Peter Borrone of Cafe Borrone and his wife have recently opened Vesta in downtown RWC. They're serving woodfired neopolitan style pizzas. Has anyone had a chance to go yet?
I just tried their pizza today. The crust is great with the right amount of char and chew. I had the mushroom, goat cheese, thyme and truffle oil pizza. Nice assortment of mixed mushrooms and mostly well balanced. I thought they overdid the thyme a little bit but outside of that it was delicious. I think it would be amazing with some thick pancetta but that's just my opinion. Nice addition to Redwood City!!
Sounds good, hannah, thanks for giving it the once over. When I saw the title of this thread on the message board, I thought it might be the Vesta Flatbread folks from the East Bay.
Anyway, here's the website for Vesta in Redwood City.
Lunch and dinner, closed Sundays and Mondays
re: Melanie Wong
Very good but not great, an excellent addition to downtown. Will return, especially if they up their game a little.
They carry Lush Gelato, but only a few of the tamer flavors - vanilla, chocolate, etc Good looking, well positioned espresso machine. Although it's a restaurant, I'm sure they'll be happy soaking up post movie and post fox crowds for a gelato.
Across from Mandaloun, classic building, great space. The oven is one of the standard wood models I've seen elsewhere.
In general, I like my pizza of this style with a little more sauce, and a little more salt, and a little more burn on the crust. I know there's not supposed to be much sauce, but after eating a lot of pizza in northern italy this month, I know I like a touch more than what they're doing. The quality of the cheese and dough is very, very high. This is not as good as howie's. Howie's is hauntingly good. Howie's is on the once-a-month rotation, I don't think Vesta will get that high.
Other fun stuff on the menu: we had mushroom toast, which was like deconstructed mushroom soup - crouton, with mushrooms, and a soup-like puree. Fun.
Open until 11pm, sidewalk tables. Interior is too loud: they need to put up some fabric. Service was fun and perky and only slightly too intrusive. Peter was there enjoying the early days of the new place.
A margherita is $13, a good price.
re: Melanie Wong
Frankly, I'm not sure. There's enough sage on the menu that there's a level of CA adaptation, but crust-wise they're going pretty straight ahead. I didn't really dig through the menu, because they had me at margherita.
I am a massive fan of cafe barrone. Is CB trying to be Italian? No. French? More french than italian, but no. Californian? No. CB isn't trying to be anything other than the best cafe barrone it can be, which seems to be Peter's concept, and I heartily endorse it.
He needs to lay in a stock of Howie's smoked mozzarella.
GF mentioned the "mushroom toast" is one of those dishes that the chef has a personal touch with, but no one will order because it doesn't sound so great. It disappears off the menu somewhere in the second month due to a lack of marketing. "Inverted mushroom soup" sounds pretentious, but it'll get orders.
It's still nice. Extraordinarily pleasant service, more flavors of Lush, still needs more char on the crust and a little more salt, the meatballs are light and tasty but not as good as that mushroom toast. Front room was very noisy with a boisterous group, but there's a nice back patio as well as the front patio.
Soundtrack there is very well chosen - they rolled through most of the white album except for Revolution 9 (I hope I don't get them in trouble with BMI/ASCAP). Soundtrack is clearly handchosen not from one of those lousy services.
They poured an extra beer by mistake, and just brought it over gratis. Classy.
Place was empty at 10pm, we were the last to leave, and they were still open for another hour. Go late!
re: Melanie Wong
Third time was more of a charm. We wouldn't normally sample anywhere so frequently, but a buddy texted me right when we were looking for a nosh at about 10pm, so we met at Vesta. Both pizzas - sausage and honey, as well as green olive - were excellent. Both had more zip, between the honey and the olives. The sausage had a nice char, I could have used more on the green olive, but arguably the lack of char was better on the more delicate pie.
My friend has an exceptional palate, grew up in northern italy, eats a lot in the thai and viet areas outside DC, and he pronounced the pizza "good". Good, for him, means very good.
The staff was very nice about us hanging out late. We were the only people in the joint from about 11pm to 11:30 (11pm stated close time), and they didn't rush us, just kept the big doors open and let us enjoy the evening. I think the owner sent most of the staff home by that point, and they were back by the oven enjoying themselves too.
Although - for god's sake - they have to do something about the noise. They're using music to mask the echos when there are few people, and when there are a lot of people you can't hear yourself. They need more heaters outside.
In the interest of science, I don't like asking for anything extra like "more char" because it's not the same experience a random person gets. I even debate asking for chinese and thai food "spicy", even though I appreciate the chef's problem of deciding whether to go guilo or native spicing. I want to let the chef do his thing.
On other notes
Chokolate in PA has closed, covered with plywood. It was never my favorite, didn't go more than twice in the time they were open, although I liked the outdoor space. I hope we get something nice to replace it.
Fraiche's new location at the corner of Hamilton in the old AG Ferrari is doing land-office business, I expect quality hasn't changed. The old fraiche looks like it's housing a random software startup now.
