Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jan 12, 2009 10:45 PM

Marzano in Oakland -- Report

Last week I went to this new Italian restaurant with a wood oven on Park Blvd in Oakland, and had a great experience. It's already a popular neighborhood place, and it's not that big, so it was packed when we got there, and the three of us ended up with seats at a corner of the bar. We shared two antipasti, two contorni, and one pizza, and that filled all of us up, though there was plenty more on the menu that I would have loved to have tried.

We had: of the antipasti, roasted mediterranean octopus with olives, crushed yukon gold potatoes and fried capers and crisp fried chestnut pumpkin arancini filled with fontina, proscuitto and sage; of the controni, roasted pumpkin and braised winter greens; and the pizza that we got was the bianco with proscuitto, wild arugula, and we had it with an egg as well. People had compared this place to Pizzaiolo to me before I went, which I was a little skeptical of, but the comparison is valid, though the food at Pizzaiolo is still just a bit better. The food that we had was all delicious (I really really loved the braised winter greens and the octopus), but I could tell that the quality of the ingredients isn't quite as good as at Pizzaiolo or Dopo, and the pizza crust isn't quite as good either, though still pretty tasty. However, the prices are significantly less -- three of us ate for $45 before tip, none of the pizzas is more than $13, and the most expensive thing on the menu is the pan roasted rock cod that's one of the entrees. There are a lot of pizzas that sound interesting on the menu (it has 10 pizzas, three entrees, as well as 6 or 7 antipasti and 4 salads), so I'll definitely return.

The service was also incredibly friendly and warm, and the whole place had a great neighborhood restaurant vibe.

I'm really glad that this place opened up in Oakland, and I can't wait to try more of the menu.

4214 Park Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94602

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I agree the food is good, but not as good as Pizzaiolo. The service was good, but I felt like I was packed in too tight to really enjoy the experience. The tables are on top of each other, and it was a little claustrophobic feeling

    1 Reply
    1. re: Scott M

      Yeah, I was at the bar, so didn't have that feeling of claustrophobia, but one of the people I was with had been a few times before, and she said that she felt the same way about the tables. It looked like there are just one too many tables for the small space.

    2. What exactly is a crushed yukon gold potato? Is it a mashed potato, or yukon gold potato chips that are crushed?

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        Neither, they seemed like they were roasted potatoes that were then smashed, so there were varying sized chunks of potato in the dish. That dish was really delicious.

      2. M wife and I just tried Marzano tonight and we definitely enjoyed our meal there as well. We had the fritto misto as an appetizer and really liked it, even if it wasn't the most refined version I've had. Generous portion and a good variety of vegetables--forgive me if this is an unflattering comparison, but it (the inclusion of onions and the accompanying sauce, in particular) reminded me quite a bit of the "Blooming Onion" appetizer that you can get at Outback Steakhouse--but healthier and more varied. (And I'll be honest--I've been known to order a Blooming Onion every now and again.) We also shared a chopped salad, which was fine (my kind of salad--with meat [salami] in it).

        For our main course, we had the Napoletana pizza--heavy on the anchovies and a bit on the salty side, but I that the crust had an appealing texture, even if it wasn't as crisp as Pizzaiolo's or Dopo's. And the saltiness wasn't TOO off-putting. It was still a nice blend of flavors. We also ordered the chicken arrabbiata entree, having read a glowing account of it in the Contra Costa Times review. It was a nice dish--almost like a stew really, with three generous pieces of chicken (a boneless breast, a drumstick, a thigh). Very tender and flavorful. I liked that there was a little touch of heat.

        Dessert was soft serve "gelato", which, as reviews elsewhere have pointed out, is a bit watery-tasting and not really gelato at all. Wouldn't bother with it next time.

        The service was quite friendly. We were in early on a weeknight, so it wasn't too crowded, but I can definitely see how that would be an issue during a weekend dinner.

        1 Reply
        1. re: abstractpoet

          I know this is an older thread, but didn't find much that was newer specifically about Marzano. I wanted to add an update: they are now open for lunch from 12 until 5 pm on weekends, serving the same menu as dinner...No brunch menu as far as I can tell. This turned out to be the perfect solution when hubby and I had a few hours to kill in the east bay mid to late afternoon, wanted a cold drink and a light very early dinner, somewhere where friends could meet us partway through the afternoon, in the Glenview. This was the case even though we didn't order pizza which is predominant on the menu (I don't like it much, and one of my friends is gluten intolerant).

