Gnocchi is our favorite pasta; it had been for each of us before we knew each other, so it was one of those “it was meant to be” things we gushed about when we met. Zach grew up with it in his nonna’s kitchen with Sunday gravy, and he made thousands while working in Vegas, but tonight he finally made it from scratch for August. So filling and so rich with the Gorgonzola cream sauce, we balanced it with a salad with bright, tart produce.
• For the gnocchi:
3 lbs. of russet baking potatoes
2 cups of all-purpose flour
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place potatoes on a baking sheet, then bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes until slightly overcooked.
Use rubber gloves to protect your hands, and peel away the skins to discard.
Run the potatoes through a potato ricer, or grate them with the large holes of a hand grater; this should yield roughly 2 cups.
Mound the potato, leaving a well in the top, to which add the egg yolks, cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Using your hands and a bench scraper on a lightly floured surface, mix well and then little by little fold and press in the flour – kneading will overwork it. If the mixture is too dry, add a little water or an additional egg yolk. The dough will feel firm but will give under slight pressure. Form into a loaf so that portions are easier to cut.
Divide the dough into 5 pieces and roll out into 1″-thick ropes. Cut each rope into 1/2″-long pieces, lightly flouring as you cut them.
After 1 hour of resting and being flipped over at the half-hour mark, these can now be cooked. Heat water to a light bowl in a large pot of water with a pinch of salt. Drop in the gnocchi; they will immediately sink, and once they rise back to the top, cook for about 90 seconds more.
Remove from the water with a skimmer, let drain, and serve as desired.
• For the Gorgonzola cream sauce:
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
4 oz. of Gorgonzola cheese
1 roasted garlic bulb, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saute pan, bring cream and garlic to a low simmer over medium-low heat. Add the Gorgonzola cheese and mix until fully combined and the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and toss the gnocchi.
• For the walnuts (a nice touch with the gnocchi texture and Gorgonzola flavor):
1/2 cup of walnuts halves
1 tbs. of truffle oil
2 tsp. of truffle salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roast walnuts for 12 minutes, then immediately upon removal from the oven, toss in the truffle oil and truffle salt. Garnish the gnocchi.
• For the salad’s vinaigrette:
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 tbs. of balsamic vinegar
1 tbs. of finely minced red onion
1 tsp. of Dijon mustard
1 tsp. of Marshall’s Farm thistle honey
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except the olive oil and mix until well blended. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while mixing until somewhat thickened and emulsified. Serve with a salad of baby spinach, green romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, tango lettuce, green oak lettuce, lollo rossa lettuce, radicchio, red romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, red oak lettuce, red butter lettuce, red bok choy, arugula, and mizuna (essentially a spring mix with spinach added). Other recommended toppings are blood orange supremes, dried cranberries, halved cherry tomatoes, and red onion slivers.
Finally it’s open! Zachary’s Pizza is one of those iconic restaurants of the Bay Area, especially for those who attended UC Berkeley. We’ve been calling the Oakland, Berkeley, and San Ramon locations at least a couple times a week for the last month, and Zachary’s in Pleasant Hill is now ready for business!
We got to speak with Leandra, Zachary’s vice president, who was a joy and loaded with information about the new location and its inspiring interior. Every two years Zachary’s holds an art contest for community members to create works to decorate the walls. All of the exposed wood came from The Wooden Duck, featuring planks from the Cal Memorial Stadium bleachers established in 1923. Despite the huge ceilings, sound did not bounce around too much so the ambiance felt quiet, even though the place was packed.
We began with a salad, different from the standards. Called their Spring Salad, it came with mixed spring greens, red grapes, dried cranberries, and Gorgonzola cheese, tossed with shallot vinaigrette and served with bread sticks. The greens and grapes were fresh, the Gorgonzola wasn’t too overpowering but added a subtle sharpness to the plate, and it balanced well with the fruit. The shallot vinaigrette added a nice tanginess and bite to pair with the sweetness of the grapes and dried cranberries. The bread sticks had great flavor – mild with garlic and Parmesan. They provided a good crunch in place of croutons. If you’re looking for a salad that’s a little bit different, this is a good choice.
Now, on to what makes this place famous. Thin crust, vegan crust, and gluten-free crust are options, but if you want a stuffed (aka deep dish) pizza Chicago-style, the menu says to be patient for 30-40 minutes. Believe us, it pays off. What’s nice is the servers keep you updated with the wait time, so you won’t keep checking your phone/watch. The servers also had great teamwork together. We ordered our medium with pepperoni, olives, and mushrooms with the toppings on bottom and the sauce on top, as is tradition (well, you can see that olives are on top, to help make the pie prettier). The cheese is freshly shredded in house, we could tell from the creaminess, and it still has good texture and pull like a mozzarella should. The toppings are balanced really well, and Zach noted that the pepperoni wasn’t as greasy as you find it at your average pizza joint. The tomato sauce was delicious and refreshing, and the dough was flaky and crispy. The pizza was cooked so perfectly, you could have picked it up and it would not have folded – and that’s a feat for a deep dish! But if you’re nervous how to approach it, the servers will serve you your first slice if you like.
A medium stuffed pizza was just too big for us, especially after starting with a salad. We brought over half of it home, but had to do some quick grocery shopping along the way. After 15 minutes of us getting some items, we came back out to the car smelling like the most wonderful pizzeria! Can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow, and the next time we go in!