I hit Manresa's lounge yesterday (again, in the interest of science) and it was nothing to write home about. The cocktail list is very nice - caroway infusion, sorrel infusion, things like that - but the "lounge" is really a couch right inside the front door where you can linger while waiting for your table. The only food option is "bar snack" which is some very tasty home made potato chips (we got them fresh from the frier), but the couch isn't very comfortable. There's only one decent spot to sit with another person (where the couch makes a corner) and nothing comfortable for more than 2 people.
We saw another couple walk in and try to get some "food at the bar" and were turned away. There were reservations available after 8pm (which is insane - a place as good as manresa with same-evening reservations available on a saturday night, just second seating!), but the staff wouldn't be talked into any "lounge" food action.
I am a little worried about the revamped layout, because they really have more tables now. Manresa seems to have problems when they get busy, and the best meals I've had are on Wednesday when the place is half-full.
The cocktail itself - I had just been to an urban winery (Traviesio), and the last taste was this bombshell syrah at nearly 16% alcohol, a good wine but so high octane without food that I couldn't taste the cocktail properly. I'll give them a pass so far - it would be silly to complain that it had little taste - the fault was mine.
Still - don't stop by hoping for a real "lounge" experience.
The quality at new Fraiche hasn't changed. They even have another machine now, for two more varieties, which are often oreo (dairy, really does taste like an oreo, in a good way) and red wine sorbet (non-dairy, so refreshing). The menu is bigger in general - more coffee options (all Blue Bottle), plus a hot quinoa cereal option, I believe. I would eat here every day if I could.
"In the interest of science, I don't like asking for anything extra like "more char" because it's not the same experience a random person gets."
That's what I do the first time I try a place (and if I intend to report here) in order to get a sense of the chef's palate and set point. But once I figure out that I would like my food cooked a little spicier, more charred, etc., I find out if it is possible and make the request, then be sure to say what changes I asked for if I post here. Otherwise, I'd rather spend my money elsewhere that's more to my taste. I've often had a server come back after consulting with the kitchen say to me that the way I've asked is how the chef would like to make it but the general public can't handle it. So, I'm happy to let the kitchen express its best self.
re: Melanie Wong
Your attitude it healthier. I got takeout from Crouching Tiger tonight and it was toned down --- same as the last few times I ordered from there --- and I haven't figured out what to tell them. Make it authentic, like you used to?
My one exception is Pizza My Heart. I was told I should order pizza thin crust "A GoGo Style" because - a while ago - they had some pizza makers from the old pizza a gogo. I'm sure those pizza makers have come and gone, but Pizza My Heart is, for my money, by far the best delivery pizza when ordered Thin Crust (Amici might be better, but has a $25 minimum, which PMH doesn't). I expect most of their hearty college ordering guys prefer the higher calories of the Thick Crust.
It is now on the Restaurant Roulette list.
Estampas Peruanas - HUGE servings, coastal peru, not good enough to return unless very hungry
Johnny Rockets - generic, as expected, but the AYCE fries were a pleasant surprise
Victoria Taqueria - San Diego style, good place to meet cops
Los Gemelos opened a bigger, brighter branch on ECR. Have not tried
Paradise Kebab House - Nice mom and pop, fresh taste, will return
Sushiya house - surprisingly pleasant for rolls & drinking, low price, but unlikely to return
Martin's West has bacon Manhattans again, but they're not as good as before
Movie Groove coffee was good drip, it moved
BackYard coffee is the best in RWC (ecco beans)
Redwood City has a new absolutely first-rate pizzeria and casual Italian restaurant! This new restaurant takes a place alongside Redwood City's growing list of Bay Area gems: Donato Enoteca, Martins West, Gourmet Haus Stadt, and any number of tacquerias.
Vesta is the real deal: pizza surpassed in my experience only by Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco; a small list of killer small plates (the roasted cauliflower with tiny specks of serrano chilis, mushroom toast, exceptional burrata); a great and reasonable wine list; and a small but terrific collection of beer on tap.
All the kinks in service -- mentioned in some early reviews -- were worked out during my visit mid-week on a perfect summer early evening.
Definitely worth visiting from around the Bay Area, and destined, I predict, to be a place for regulars and a watering hole for folks strolling around downtown Redwood City.
I haven't been in yet myself, but I did get a leftover quarter of the arugula and burrata pizza that I warmed up a little before eating. Even in that non-fresh state, I did enjoy the tenderness of the very thin crust, the mottle scorching on the highest points, and the yeastiness of the dough. Can't wait to drop in.
Update: Vesta is now far above Howie's. I did a back-to-back (different days!), and Vesta was way above. The char, the beer list, the atmosphere. Even the GF admitted vesta's superiority, and she's been a Howie's fanboi. I was there with my father, and he salted the pizza before eating, which was staggering - I think they gave him the chef's own pinch bowl. Good service, not to make a fuss.
