Café Oliveto's Whole-Grain Pizza

Categories: Eat This

John Birdsall
Café Oliveto's Napoletana, $15, with a crust made from authentic whole-wheat flour.
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Oliveto chef Paul Canales has been playing around with whole-wheat flours lately, in collaboration with Certified Foods. That's the stone mill in Woodland, northwest of Sacramento, that in May began supplying Oliveto with heirloom Floriani Red Flint polenta, part of a project called Community Grains. (Canales has been doing a sort of traditional northern Italian polenta service with the startlingly pinky-beige corn, laid out in a mass, on boards.)

Strange, but what passes for whole-wheat flour is a kind of fake: Composite elements of the grain separated during processing, then recombined in percentages roughly approximate to wheat in its natural state. But Community Grains' flour is simply hard red winter wheat, milled and, well, that's it. It's been going into the dough for pizzas cooked in Café Oliveto's wood-burning oven.

The first thing you notice is how lithe the crust is. If you've ever made whole-grain pizza dough ― or bread, for that matter ― you know how brittle it is, chopped up into short gluten strands by the bran flakes in the flour. The pale, beige-y gray crust is moist like whole-wheat dough (you can pinch a bit and it compresses into something that must resemble the dough in its raw state), but it makes a creditable pizza. Of course, it's the crust's flavor that's most striking: frankly grain-y, with a mineral aroma that reminds you of wet stones.

Café Oliveto: 5655 College (at Shafter), Oakland, 510-547-5356.

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