead later? The post workout pizza diet is OK so far because of moderation! ;-)