The best thing you can say about howie's is they have anchovies and a "your own toppings", where at Vesta you just get their great selections - but Vesta crust is kicking it - and they have 3 or 4 pizzas I would eat every day for the rest of my life. The mushroom toast is still there.
I thought their margarita today was stunning. The local tomato punch in the sauce was great - none of that winter waxy tomato feel. It's summer, damn it, and you can taste summer at Vesta. Howie's tomato base was about like it usually is - just fine - but not height-of-summer-tomato awesome.
So it's only taken me a year to report back. I tried it in August 2012 with my mom and brother.
Seasonal Large summer salad featuring greens, goat cheese, Frog Hollow pluots, $13, was lovely.
Pork meatballs, arugula, roasted jalapeno aioli, parmigiano reggiano, $12. I agree that these were dull and lacked spark, would not order again.
Cauliflower, toasted almonds, currants, serrano chile, honey, $9, had sweet char and oodles of flavor.
Sausage honey pizza included Tomato sauce, spicy Italian sausage, mascarpone, fresh parsley, serrano chile, honey, $18. Very good job on the thin crust with just the right amount of not-burnt spotting, salt, yeastiness, wood smoke, and crisp/chewy texture for me. Flavors are stronger and toppings heavier than places that hew more closely to the Italian model. I didn't expect to like this combo, but I enjoyed it very much.
I'll note that other than the meatballs, our other three dishes were all tuned toward the sweet side with honey and/or fruit. While adequately balanced by acidity or the spice of jalapeño, this chef's palate for sweetness might not suit everyone.
More photos from Vesta
re: Melanie Wong
Vesta is still pretty good. I go here about once every couple of months. To me, this is as close as it gets to many of my other favourite pies in SF.
Recent visit last week included a special - brussels sprouts with balsamic reduction and bacon bits - a tad sweet but excellent all the same.
Prosciutto pizza was stupendously good with the saltiness just emerging as the cured meat got the heat from the sauce. The serrano peppers gave a nice punch along with the abundant and sweet pizza sauce.
Next was the white pie with green olives, the olives were very high quality and I loved this one even more than the prosciutto pie.
If you find yourself in RWC, a good solid place for thin crust pizza.
Agreed to all that ....
I finally got to Terun yesterday, which is the recently VPN certified output ( along with Pizza Nepolotano in MV ). Terun is a more refined experience, with a broader menu. Full bar. I thought the Terun pizza wasn't my favorite. It was delivered sliced, and wasn't as "fresh" from the oven as at PN (where the oven and chef/owner is within a few steps of every table).
Right now, my favorite thin pizzas in this area are:
Update: Vesta added some very swank acoustic padding to their ceiling, pointed out to me by the manager last night. This was previously mentioned as "too expensive" but he said the restaurant had a good year.
They're also updating the outside patio area. Better covering, cooler inlaid brick.
Pizza is still great, although the char wasn't _quite_ as deep. The place doesn't seem to need my plaudits, and maybe half the time I think of going there and end up somewhere else.
Related note: Quinto Sol, hit it again. More impressed this time. Got a nice arrachera plate. Didn't like the margeritas, though, will not order again. Sour mix from a bottle.
One final note, since Borrone is listed in the OP's post. Cafe Barrone's next-door (Barrone Market?) is open, and we poked our nose in on Saturday. Menu is a little more interesting that Barrone's dinner menu, but the place was very chaotic. This is really tuned for take out - use it as such - few tables. We retreated to the Cafe, which was blissfully a little less busy.
Let me say again that Vesta is my favorite everyday restaurant in the greater Palo Alto area.
This poor picture was the special pizza today. It's cherries, soprasetta, smoked mozz, honey, and you can see really nice char bubbles. The chew on the crust is about as perfect as you can imagine. Vesta is a little more old-school in crust than Howie's, but more cutting edge than Napolitana or Terun in toppings - although the margerita can stand up with the rest.
We started with a seared pear, which they do with a kind of marinade. They really sear those things, the wood oven must be well stoked - you can feel it from the dining room.
In some ways, it's not a destination, and it's so well regarded that we rarely go there. Too crowded. Last weekend, we tried, and we ended up at Mandaloun across the street. This time we showed up at 9:30 (closing time 10pm) on a friday, and walked in to the only free table. They don't rush you there, though, showing up at 9:30 is fine.
Compared to Defina... on par, Delfina is a little hipster though. Compared to NP, NP has the Pizza Nazi thing going, and its more intimate, but Vesta's breadth is a serious draw. Terun is as good, but traditional and a little palo-alto-stuffy for my taste.
I also love the starters, beer & wine, and desert. Mushroom Toast is still on the menu, was there the first week, still is. Great homey dish. Beer is 4 taps of west coast stuff, always fresh. They are still serving Lush gelato (although big scoops).
It's amazing how good the acoustic tiles work. The place is now pleasant, and didn't effect the looks of the 100 year old space.