Monday, March 20, 2017

Takeout from Zero Zero

I remember when Zero Zero opened in San Francisco in 2010.  The chef/owner had already made a name for himself in the pizza work outside the city.  It was one of the first places in SF to boast about the type of pizza oven (something custom, bakes each pizza in only 90 seconds), to geek out about the type of flour they use (uh, the namesake "00"), and to bring a Californian twist to Neapolitan pizzas.  Oooh, and everyone went nuts for the soft serve ice cream, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.

I also remember because I lived across the street, and even though pizza may not be my favorite thing, I saw a lot of benefit in having a great place so close by.  I gave it a few tries when friends wanted to go (really, how could I say no to folks wanting to go do dinner as close to my house as possible?), but, it never really did it for me (besides the desserts of course).  Yet the place stayed very popular, and very successful.

I moved away, and never gave it another thought.

Until I visited a friend who now lives across the street, and we decided to order takeout from Zero Zero.  I was interested to see if much had changed in the few years since I had tried it.  It still seems busy (although as hard to get a reservation at as when it first opened), and Yelpers are generally positive, so I thought perhaps I was mis-remembering, or, that it had gotten better.

I did find my notes from 2010, a quick review I wrote to a friend who asked about it (this was before I started a blog of course):
  • Over-hyped.  Not worth the long waits/advance reservations.
  • Starters were all meh.  Nothing bad, but nothing memorable.
  • Pizza was meh.  Good, but again, not memorable nor worth the wait.
  • Dessert was pretty fantastic.  I had the vanilla soft serve with caramel, sea salt, and candied peanuts, and I loved every bite.  Another dinner had the ricotta donuts (with hot fudge for dipping!) and they were pretty good too.  One member of the group said, "The doughnuts were worth going back for. I'd go there just for dessert next time."
Summary: If I still lived across the street and could just walk in, I'd go back. But certainly not worth all the effort. Except for the dessert ... 
My 2017 opinion remains basically the same.  It isn't bad, but nothing was very interesting, and the price point is kinda high for what it is.


While Zero Zero is known for the pizza and soft serve ice cream, if you dig into reviews, the pasta dishes are what people actually seem to like the most.  Zero Zero has only 5 pasta dishes on the menu, all a different shape and style, interestingly, none vegetarian (interesting to me because you usually see a pasta dish as the random veggie option).

If I was picking I probably would have opted for the gnocchi just because I love gnocchi (and, it comes with pork belly rag├╣ and ricotta!), but the fettuccini with local Dungeness crab certainly would have been my second choice, and that is what someone else in the group suggested, so I was happy to go along with it.
Fettuccini. $23.95.
"San Francisco Dungeness Crab, Fresno Chili, Tomalley Butter, Chive, Shallot, Garlic, Preserved Lemon."

I was pretty let down by this dish.  The noodles themselves were fine, decently cooked I suppose, but, I had really good fresh fettuccini earlier in the week, and this didn't live up to that at all.  Still, not overcooked or mushy, just, uninteresting.

I expected some interesting flavors from the tomalley butter, shallots, garlic, and preserved lemon, but the sauce fell very flat.  It wasn't even that buttery.

And finally, the crab.  I love local Dungeness crab.  But this was actually kinda fishy.  I tried another piece just to be sure, but, again, fishy.

I didn't like this at all, and the price seemed high for a simple dish.


Zero Zero is most known for the pizza though, and that is primarily what we ordered.  They make 9 different pizzas, all with the same style of crust.  3 are simple marinara / margherita / margherita di bufala, but the other 6 are fairly elaborate, and are all named after San Francisco neighborhoods.  There are a few things you can add on, like arugula, prosciutto, or olives, but mostly, the pizzas are designed as they are, no customizations really.

We picked three pizzas, and doubled up on the basic margherita for the kids.  The ones we picked, coincidentally, happened to be their most popular, and are also available frozen to go, although we ordered them fresh since we were literally across the street.
Fillmore. $19.95.
"Hen of the Woods Mushrooms, Leeks, Mozzarella, Grana Padano, Pecorino, Fontina, Garlic, Thyme."

My pick was the Fillmore, because the Hen of the Woods mushrooms really called out to me (my second choice was the Turk, with sunchoke cream!).

I didn't like the crust, it was chewy in a strange way.  I don't really think this was the fault of getting the pizza to go, as we literally were across the street, and it didn't sit long at all.

This was a sauceless pizza, which made it a bit dry, particularly since the toppings didn't extend out very close to the edges.  It seemed like nearly half of each slice was just dry crust.  The flavors were good, particularly the cooked down leeks and garlic under all the cheeses, but, nothing really popped without a better delivery mechanism (aka, the crust).  I did like the mushrooms, but, alas, they were just mushrooms.

So overall, this wasn't great.  Given how essential the crust is to this style of pizza, it really detracted from everything else, and some flavorful leeks and mushrooms couldn't save it.
Castro. $19.95.
"Sopressata, House Made Sausage, Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Basil." 

My third pick was the Castro, so I was glad others wanted to try that one too.

But again, chewy crust that I did not like.  The tomato sauce extended out towards the edges as you'd expect, but the cheese did not, again, leaving nearly half the slice fairly uninteresting.  The sausage may have been house made, but it wasn't flavorful at all.

So again, didn't like.
Zero Zero Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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