Dine About Oakland: Boot and Shoe ServiceFebruary 5, 2010
I should probably start this review off by saying that I love-love-love Pizzaiolo. We’ve been waiting excitedly for Charlie Hallowell’s two new projects to open in Grand Lake and Uptown, because then we will live smack in the middle of the Pizzaiolo Golden Triangle, with three different restaurants in easy walking or biking distance. So, obviously, I was a little biased as we finally headed to check out Boot & Shoe Service, Pizzaiolo’s new sister restaurant on Grand, with a friend who was visiting—but I tried to leave my expectations at the door and give this little restaurant a shot at its own identity.
I really didn’t need to. This place is a) wonderful and b) exactly the pieces of Pizzaiolo that I would want to copy and paste into my neighborhood, which is to say that it’s a slightly lower-key version of its big sister. Boot & Shoe, named in honor of the cobbler’s shop that was originally here, serves up pizzas—including takeout—and a small selection of appetizers and salads, but for the most part they leave off the entrees that Pizzaiolo is known for. That’s perfect, since it makes for a casual (and far less costly!) night out. Astoundingly, we walked right in on a Thursday night (after trying and failing to get in a couple of weeks earlier). The space is much smaller than Pizzaiolo, but it works with the scaled down menu. The front half of the space that once housed DiBartolo is tables, while the back has a bar that stretches across if all you want is a cocktail and a snack.
We tried a mix of dishes, including one pizza that we’d had at Pizziolo a couple of times as a reference point. We also happened to be there on Stand with Haiti night when the restaurant and wait staff were donating 15 percent of sales and tips to Partners in Health, so we ordered an extra dish for good measure. Our meal started off with the complimentary house olives—mmm!—and included:
- Burrata with toast and radishes: This was good burrata, although my favorite version of this dish uses warm burrata, and this was cold (as is most common). However, the bread-and-cheese theme ended up overlapping a bit too much with the pizza that followed, so I think next time I’d try one of their other starters, and save this for a night when I’m just headed there for a cocktail and a snack.
- Salad! Forgot this the first time. And I can’t remember what kind it was, since D. picked it. I wanna say there were beets involved, but I might be making that up.
- Margherita pizza: Astoundingly, we’ve never tried Pizzaiolo’s version of this, even though D. swears you must use the margherita pizza as the baseline to judge any good pizza joint. Great mozzarella and good tomatoes with a perfect crust—D. pronounced it better than Marzano’s (which is a high compliment since we’re big Marzano fans).
- Wild nettle and ricotta salata pizza: Wild nettle pizza is one of my favorites at Pizzaiolo, and I was pleased to find the Boot & Shoe version very comparable. If you’ve never had nettles, try some! Again, a great crust on this. (I’ve seen B&S list this with other types of cheese some nights as well, so it would be interesting to see how they compare.)
- Beer and housemade tonic: To drink, the boys ordered local beer while I had my favorite, a gin and tonic made with the housemade tonic. (It’s the same as the housemade tonic at Pizzaiolo, which they didn’t have the last time we ate there—so I was excited to see it again!)
- And finally, a cannoli filled with ricotta, pistachios, and blood oranges. We ordered this on a whim, and it was an unusual pick. First, I grew up in New Haven and also spent a lot of years in Boston, where cannolis are an art form, so I’m a pretty picky cannoli eater. And D. generally hates them altogether since he’s not a fan of ricotta-based anything. But the pistachios and oranges sold him on this one, so we gave it a spin. Yum! Not quite a traditional cannoli, but very good in its own right, with a light filling and a crispy shell. Not a dessert to get for takeout—the shell wouldn’t last long—but a nice bit of sweetness to end a meal.
Here are some shots D. took with his schmancy new phone to send to our friend’s wife back in Colorado (with apologies to our wonderful waitress, who asked with a raised eyebrow, “oh, are you Yelpers?” when D. started snapping shots…err, not exactly?)
All-in-all, I’m excited to welcome this spot to our neighborhood. It’s practically perfect. Our dinner—which included a bit more than we generally order, plus a round-and-a half of drinks and great service!—still wound up under $100 for three of us, which really can’t be beat. The only things that could be improved? I would love for Boot & Shoe to be open on Sundays (they’re currently closed Sundays and Mondays, and Pizzaiolo’s closed Sundays too). And I’d REALLY love for them to be open for breakfast a la Pizzaiolo (or even weekend brunch with doughnuts and breakfast pizzas like Marzano used to serve). But for now I’ll be content to dream about buttermilk doughnuts while we enjoy dinners and takeout there.
Update, 5/4/10: Boot and Shoe is now open on Sundays!
Grade: A A+