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Twain Harte: The Prospector - VPN Certified Napoletana Pizza by the pizza perfectionist?

Has anyone tried this place?

It is a wine shop and bisto serving VPN Certified Napoletana Pizza made in a wood-fired oven imported from Italy. The menu changes daily depending on what fresh ingredients are available

All sausages and cured meats are made in-house. More dishes are available on the weekends than at the beginning of the week. In addition to pizza there are other Italian dishes such as Umbrian trofie pasta and chorizo with quince jam.

During the summer the owner cooks outdoors.

Wine is sold at retail prices so it is more affordable. It is served on the honor system. Pour yourself a glass and tell the owner. If you make the wrong choice to pair with the food, he will tell you, so perhaps it is best to ask what is the best pairing before pouring.

The sole owner and chef is very specific about rules. Walk up to the oven where he is working and place and order, choose your own wine and get utensils. Children are not welcome at specific times and no groups larger than six will be served.The website warns service is slow as each dish is made to order by one person. There's even rules for flushing the toilet.

Still, from what I've read, it seems worth the hassle.

The owner seems to have a sense of humor and the link for the history is the perfect setup for the foodie mindset. Great tall tale worthy of Twain.

"Bobby Martino's, cousin's, sister's, daughter's, Uncle, Giovanni built a cabin in the area of downtown Twain Harte way back in the 50's. He fed his family piping hot flat breads right out of his wood fired oven. His pies were topped with crushed tomatoes, fresh wild herbs, and mozzarella made from wild harvested venison milk, also in the absence of olive oil he used a drizzle of rendered duck fat affectionately called "duck butter". The cherished family oven brought to San Francisco from Italy , including a stormy passage through the treacherous Cape Horn area survived the long journey. It was then carried to the Mother Lode in a mule drawn wagon. Giovanni's great grandfather Piero journeyed with the oven from Naples in search of gold in these illustrious golden hills. He found that gold in Pizza! Thanks to the wonders of modern professional renovation we still find gold with that oven today! "

The actual story with tasty photos of the pizza, the owner and the oven are on this blog

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  1. Wow this place sounds awesome. Duck fat instead of olive oil??? So there. Anyone have a link to a menu with prices?

    1 Reply
    1. re: kevin

      Here's the link to the Restaurant record which has the website with a sample menu.

      Yeah, that history is a set up. The place was started in 2006. I love the story though. Still giggling about it.

      What is real is that he pulls his own mozzarella, makes his own sausage, cures his own meat and makes everything from scratch.

      The Prospector
      23092 Fuller Rd, Twain Harte, CA 95383

    2. Even if its the best pizza in world, the dude sounds like a jerk, and why give them your $$$?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Agrippa

        From what I have read, he's really a nice guy and will chat it up with anyone interested in his food. The rules are there so he can craft his pizza in the way he likes to do it.

        I'm guessing the toilet thing is because there are probably no sewers only a septic tank and he doesn't have time to run out while the restaurant is open to deal with toilet issues. You might argue he could get help, but from the site write-up it seems like he wants to control prices so that people can eat good food and drink good wine without dropping $$$

        On a topic about finding good food on the General Board, one of the tips was look for a place with a lot of rules, usually the food is terrific. I've found that usually true.

        So if the rule thing bothers you, then stay away. You sound like that is the case and probably would not enjoy the pizza that one woman drove back from South Lake Tahoe so she could have it a second night and someone else said was a "Totally transforming experience."

        1. re: rworange

          Robert Martin is definitely a nice guy more than willing to discuss what hes doing in Twain Harte...For the record, it seems he told me that therewas a miscommunication regarding the "tall tale" he told about the genesis of his restaurant...No sailing around the Cape...Still, if youre in Yosemite or in the foothills( i had been exploring the old towns like Jamestown,great if youre a railway buff...etc) it is worth it to dine at the Prospector...

      2. I was confused by the Web site so emailed to ask for their post-Labor Day hours:

        Tuesday - Thursday 5pm- 8pm
        Friday - Saturday 5pm-8:30pm

        6 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Thanks Robert. I updated the Restaurant and Bar record with that info. When I'm adding hours, I always explicitly put the closed days up front because it is easy to miss if you just casually glance at open hours. I didn't think about months, and given the location it was entirely possible that the place was closed in the winter. Thanks again.

          1. re: rworange

            where's the locale that it's closed in the winters??? thanks for the heads up!

            1. re: kevin

              Robert's post confirmed it was open after Labor Day. There's only one location.

              1. re: kevin

                Twain Harte, in the Sierras east of Stockton.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The owner of the Prospector told me they are open in winter...

          2. any body know the link to the live video?
            Pablito el gordito

            1 Reply
            1. re: paul balbin

              The Prospector cam is on the website. It can be found on the restaurant record. Click on the link labeled "A" at the upper right of the page.

            2. Happy to see The Prospector getting some attention from CH regulars. I posted about this some years ago but that post seems to have been lost to the ever shifting sands of the CH archive. This is quite a unique place, even more so due to the location in what looks like an empty used car lot in the little Sierra foothills village of Twain Harte. Yes, the VPN (Vera Pizza Napolitana) certified pizzas are fantastic as are the more creative pies made here. Yes, the wine list is as good as it gets in these parts (Donkey & Goat Carignanne was perfect w/pizza). No, this is not the place to come with a tour bus load of day trippers. It is just a small place run by one guy with a little help so the experience is closer to eating in a friends back yard than a typical 'whaddayagonnahave' pizza joint.
              Less well publicized are the non-pizza items that change with each day. Their web site lists the facebook page where the daily menu is posted. Braised meats, oven roasted vegetables, and other rustic delights from the wood oven (did not even see a regular stove here) add up to more than just pizza. In the summer it is an al fresco experience. As the weather changes they move indoors. The 2.5-3 hour drive keeps this off the dinner list for most Bay Area dwellers but if a trip up hwy 108 is in the plans this is a destination worth seeking out.

              The Prospector
              23092 Fuller Rd, Twain Harte, CA 95383

              1 Reply
              1. re: flavorenhancer

                Added a new thread for the Prospector. Based on my visit this week.

              2. Just wanted to revive this thread as Im hoping to be up in the Gold Country in a couple weeks...The Prospector is a one of a kind culinary experience. Yes, the pizzas are great(VPN trained and certified) Robert Martin makes great home made pastas...I had the gnocchi last time i was there...perfectly made...ive had a half dozen different pies, excellent vino, He even made me a dessert pizza once...yummy! and i happened to be there to experience his "quirkiness," too...there is a rule limiting the # of people at a table?party(either 5 or 6, i think)...a group of 8 or so came in and he would not relax the rule...i loved every minute of it...if you find various rules annoying or think that makes him a jerk, Im quite certain Robert wont miss you...Ive found him to be extremely friendly and willing to talk about anything...just dont show up with a party of 8 or ask for substitutions!