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Little Star pizza to replace Milano's on Grand [Oakland]

j
jaiko Jan 16, 2013 02:55 PM

Per Grubstake:

"...Little Star Pizza owner John Guhl laying claim to a spot with a full liquor license on Oakland's Grand Avenue. It's the space currently occupied by Milano Ristorante at 3425 Grand, so that restaurant looks not long for this world. We should note that the DBA this time is The Star, perhaps because a full bar will be involved, but it's not clear that that will be the name of the new restaurant. Guhl currently owns three Little Star locations with partner Brian Sadigursky. They opened their first on what was then a very quiet stretch of Divisadero in 2004, opening a second a two years later at Mission and 15th, and later expanding to Albany.

The mini-chain specializes in deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza as well as thin crust, both with cornmeal-based crusts that set them apart from other Bay Area deep-dish operations (Zachary's, Patxi's). Many pizza fiends (ourselves included) rank them high among Bay Area pizza spots."
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We have never tried their Albany location. This location will be a lot closer to us. Has anyone tried the Albany place, and if so, what did you think of it?

  1. Robert Lauriston Jan 16, 2013 02:58 PM

    I like the Albany branch, food seems the same as at the other two. Kicks Zachary's to the curb.

    Sadigursky started in the East Bay as Little Chicago, delivery only working out of West Coast Pizza in Berkeley.

    1. p
      Pius Avocado III Jan 16, 2013 03:08 PM

      Little Star Albany is excellent, worth the trip up 880 from the Grand Ave area.

      I'll be enjoying their pizza (which does indeed kick Zachary's to the curb without breaking a sweat) much more often on Grand- opens up the takeout option for me.

      Thanks for sharing the news.

      1. h
        hyperbowler Jan 18, 2013 07:30 AM

        I've ordered the classic at the Albany location about five times and it's been inconsistent. For example, in November, I had one of the best pizzas in my life there. A month later it was mediocre. They do "deep dish" style.

        Whereas Little Star is different that what you'll get in Chicago, it's competitive in awesomeness. Zachary's, which is "stuffed crust" Chicago Style, is just inferior to anything I've had in Chicago. That said, last week I had the best I've had there in about a decade. We ordered the small. Not sure if that's what made the difference, but it was nice to have something I didn't completely dislike for a change.

        1. l
          lakemerritter Jan 18, 2013 10:52 AM

          I am looking forward to this but have never been to any of the other locations. That location comes with a wood-fired oven along with the liquor license so I am kind of wondering what will become of it--I hope they keep it. Now that I am thinking about it a deep dish cooked that way sounds pretty good.

          Never really enjoyed Milano's pasta offerings and the like, but their burger cooked in that oven and served on baguette was one of my favorites. Very smoky flavor, always a good lunch treat. I have missed it.

          1. singleguychef Jan 18, 2013 11:24 AM

            The Chron reports that the Oakland location will just be called "The Star." Apparently, Guhl and Sadigursky are expanding their own separate ways, with Sadigursky focused on the Peninsula and Guhl doing his own thing.

            http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

            1. Robert Lauriston Jun 22, 2013 11:06 AM

              Diablo Mag has a sample of the expanded menu and says it should open this month.

              http://www.diablomag.com/D-blog/Diabl...

              I hope the split with Sadigursky doesn't affect the quality.

              1. p
                Pius Avocado III Jul 8, 2013 06:02 PM

                Opened last night; I went today for lunch.

                The Classic from the Albany location (sausage, mushroom, onion, bell pepper) has been re-dubbed the Port. The cornmeal crust and sauce are identical; a minor nit was that our small pie was a little oily in the center. The baby iceberg lettuce featured in several salads is nice, if a bit monotonous after half a salad- the full portion Classic, suitable for two, had four small heads of lettuce halved, and would have benefited from a more generous amount of olives and a tad more dressing.

                The cocktails are very good, particularly the pisco-based one; I forget the exact name, Ike's something-or-other. Good selection of beers on tap; I didn't get into the wine list.

                I never stepped foot in Milano despite being an easy walk away so I can't speak to the changes made to the space, but it is large with a spacious bar near the front of the L-shaped dining room, with several window tables along the front and plenty of tables stretching toward the back. There's a lot of brick involved- every clank of a fork or knife reverberated around the room. I'd imagine it could get pretty loud when packed.

                No more checking traffic on 880 for me; I'll be back at The Star regularly.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Pius Avocado III
                  twocents Jul 15, 2013 11:05 AM

                  Seemed the same as Albany and Burlingame's Blue Line, possible slight variance in execution but n=1 for here and Albany so take that with a grain of salt. Tried two cocktails; they were well made and well balanced; not up to the level of Pizzaiolo/Camino/Plum Bar but better than Rockridge A16, which though reasonably ambitious were a notch below in execution (still fine though).

                  Always order the classic, or "Port" here. Good as usual; I am of the camp that doesn't get Zachary's, which always seemed more like sauce on bread than a proper deep dish to me. Specific comments on execution: dough seemed a little thinner than what I'm used to at the other branches, didn't taste quite as intense. Well-baked; these pizzas are not good underdone, so that's a relief.

                  Baked wings appetizer was surprisingly tasty and satisfying. A lot of flavor, very not greasy for chicken wings.

                  Front of restaurant is too dark. A little off putting.

                  1. re: Pius Avocado III
                    The Dive Jul 22, 2013 10:49 AM

                    We got take-out on Saturday night. Called it in at 6, ready by 6:30. We got The Port and a pepperoni deep dish, as well as the Goddess salad (half order) and meatballs (half order). I liked this much more than Zachary's (but I am not a big fan of that place), mostly on the crust alone. Salad was huge, but a bit boring. Place was about 80% filled. Excited to have an option in the area.

                    1. re: The Dive
                      twocents Jul 22, 2013 11:24 AM

                      Had some leftover slices from Peninsula Blue Line and have to give them the edge; more sausage, sauce cooked down a little better, better doneness. But again, only one visit to "The Star" so hopefully they improve as they settle in.

                      The crust is an excellent traditional Chicago style in contrast to Zachary's, of which I've never been a fan. Always seemed like tomato soup on bread to me, or panzanella with melted cheese, of which there's always too much.

                      1. re: The Dive
                        h
                        hungree Sep 30, 2013 01:38 PM

                        still working out the kinks. deep dish crust is too dry. better than zach's but not as good as little star. service is still stumbling, but hopefully improves. tip: don't tell a to-go order to sit at the opposite end of the bar in order to get a glass of water, just take 3 seconds and pour a glass of water for the poor soul! for me, worth driving the extra 15 minutes to Solano.

                    2. Robert Lauriston Dec 7, 2013 10:10 AM

                      Went last night. Had a reservation and got the last parking space in their lot so that was nice given the pouring rain.

                      Execution was slightly rough compared with Albany though I haven't been there in a while to compare. The Port deep-dish special seems the same as the Classic.

                      Tried a Mitch & Jim's (Old Fashioned) and a 619 N. Wabash (the address of Pizzeria Due), both well-made and not sweet.

                      1. Robert Lauriston Mar 27, 2014 11:19 AM

                        Went the The Star again last night. Had a good meal and the Port satisfied my craving, but the execution is definitely not in line with past experiences at Little Star. Service is friendly but it feels like they're understaffed and scrambling to keep up. I'll have to go to the Albany branch next time to compare.

                        I'm also interested in comparing wine markups. The Star's is 2.5 times undiscounted retail.

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