Nick’s Pizza, Oakland CA
One month shy of one year old, Nick’s Pizza on the Oakland/Berkeley border is not your average pizza place. Yes, they deliver; yes, they offer pizza by the slice and by the pie; and yes, cheese and nitrate-free pepperoni are two staples that are always on the menu. Otherwise, the menu is both static and fluid, rigid and ever-changing. You see, pastry-chef-by-training Nick wanted to open a bakery but bakeries come and go. Pizza can carry an enterprising, creative chef into retirement, but he still does it his way. While cheese and nitrate-free pepperoni pizzas with organic tomato sauce are always on the menu, the rest of it is rewritten every two weeks, and “Nick’s Pick” is refreshed weekly. The topping combinations covering the organic sourdough crust are ingenious, but you can’t have it any other way: what’s on the menu is what’s on your pizza, no extras, no substitutions. But that’s okay, because it’s all very well thought out.
While waiting for the pizzas (we ordered two for variety as well as August’s school lunch the next few days), we sipped on two flavors of locally-made House Kombucha soda. “Living brews,” these are fermented teas with natural probiotics and live cultures to aid the alimentary system. Zach liked the strong chicory flavor that was both tart and tangy. August preferred the light rose flavor, even though she thought the smell was off-putting and “a little like vinegar water for dyeing Easter eggs.” The light carbonation helps fool the tongue and cut the intensity of the vinegar, which must be a taste resulting from the kombucha fermenting process.
This week Nick’s Pick was called Porky’s Picnic, with all natural bacon, sweet roasted corn, Parmesan, and mozzarella. This was definitely one of Zach’s favorite pizzas for being so unique and special, and something he’d like to try to recreate at home (with his own little twists, of course). The bacon was very tender, lean, and smoky, while the corn balanced it, being crisp and very fresh. Nick roasts the corn before even putting it on the pizza, so the result is sweet and juicy golden nuggets that burst in your mouth. The crust was slightly tender with a good pull when bitten, and the buttery, salty cheeses needed no sauce under them, just like how the pizza was made anyway. An interesting thing worth pointing out is that Nick uses dairy products free of synthetic hormones. In fact, all imported cheeses are synthetic hormone-free and the United States is the only country that allows such production.
Sopressata is a style of dry salami, probably one of the most well recognized globally. The slices here were very large and mildly spiced with peppercorns studded throughout the meat. This pizza also had roasted tomatoes, caramelized red onions, fresh and aged mozzarella, and oregano. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy, like red morsels of goodness. The red onions were tenderly done to perfection, exceptionally sweet, and added a great flavor layer to the dish. Aged mozzarella made this a bit nutty, providing yet another unique element to Nick’s ingredient combination.
How do you make August perk up when she has to go back to teaching after Spring Break? Find her a great dessert! We were surprised to find these here, but it made sense after learning that Nick is a pastry chef by training. The mousse had a nice light chocolate flavor, but the gooey, real caramel put it over the top. The mousse was creamy and fluffy throughout, a wonderful texture. When heated, the cookies are ideal for all preferences: with crisp edges, a soft center, warm chocolate, and chewy layers, it’s a cookie for all chocolate chip cookie lovers.
Nick’s week starts on Tuesdays, which is great for him since there is a farmers’ market on Tuesdays right around the corner from his restaurant, allowing him to get some of the finest, freshest ingredients. There is no point in picking a favorite here since the menu changes so frequently, but we’re sure that you’ll find something incredible each time you visit (there’s even vegetarian and vegan options). We can’t wait until our next time!