Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza
Right before the Christmas holiday, two of my old high school friends and I got together for lunch to share some laughs, memories and catch up on what was going on in our lives. These are girls I’ve known forever. One of them I’ve been friends with since we were classmates in 4th grade. The other one I’ve known since high school, though we actually went to the same elementary school where her mother was actually a teacher for many years. And the two of them have actually known each other since they were 6 or 7 years old in a group called Indian Princesses. It’s crazy to think that I’ve known these girls more than half my life, almost 3/4 of my life really. And though it’s harder these days, what with the fact that we don’t all live that close to each other any more and we all have moved on to have careers and our own lives, for us to get together, but when we’re all in the same place at the same time, we try to at least get together a couple of times a year. For a few years there, it was impossible for us to all get together at all because one of my two friends decided to go on an around-the-world sojourn which took her away from home for almost 5 years. But, now we’re all back in Southern California together, and trying to enjoy being in each others company as much as our schedules will allow. When it came time to get together before the holidays, we debated back and forth for a while as to where we should meet up. Ultimately, I told the girls that there was a pizza parlor that I had heard one of the girls talking about that had been on my list of places to try for quite a while but I hadn’t yet convinced my husband to go to that I really wanted to try. It turns out that both of my friends had actually been to this pizza place together previously, but they were nice enough to want to indulge my whim and agree that we should meet there for lunch.
Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza was described by OC Weekly as “an honest-to-goodness pizza parlor,” in an article hailing the opening of the pizza join as a “return of the parlor.” Owners Joe and Jenner Rasic, who have been Orange County residents since the early 1990s opened up Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza in Placentia as a neighborhood pizza joint to bring family and friends together. Joe grew up in his families restaurants and has set out to create a warm, inviting, neighborhood joint where groups gather to celebrate special occasions around homemade pizzas and pitchers of beer and soda. Jenner worked as an elementary school teacher in the area for 20+ years, creating a unique connection between herself and the community. Many of those she knows from her teaching days she sees at the restaurant, in between creating new ideas for the pizza parlors’ dessert menu.
Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza features a bar, large screen tv’s showing sporting events, long bench-style seating for large groups, bar seating, and small tables for more intimate gatherings as well. There’s an open kitchen in the back where you can watch your pizza being made to order. At Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza, pizza dough is made fresh on a daily basis. And many varieties of craft beer are on tap on a rotating basis. Craftsman’s has been described as Shakey’s Pizza in its heyday when you’d find a pizza parlor filled with little league teams and soccer troops. That’s the genuine feel you get when you step inside the doors of Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza.
Since I’m not a beer drinker, I chose craft-brewed draft root beer to drink. Served in a chilled glass straight from the freezer and poured out of the tap just like it should be. The glass is so cold that ice crystal start to form on the root beer, which is perfect. The root beer is slightly sweet with a bit of tang and bite, the way a craft brewed root beer should be. So much better than the commercial root beers you buy at the grocery store.
Having lunch with friends, we decided that we’d split a couple of pizzas between the three of us so that we could give a couple of different pizzas a try. To start our meals though, we each ordered a side salad with Craftsman’s signature brown sugar vinaigrette. This is the dressing that our waitress recommended to us because it was both a little sweet, but also a little tangy. I’d never actually heard of a brown sugar vinaigrette before and was wondering if it might be just too sweet. I don’t normally think about putting brown sugar into my salad dressings. But, I must admit, I tasted the vinaigrette before I poured it over my salad and I really liked it. The dressing wasn’t overly sweet, but it did have that hint of brown sugar, a little hint of sweetness to round out the bite of the vinegar and oil. I might have to steal this dressing to make myself. Over a bed of mixed greens, and some sliced red onions, both of which can have strong flavors, the sweetness of the brown sugar vinaigrette really helped to balance the flavors and pull the salad together.
The first pizza we ordered was the grilled steak and potato. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know by now that I’m truly a meat and potatoes kind of girl and this pizza was right up my alley. Out of all of the different kinds of pizzas on the menu, this is the one I wanted to try the most. Made with rotisserie tri-tip, covered in thinly sliced rosemary potatoes, smoked Gouda, caramelized onions, olive oil and chimichurri sauce, this pizza was fantastic. Literally, I could have finished a whole pizza on my own, I wanted to just devour the entire pizza. You can’t really see the tri-tip in the picture of the pizza because it’s buried under the potatoes, but believe me that the tri-tip was tender and plentiful on the pizza. The rosemary potatoes were perfectly soft and tender and really well flavored with rosemary that gave it a nice woodsy flavor and matched with the chimichurri sauce well. The smoked Gouda addition was a nice touch and again added a more smoky, woody flavor to the pizza. The pizza had a taste, feel and flavor that was rustic and delicious. What I really liked on the pizza was the use of chimichurri sauce. I’ve never seen that on a pizza before, and personally I’m a huge fan of chimichurri sauce as it has such strong, but terrific flavors and works really well with meat. For this particular pizza, it was the perfect “sauce” for the pizza and complimented the caramelized onions, the potatoes and the tri-tip to a T. This pizza was absolutely outstanding, and for this pizza alone, I’d return to Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza.
The second pizza we chose was a shrimp and pesto. None of us had ever had it before, and we figured it was exactly the opposite of the steak and potatoes pizza. Plus, shrimp and pesto isn’t something you often find on a pizza menu, so we were interested in how it would turn out. In this pizza, the pesto is the “sauce” of the pizza, which is then topped with tender shrimp, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese. I was a bit apprehensive about this pizza because I’m not a fan of either sundried tomatoes or goat cheese and wasn’t sure how that would play on a pizza. However, I will admit, this pizza was pretty darn good. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and of a very good size. The pesto sauce was fantastic and combining it with the goat cheese actually made for a very creamy and smooth texture to the pizza which I enjoyed. The sundried tomatoes actually lent the perfect amount of acidic tang the pizza needed to balance out the pesto and the sweet, succulent shrimp, so it worked much better than I expected it to. I was quite impressed, my friends got me to try something I normally wouldn’t order, and I actually enjoyed it.
Of course, what would be a holiday celebration with friends without sharing a little dessert? My friend who first discovered Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza recommended that we try the sizzling skillet apple pie. This was Craftsman’s signature dessert. A tart-sized apple pie served on a sizzling cast iron skillet with caramel sauce drizzled over the pie and still bubbling in the skillet, all topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream made for quite the presentation to the table. To hear the caramel sauce sizzling and see it bubbling over as it came into contact with the red hot skillet, created an enticing show for not only for my eyes to feast on, but for my nose to take in this wonderful scent and of course my tastebuds to devour. The pie was fantastic, and I’m not a fan of apple pie. The caramel sauce really put it over the top, with really tender, cinnamon apple slices contained within a flaky pie crust.
Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza turned out to be a hidden gem in my book. My friends and I had a great pre-holiday get together in a comfortable setting where we could enjoy each other’s company over some great salad, pizzas and dessert, and just feel relaxed. Craftsman really does feel like your neighborhood pizza parlor, the place to gather and hang out. And their pizza’s were phenomenal. I’m in love with the steak and potato pizza, that’s steak and potatoes just the way I like it. I’ve got to come back again in the future and bring my husband to try Craftsman Wood Fired Pizza, I know he’d like it just as much as I did.