Redwood Pizzeria – Targeting the Gourmet Family Set

During a conversation about what else – food - I asked a Ben Lomond friend where her family likes to go locally for pizza. She said Redwood Pizzeria in Felton was a favorite and then in a lowered voice added “they have Marianne's ice cream there”. That was all the incentive I needed to pile the family into the car and check out the digs.

We arrived around 6:30 on a Friday night to find the place more than bustling. A sign near the front door said “Seat Yourself”, but there wasn't a free table in sight. Even the 30-person party room was packed. We figured it was a good sign, so visually staked out some tables that looked nearly finished. It was little more than five minutes before one became available near the bar and we tucked in.

First impressions of Redwood Pizzeria were that it was casual and very family-friendly. A large shelf near the front door is filled with children's games, paper, crayons, markers and books. Diners are encouraged to take items back to their tables to keep kids entertained with the request that they be put away when finished. We soon learned why this was such a strategically smart move.

The atmosphere is warm and friendly, bordering on boisterous, given how many families were apparently unwinding from the week. A funky 6-person bar sported hanging blue icicle lights, and for our listening enjoyment, speakers blared a marathon-length album of psychedelic Pink Floyd music. Two TVs at the bar were set to different sports channels and free wireless Internet access is available.

We were most intrigued by the quality of the menu – certainly a departure from corporate chain pizza houses – with organic salads, homemade soups, and handmade pizza dough that “takes at least 25-35 minutes to create”. Hint – get an appetizer.

Drink options include local wines by the glass or bottle, draft and bottled beer, organic milk, coffee, tea and fountain drinks with free refills. Non-pizza baked items such as lasagne, calzone, and build-your-own hot sandwiches are also available.

We started with an order of Garlic Bread ($3.25) with cheese (add .75) and an Organic Greek Salad ($4.50) with feta (add. 75). Both arrived fairly quickly. The bread was a generous portion of crusty french loaf piled with minced garlic. It arrived piping hot and paired with a zippy herb marinara sauce for dipping. All four of us thought it quite good and polished it off in no time.

The salad soon arrived featuring organic mixed greens, ripe red tomatoes, red onions, Greek olives, cucumbers, feta and a nice housemade vinaigrette. The veggies were all crisp and fresh and the portion was ample enough to share.

While we chose RW House Pizzas for this first visit, I'm eager to mix and match from the ingredient menu the next time we go. You'll find the usual ingredients such as pineapple, zucchini, and spinach, but some not-so-typical choices as well including jalapenos, tempeh, and corn. All toppings are local and organic whenever possible.

We selected the Pesto Specialty pizza ($21.75 for large) and The Redwood Classic for the kids ($18.75 large). One pizza would be ample for a family of four, but we couldn't narrow it down to one and who doesn't love leftovers.

I'll say up front that the wait was longer than 25-35 minutes (thus the comment about the brilliance of the kid activity area). It was closer to 50 minutes and it may have been an exceptionally busy night. One extremely busy waitress was trying to service all 10 tables herself and we heard several tables asking where their food was.

The good news is, when the pizza arrived, it was worth the wait. The Pesto version arrived first with uniformly chopped artichokes, mushrooms, and tomatoes interspersed with feta on top of a mozzarella and pesto layer that was not in the least bit oily. It was incredibly delicious – hot, and abundant with the flavors of fresh herbs. The light, handmade crust is a treat. We're a family of crust-leavers typically, but this one was thin, light, and crispy with a hint of herbs such that we were ferreting around for any remnants of that marinara dip that came with the bread.

With the Redwood Classic, we were trying to outwit our kids into thinking it was plain pepperoni and cheese when in reality it was mozzarella, parmesan, romano, pepperoni, garlic, and herbs. They seemed to fall for it and we got to sample something finer than the usual fare in this genre. This pie was loaded with garlic (great for us, though I did witness the kids doing some scraping) and had a very smoky flavor – perhaps from the pepperoni used. It too had that light signature crust. We ate until we were stuffed and still had nearly half of each platter to bring home.

Even though Marianne's ice cream was an initial draw, we didn't have room for dessert. But options include ice cream by the dish ($2.25), milkshakes ($4.20), and ice cream bars/sandwiches ($2.00).

Yes, the wait was long, but the environment was friendly and warm and the food superior. We'll save room for dessert next time and – oh yeah, bring some breath mints.

At A Glance

What: Redwood Pizzeria

Where: 6205 Hwy. 9, Felton, CA

When: Dinner 6 nights (closed Tues.) Lunch Fri., Sat., Sun.

Info: 831-335-1500;