Pizzando in Healdsburg
Pizzando opened a year ago, with a star-studded cast. An off-shoot of Hotel Healdsburg and h2hotel, Pizzando shares Aziza alum, Chef Louis Maldonado with h2’s Spoonbar. Ex-A16 Liza Shaw was consulting chef; Ex-Mirepoix (Michelin 1-star) Ben Davies directs as Chef de Cuisine.
The space is tiny with just 18 seats, including the counter. It’s pretty ingenious what they’ve managed to shoehorn in here. Major prep work is done down the street at Spoonbar and I’ve seen cauldrons of stock etc. carted over on the sidewalk.
The menu changes frequently, here’s what I’ve tried so far:
Bottarga, shaved fennel, Aleppo pepper, garlic oil pizza, $15 – Overly dry crust, low on bottarga flavor, too much bitter blackening on the high points. I noticed that some training was in progress at the wood-burning pizza oven. Perhaps this one shouldn’t have been served.
That pizza was improved by liberal application of some very good housemade chile oil.
Olive oil poached big eye tuna, herb vinaigrette, leeks, breadcrumbs, $9 – Huge portion with thick slabs of unctuous pink tuna dribbled with a creamy green herb and leek-flecked zingy vinaigrette, and an avalanche of very crisp fried bread crumbs. Too crispy in fact, tearing up the roof of the mouth. Still, this was delicious and the best thing I’ve had here.
Braised pork shoulder, grilled broccolini, quince, hazelnuts, $9 – Brown and crispy on the outside, no way this “braised” pork had not seen frying oil. When I asked, my waiter confessed that the pork is braised initially then fried to crisp it up. So basically, these are like the best carnitas made with quality pork that you’ve ever had. Tender stalks of broccolini kissed with smoky nuance, sour lumps of poached quince, and a crumble of hazelnuts filled out the plate. And I started to get the idea that toe-curling acidity might be this chef’s signature.
Caraway, roasted squash, lardo, pepitas, $9 – Adored how the aroma and flavor of caraway complemented each of the ingredients. However, the dish was unsalted and the pepitas were missing. Tiny yellow currants pickled in champagne vinegar shrieked with acidity when bitten into for a thrill and a half. Somewhat less excitement and surprise would have been more satisfying. The squash was DOA flavor-wise and marred by too much stringy interior left in place.
This was disappointing enough to speak up about. Asking for salt and the missing pepitas (pumpkin seeds), these were brought to me.
When my server checked back, I asked him to take away the plate, explaining that the squash was terminally dull and starchy with no redeeming characteristics and could not be revived. He asked if I was interested in dessert. Blunt in my reply, I said, “I’d be interested in the salted caramel ice cream . . . if it were comped.” He nodded that it could be arranged. The dense ice cream was pleasantly salty but not that intense. At least it wasn’t sour and this meal ended on a sweet note.
Maldonado’s cuisine puts interesting elements on the plate with high contrast and not everything works. Each dish I tried had a problem, some fatal. While I’ve considered myself an acid-head, the shrill notes were too much even for the likes of me.
Other experiences at Pizzando?
301 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg, CA 95448
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thanks for reporting. when we saw the place under construction it looked like no expense was spared with the materials and kitchen set up. we enjoy the pizza at Diavola to a degree that we'd almost expect disappointment somewhere else, and the eating options in Healdsburg have reached the point that our infrequent visits can't keep up with every interesting place. Chalkboard doesn't appear to be aiming to fill the niche left by the former tenant, Cyrus, either, to mention just one other new establishment we've yet to try.
I'm almost even with the places that opened in 2012. Have barely scratched the Class of 2013 in Healdsburg.
Pizzando had some great pre-opening publicity. The buzz machine is not so strong in Healdsburg, but this spot played it to the hilt. After opening, it's faded into the woodwork. My two visits were early in the game, maybe it's settled down some. I did appreciate Maldonado's edgy attempts to break out of the Wine Country Cal-Med palate but I bet it turned off a lot of potential customers. I found it curious that he oversees this venue from his restaurant a block away. The previous cafe here was supplied by Dry Creek Kitchen in the same building.
I haven't been to Chalkboard yet. Most of my friends in the area are still mad at the owner for kicking out Cyrus, and Foley was never popular to start with. I'll get there eventually.