A tasty slice of Italy

Il Pizzaiolo

Il Pizzaiolo

6696 Lonetree Blvd.
Rocklin, CA 95765

(916) 899-6944

A few months ago, my brother emailed me a link to a New York Times article on how to quickly, cheaply and easily make an “Italian-style” pizza at home. I read it over, agreed with the author’s tips, and then promptly forgot about it. In my mind, excuses for still not attempting said homemade pizza have included: “I’ve been too busy” and “It’s been too hot this summer to fire up the oven to the ‘broil’ setting.” And now, Il Pizzaiolo in Rocklin basically cancels out the need for me to ever cook my own pizza. Ever. Driving to Il Pizzaiolo is quick, easy and cheap, too—and they might just serve the best pie in town.

Sacramento is lucky to already boast a wealth of pizza spots slinging great Neopolitan pizza—a.k.a. the kind made with a relatively thin crust cooked in a 900-or-so-degree oven in which you can see flaming wood, and fully cooked in just about 90 seconds. OneSpeed, Hot Italian, Masullo and Pizza Rock specialize in this style, and that’s the kind Il Pizzaiolo also serves at its three locations. The pizzeria started in Colfax in 2012, before opening two locations earlier this year in Loomis and Rocklin. I dined at the Rocklin location a handful of times simply because it was the closest. It’s a small shop in a clean, relatively new strip mall where diners order from a simple one-page menu at a counter and take a number.

There are four “red” pizzas (with crushed tomatoes) and four “white” pizzas (without tomatoes) on the menu, so my dining partner and I started off by trying one of each: the Cinque Terre (red) and the Pancetta (white). The Cinque Terre (anchovies, capers, mozzarella, olive oil) packed a powerful, salty, fishy flavor that might surprise the uninitiated. But it’s certainly a good choice for people who are used to eating fish sauce in Southeast Asian cuisine. The Pancetta was more muted with a simple earthiness from mushrooms, pancetta, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Each pizza cost only $8.

A quick side note on the lovely crust: it’s flat and wasn’t as thin as most of the pizzas I had on vacation in Italy earlier this year. But it’s pillowy soft and thoroughly doughy—as if to convert fans of American pizza over to Neopolitan.

The Salsiccia was my favorite of the eight pizzas on the menu, with sweet fennel sausage, and pickled peppers. It felt the most balanced with its combination of spicy (from the pepper), sweet (both from the sausage and the tomato sauce) and sour pickles. There’s also an option to create your own pizza from a few dozen topping choices—some of which turned out good, due to smart choices on my part, but others not so much. Tip: ordering “arugula” as a topping seems to yield arugula, shaved Parmesan and olive oil, all at once.

Even a simple Caesar salad impressed. It came with chopped romaine, Parmesan cheese and what tasted like soft, homemade croutons—all topped with a dressing that wasn’t too heavy on cream, but instead carried hints of lemon and a little anchovy paste.

Desserts options were simple but good, too. House-made gelato tasted like one you’d get while taking a leisurely stroll in an Italian piazza. There was also a dessert pizza, which is essentially an entire pizza topped with Nutella, mascarpone cheese and bananas. Warning: only get it if you’re still hungry, or else you’ll have leftovers. Otherwise, order the tiramisu.

There’s also a small fridge with some good soda options (including Mexican Coke and Cock and Bull ginger ale), plus a small selection of local and imported beer and wine. Perhaps my only gripe about the restaurant is that it could expand its beer and wine menu. I’d also like to see an over-easy egg as a topping option. Nevertheless, it’s a great low-key spot not too far away from Sacramento, but still far enough away to feel like a mini-vacation to Italy.