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Dine About Oakland: Marzano

March 10, 2009

First, a very big caveat: we’ve only been to Glenview’s Marzano once, for brunch. That said, we’re heading there for dinner as soon as we can, since if brunch is any indication, this is destined to be one of the great Oakland dining spots.

We spend a lot of weekends brunching, be it at home or out and about. Though we have a few a favorite places, I’m always pushing to mix it up a bit. We’re lucky to have a sea of terrific brunch spots in the East Bay, and there are several that come highly recommended that we haven’t even tried yet. So on a recent Saturday, we made the trek out to Glenview to try out Marzano, a relative newcomer to the Oakland restaurant scene. It’s owned by the team behind Garibaldi’s, another place we have yet to try.

Between the four of us, we covered the brunch menu pretty thoroughly: we started off with bomboloni, tiny Italian doughnuts that come with huckleberry jam on the side. These confirmed for us that we do in fact love doughnuts and Bellanico’s version of this was just not right (or at least not on the night we tried it, when the insides were dense and doughy—I may need to try it there one more time to be sure we didn’t just order on a bad night). These were so good that one of our friends ordered a second batch at the end of the meal, just for good measure. The only downside was that they were a bit pricey—nine dollars gets you five smallish doughnuts, which is a little painful!

The baked eggs all’ arrabbiata—two eggs baked in the wood oven over polenta, spicy pepper stew, pecorino, and winter greens—were excellent, if a little hearty for brunch. (Take out the eggs and you have a solid dinner entree.) The breakfast pizza took the cake, though. We tried the version with pancetta, roasted onions, garlic, chile, and an egg. It was perfect: light, crispy crust with just enough bubbles; toppings perfectly melded. The pizza was so good that—unbeknownst to one another—both we and the friends we were with tried to go to Marzano for dinner the next night, still dreaming about it. (Duh: of course you can’t call the day of for pizza this good! Everyone else has already learned about this place, so make your reservation waaaay in advance, or be prepared to eat late.)

The poached eggs, served with prosciutto, bruschetta, and a side salad of arugula, were tasty as well—simple but well done. Finally, we tried the wood fire roasted frittata with ricotta, roasted onions, oyster mushrooms. It was good, but the least interesting dish of the bunch. Frittata is one of those dishes that I can hold my own at in my own kitchen, so it needs to be really stellar when I order it out. This one wasn’t quite there, though it was plenty tasty. (It did also come with lightly-dressed arugula, though, which was a nice addition to the meal.)

Service was good on a quiet Saturday morning, and when we arrived at noon there was no wait for a group of four. Coffee was good, but extremely expensive at four bucks a cup. I’ll pay that with a grimace after a good evening meal, but it’s just too much for brunch. Otherwise, though, the prices were pretty much on par with other neighborhood brunch spots; we spent about $20 each before tax and tip (but with the $4 coffee and shared bomboloni).

Anyway. Go check out Marzano. It’s even convinced me that I need to go try Garibaldi’s in Rockridge, which has never been high on my “to try” list. But with a child this good, there must be some hidden treasures there, too!

Update, 06/29/09: Finally made it to Marzano for dinner! Truly outstanding, from the starters through to dessert. Not a thing we would change. Try the pork shoulder, the fresh fettucine, the meatballs, the fruit crisp, or any of the stellar pizzas. The most exciting moment of our visit: the hostess mentioned the “new Marzano” that will be opening to someone! Where? When? Your guess is as good as mine, but fingers crossed for another Oakland neighborhood location.

Update #2, 07/29/09: Okay, the new location has finally been announced—the second Marzano will be on College in Rockridge, in what was formerly the Garibaldi’s bar. Garibaldi’s itself will also reopen, but with a new, smaller and cheaper format. A little bit closer to home—yay!

Grade: A- A
Price: $$-$$$

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