The story: Marzano was a popular neighborhood pizza place in Oakland’s Glenview district that closed in 2014. (A version of Marzano also opened in Rockridge, but that also closed.) The Glenview location was replaced briefly by a British pub called The Growlers’ Arms, but when that shuttered last fall, Marzano’s owners — who still operated the property — suggested that the restaurant be resurrected.
The thing was, owners Justin Hafen and John Hurley reportedly didn’t want to be in the restaurant business any more, so they sold the idea of bringing back Marzano to the restaurant’s original chef, Rob Holt, and general manager, Manna Tekie, who both jumped at the chance. Marzano was reborn in February.
Why I went: I wanted to try Marzano when it got early buzz after reopening, but at the time I didn’t own a car and this residential area of Oakland isn’t the easiest to get to via public transit (and even when driving, you’ll find it challenging to park). But now that I have wheels, I recently joined my fellow food blogging friends Brenda of Bites and Bourbon, Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging, and Christina of East Bay Dish, who suggested we dine here and was the only one of us who ate at the original Marzano.
The vibe: It’s got an Italian trattoria feel with dark wood tables and booths. There were a few young families early on, but later the restaurant filled up with adults, especially around the bar, and many of them seemed like they were from the neighborhood. The friendly service keeps the place casual and neighborly.
The booze: A typical list of specialty cocktails, wine and beer. I’ve been on a “drying spell” so I can’t comment much on the booze, but both Sandy (who ordered a beer) and Christina (who ordered wine) seemed to be happy with their selections.
The menu: Since I never ate at the original Marzano, I can’t say what’s familiar, but I heard that the pan-roasted octopus ($15) is a crowd favorite from the old days, and Christina remembered the soft-serve ice cream with various topping options for dessert. The menu is divided into antipasti (appetizers) and insalate (salads) as well as nine types of Neapolitan-style pizzas with additional toppings. There are also a few pasta dishes under the piatti (plates) section. We tried the fettuccine with spring onions ($18), which our table unanimously agreed was our least favorite dish because of its lack of color and flavor, and the fact that it looked very pedestrian. Still, we did enjoy the octopus starter and a fennel sausage pizza ($18) topped with a satisfying tomato sauce. Brenda and Christina also liked the mix of ingredients in our antipasti — burrata di stefano ($15) — which included house-made burrata cheese, marinated golden beets, prosciutto and crostini topped with a pea shoot and green garlic pesto.
My favorite dish: While the pizza was good, I think the star was the pan-roasted octopus with tender chunks of octopus mixed with tender Yukon potatoes. There was a nice kick from the Calabrian chili and a twist of flavor from bits of preserved lemon. It was a complex and delicious plate.
The last bite: A pizza restaurant is a no-brainer for most neighborhoods, and Marzano is taking full advantage of that fact by serving tasty Neapolitan-style pizzas. The menu doesn’t necessarily seem inventive or innovative, but crowd favorites make for a happy return for locals who just wanted their old neighborhood spot back.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps