Sacramento, CA 95819
One fortuitous Friday, Mrs. Lucas suggests we dine at OneSpeed, the latest creation of The Waterboy’s Rick Mahan. It bills itself as a pizza place. It’s a lot more. This Friday, however, we’re told the restaurant has only been open three weeks, placing it off-limits under the Restaurant Reviewer’s Code of Ethics. Notes were taken nonetheless.
OneSpeed. You know, as in bicycling, like the old Schwinns. In case there’s some doubt, bicycle gears interspersed with various-sized circular mirrors march across one mustardy, sienna wall. “Be green and give us your green, East Sacramento, pedal over to your new neighborhood pizza joint” might be the pitch.
So, naturally, we order no pizza.
Up from the venerable East Sacramento Hardware and down from Trader Joe’s, OneSpeed occupies the former home of Cafe Milazzo. In a nice tip of the hat, a Cafe Milazzo sign adorns the shelving behind the bar. The open kitchen, yellow-tiled Gaudi-esque pizza oven and welcoming earth tones make OneSpeed feel more expansive than it is.
We’re taken to a table by the manager and quickly learn the hostess has already promised it to another couple. The manager apologizes. We wait briefly in the forest-green bar where IPA, cider and, a nice touch, Pabst Blue Ribbon are on tap.
Immediate style points are scored with the purple beet appetizer with fresh mint and a bull’s-eye of pickled red onions in its center. The $15.50 artful blend of steamed mussels and clams in a sausage, tomato, garlic, leek and fennel broth is wonderfully aromatic and benefits from the waitress’ wise suggestion: an order of crusty focaccia to soak up the lonely rust-colored broth left after the shellfish are gone. Chilled potato-leek soup with cherry tomatoes gets thumbs up from Mrs. Lucas.
OneSpeed carries on Mahan’s tradition of fresh ingredients, a tradition easily tasteable. All in all, for three weeks in operation, things seem remarkably together.
Three weeks later, things are significantly improved at a star-studded lunch arranged by Sotiris Kolokotronis, who is toasted by one of this usual lunch crowd, Rusty Areias, as the “Mayor of Midtown.” At the other end of the table of nine is Geoff Petrie and Angelo Tsakopoulos, who tells a pretty bitchin’ shaggy-dog pope joke. Darrell Corti is at the far end of the table and, in a nifty bit of OneSpeed symmetry, David Berkley brings bottles of Bugey Mondeuse, a wine from where they’re pedaling in the Tour de France this day.
The conversation touches on the Faema E61, the Rolls Royce of espresso machines (there’s one at Hot Italian). Then it turns to the late Cafe Natoma in Folsom. Tsakopoulos was a partner. Berkley the wine expert. Mahan worked there in 1984. The world is small.
This visit, there’s plenty of pizza. Pepperoni with oregano and olives at $14 is a bit pedestrian. Sausage with broccoli rabe and mozzarella, also $14, is more interesting, but the oohs and ahs rain down for the unexpected delight of the owner’s pizza: potato, caramelized onion, pancetta, goat cheese, olives and arugula.
The gnocchi with brown butter and sage is also a hit, although the $9.50 fritto misto of shrimp, peppers, fennel, anchovy and stuffed olives is mushy, needing more time in the fritto machine. The lemon aioli sauce with it isn’t a heaven-made match.
The sausage and cannellini at $10.50 is a sweet, stick-to-the-ribs dish whose ratings would rise if eaten before the pizza. The final sampling of calzone—prosciutto, broccoli rabe, mozzarella, goat cheese, garlic, tomatoes—at $15 is pronounced the best he’s ever eaten by His Honor Frank Damrell, a notorious shellfish slattern who wolfs down the steamed mussels and clams from above, which at lunch is an appetizer at half the entree price. Greg Larson, sitting across the table, says the calzone has improved noticeably since he ordered it the first week of OneSpeed’s operation.
An eclectic and enjoyable—albeit somewhat expensive—addition to Sacramento’s stable of restaurants.