Late last year, Los Gatos Restaurant James Randall morphed into the more casual Oak & Rye Pizzeria. The ownership kept executive chef Ross Hanson, who lured his sister Dana Bunker and her fiancé, noted Brooklyn pizzaiolo Angelo Womack, from the East Coast to make the Naples-inspired pizzas. The new name reflects the wood that fuels the oven and the resurgent American brown spirit. So it was with great interest that we ventured further south in the Bay Area than usual and paid more than a visit to Oak & Rye.
We have stated before that it’s hard to find good cocktails outside of the City, but bar manager Ali Sell has put together a pretty good program for the South Bay. Their Rye selection is not as extensive as we had hoped given their name, but the four or five bottles they have offer more selection than most other Silicon Valley restaurants. We started with a very good Choke Hold (Rye, Cynar, Benedictine, Lemon, Bitters) using our favorite spirit as a base for the artichoke-based amaro:
The menu is split up into Tiny, Small, Large, Meat & Cheese Plates and Pizza, with items that change with market-driven ingredients. We started with the Potato Chips from the Tiny section. Served with a house-made sweet onion dip, it was the perfect salty snack to pair with the cocktails:
Chef Hanson is in charge of all the non-pizza items on the menu, and his Spicy Pork Meatballs were really tasty, although we could have used a little more heat. Served in a pool of tomato sauce and topped with celery strands, these would be really good with some pasta or bread, but did make for a great appetizer to share:
On another visit they offered Hot Wings with blue cheese dressing, so as wing aficionados we had to try them. The wings were meaty, but they could have used more spice to live up to the billing:
The wine program is intriguing in that they offer many decent Northern and Southern Italian selections in Quartinos for $13 or by the bottle for $40. A quartino portion is quite generous between the large glass and carafe, and gives us a way to try out different red and white wines. As we like wines from Campagna, the Poderi Foglia Concabianco Falenghina was a great option:
Although they offer a couple of large plates (a choice of chicken or steak), the pizza is the primary draw. There are about eight different options all reasonably priced from $11-$17. The TMNT is topped with Salametto Piccante, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, oregano, Caciocavallo (stretched Southern Italian Alpine cheese), Parmigiano and chili flakes, and was cheesy and spicy great. The lightly blistered crust is thin and crispy delicious:
We also tried the The Cortez topped with tomato sauce, chorizo, jalapeño, radish slices, lime-pickled red onion, creme and cilantro. The Mexican-inspired pizza worked really well between the cooked and “healthy” salad components:
We skipped dessert and decided to have the Italian Manhattan (Rittenhouse Rye, Luxardo Amaro, Campari, Peychaud Bitters) which made for a great ending:
It’s a small place, seating fewer than 30, with space for about ten people outdoors and six diners/drinkers at the bar. We’re BarFlys, so we always take a seat at our favorite perch at the bar where their lamp welcomes us:
It’s a popular place which always seems to have a wait during prime dining hours. They do take reservations, but only by email. There’s a wealth of great pizza places in the City and East Bay, so it’s great to have another option with great cocktails in the South Bay, closer to where we work.