Oak & Rye sets itself apart as colorfully different. This relative newcomer to Los Gatos’s N. Santa Cruz Avenue (and replacement of the much-loved Restaurant James Randall) serves a menu of wood-fired pizzas, tasty small plates and an inviting selection of cocktails, wine and draft beer.
On a weeknight visit, communal tables inside and on the patio were my only option for seating in the packed restaurant. Like their pizzas, the restaurant’s decor and vibe enjoy an off-center touch, like a pizza oven mosaicked with pennies, an awesome soundtrack of classic hip-hop or the trippy bathrooms with fluorescent painted walls and a compact television/VCR unit constantly showing ’90s hits like Die Hard.
Whether you enjoy a cold beer or a nice glass of wine with your pizza, you’ll find a good selection of Italian wines as well as craft beer by draft or in bottle. The cocktail menu features deep-flavored concoctions such as the Italian Manhattan (known other places as a Negroni). In A Catcher In The Rye, made with rye, mint and Grand Marnier, the spiciness of rye and sweet tinge of orange liqueur played off one another nicely.
From the menu of small plates, a heirloom tomato salad with burrata, basil oil, balsamic and fried capers offered a taste of the last stretch of summer. Not only was the dish plated beautifully but the salty, crunchy fried capers amplified the flavors of creamy burrata cheese and juicy tomato. Equally tasty were the lighter-than-air gnocchis with pork sausage and kale. The dish was incredibly rich and flavorful, so just a couple bites proved enough.
For the main attraction, Oak & Rye cooks wood-fired pizzas in a blistering-hot oven. Each pizza arrives sliced into sixths and is sharable between two or perfect for one, if you’re really hungry. Browse over the pizza names and you’ll see Oak & Rye threw in a bit of the quirky there too with names such as TMNT (for those pizza-munching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and the vegetarian CeeLo Greens. The TMNT is an elevated version of the best pepperoni pizza you’ve ever had. A perfectly crisp, slightly charred crust is topped with tomato, mozzarella, oregano, chili flakes, caciocavallo (an Italian cow milk cheese, similar to a pungent mozzarella), parmigiano and salametto piccante which is most like a dry, slightly smoked Spanish chorizo. While the TMNT may be a good intro, the must-try pizza here is the Scotty 2 Hottie with tomato, basil, mozzarella, sopressata and with the incredible sweet and spicy combination of Tim’s honey and pepperoncini oil.