The Forge Pizza, Oakland CA
After graduating college, August interviewed for a receptionist position in a hotel at Jack London Square. She didn’t get the job (probably better off for it) and hadn’t visited Square since. We came tonight to try the pizza at The Forge, open for just around eight months. Walking up we noticed an ample outdoor eating area with fire pits that double as pizza ovens and bowls for four-legged patrons (yes, they are dog friendly in the patio; Bea the Dog loved the leftovers we brought her, so we may have to come back with her in tow so she can try it fresh).
Zach felt like having a drink, and The Forge has a few distinct cocktails on the menu. The Dark and Stormy has house-made ginger beer, lime, and a dark rum floater. The strong ginger flavor was entirely natural, and was both sweet and tangy.
Essentially a super fancy version of cheese sticks, the curds were tantalizing. Like fried air with a mild cheese lining, these bites with light, crispy batter were wonderfully spiced and the marinara dipping sauce was ideally matched.
Baby potatoes were halved and twice baked, and we appreciate the extra step because we know it’s not easy to hollow and refill baby potatoes. Tender skins and a filling with the consistency of mashed potatoes sat on a smear of whipped and blended taleggio “cheese whiz.” The cheese whiz had a strong fragrance that did not match its taste, which was more mild and nutty. A sprinkling of guanciale made for the best bacon bits conceivable, while a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of greens added extra flavor.
A wing and a leg sat atop a simply dressed escarole salad. Olive oil and a great vinegar are all you need for a bed of greens. Also under the chicken was a serving of mashed cauliflower that had a little tanginess from lemon, acting as coleslaw in this Southern-inspired entree. Its texture had a bit more give than regular mashed potatoes, and there was a hint of butter with the lemon, which helped to offset the richness of the meat. The chicken, from co-op Central Coast south of Ft. Bragg, was moist and cooked well. The coating was seasoned just right and was very crispy and crunchy, with no greasy residue for fingers to find.
August’s pizza choice had three cheeses plus green garlic, red onion, lemon, arugula, and shaved parmesan cheese. The cheeses melded together seamlessly, providing a very smooth and creamy base for the pizza in place of a sauce. Green garlic is milder and slightly sweeter than regular garlic, so if you’re one of those who is offended by the hardcore garlic, you would enjoy this pizza. The red onion brought a different sweetness, the caramelized kind, and the arugula bounced back with piquant verdancy. The pies here are a size that could feed two people on a date, but because this pizza was so tasty, August had to force herself not to accept the last slice on the tray. It was simple, but very well executed.
Zach’s choice of pizza featured house-made sausage, red onion, jalapeños and cured olives. He really liked the crust because it was more like a Neopolitan style pizza, thin with light toppings (any heavier would utterly collapse the slice). With quality ingredients, you don’t need so many toppings, anyway. Naturally the crust is going to be crispy due to the thinness, but it wasn’t hard or abrasive. A keen and watchful eye on the oven is a must to achieve this. The spiciness from the jalapeños and red peppers (the latter not on the menu) added a kick to each bite, but it wasn’t at all overwhelming thanks to the balance with the quality cheese and sweet, fresh tomato sauce. Every bite was rounded out by a brined black olive, one of the items he would have added on to the pie if it wasn’t already part of the description.
Despite the amount of food we got, it wasn’t heavy. Quality ingredients best quantity every time. Frankly, there was the equivalent of a whole pizza left over after we ate all that we could at the table. The Forge owners signed a 10-year lease to be at Jack London Square, so we wish them all the best and hope that more come to find this restaurant.