          Everything we had was very good to excellent: highlights for me were the arugula salad with delicious strawberries and ricotta salata, the cocktail of the day (a fig caipirinha, yum), the octopus and potatoes dish (which looked so good I had to take a bite even though I normally don't eat octopus for personal reasons, meaning they are my friends when I dive; it was as good as it looked and quite spicy). The meatballs were also very good (though not quite as good as the meatballs at Pizzaiolo, and a smaller portion if I recall correctly). I also enjoyed my first taste of Straus softserve ice cream (topped with caramel and sea salt) from their dolci menu.

          Most importantly from our point of view, we were treated quite well and the place was lovely and quiet, perfect for catching up and relaxing for a few hours with our friends. Our friends who live a few blocks away commented that they had been before and enjoy the food and drink but hardly ever go because the place can be very noisy and cramped when crowded in the evenings. Easy to believe: by the time we left at about 5:30 or so on Saturday it was filling up quickly with several large groups, and we could tell that, while our presence had been welcomed at three when we dropped in and were the only ones there, that our table would be needed very shortly for parties with reservations.

          A recommended neighborhood weekend lunch choice.

          5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

          4214 Park Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94602

        2. Went last night with a friend. I'd been a couple of weeks ago, just for a cocktail, before our dinner at Rumba al Sur, across the street. The food looked so good coming out of the wood fire oven, I had to come back.

          We each had a Paper Airplane cocktail to start:old forester bourbon, yellow chartreuse, lemon, aperol, & peychaud bitters - a very nice, smooth, not-too-sweet cocktail. I'm not in the habit of drinking bourbon, and this was a good introduction for me.

          We shared the octopus and potato dish, the crispy crimini arancini, and the quattro formaggi pizza - mozzarella, fontina, pecorino, grana padano, crimini mushrooms, truffle oil & sage.

          the octopus was a completely perfect dish - spicy, salty, wonderful contrast in textures - I would have to eat this every time I went. the arancini were nice too, crunchy outside, creamy inside. the wood-fired pizza was great, very flavorful, very crisp, though my preference is for a slightly thicker crust, although i will say that for all that cheese, the crust held up really well.

          We split a bottle of wine as well, a Marmorelle Negroamaro. I thought this would be a little more bitter (tannic-y) than fruity, given the name, but the berry notes were perfect with the pizza.

          The restaurant was packed at 7:30 (it took us a good 15 minutes of circling to find parking, 2 blocks away - every single car we saw parked was taking up two spaces! grrrr....), but by 8:30 the place had cleared out considerably.

          while i agree it isn't quite the quality of Pizzaiolo, it's very good, and yes, a good bargain. Before tip, with a cocktail and wine, we each spent $55. Since my friend lives very near here I can see us coming back again and again.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mariacarmen

            it's been a while since i've been back, having been lured by the glitzier Rumba del Sur a time or three when in the neighborhood. We split only two items but they were both sublime. the cooking here far outshines Rumba, and the only complaint i had is that they had for some reason either put in new lighting fixtures or turned them up to "sear" because it was very light in the restaurant, and also there was quite a breeze sitting at the bar. we actually mentioned it to the hostess, because it was really off-putting - so not the cozy intimacy we had experience here before - and she said, "oh, is it bright? we could dim it." but then did not. a shame, because it made me not want to linger.

            we had a starter of turnips and kale, very garlicky, with preserved lemons and toasted slivered almonds. what a perfect dish. sweet pink turnips went perfectly with the soft bitter but buttery kale, the crunch and nuttiness of the nuts, the salty tang of the lemon.... wonderful. i could have eaten two bowls of this.

            we decided not to get pizza, even though we really loved it the last time, but our server said, pointing at the chef, "See that man? he makes really good pizza, but he is an amazing chef and everything else he makes is fantastic. You should try the pork chop." We wanted something lighter, and so when we asked which he would pick between the seafood brodetto and the pasta cauliflower dish, he said cauli, so that's what we got. i was astonished that it was even better than the starter. housemade pappardelle with roasted cauli, garlic, toasted breadcrumbs, capers, calabrian chili, and pecorino - all made into somewhat of a deeply satisfying sauce by the drizzle of oil oil. i've had this dish in other places. none compared. the combination was perfect, and at first taste we thought the dish needed salt, but the flavors just kept building and building. we literally scraped the plate clean with our forks.

            Rustic and refined, were what both dishes were. I can now see the comparison to Pizzaiolo more clearly. And when we arrived at 8:30 p.m., the place was almost empty, which saddens me, as i want it to continue to do well.

            I'm definitely going to avoid the siren song of Rumba (which is tasty and fun but really doesn't hold a candle to this level of cooking) and come here more often.

          2. Owners are selling, new owners plan "an upscale gastropub" a la Spotted Pig.


            2 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                oh no! Was one of our weeknight standbys.