Pizzavino 707 opens

Pizzavino 707 reopens in former West County Grill space. Pizzas are the heart of the menu and Sebastopol seems willing to give the restaurant another chance.

pizzavino2.jpgThe ghost of a restaurant past still hovers over Pizzavino 707.  Though reincarnation came quickly — less than a year after West County Grill shuttered in the location– the open-air kitchen built as a theater for celeb chef Jonathan Waxman and his team of white-coated commis still echoes with their presence. Nearly a third of the circular kitchen sits idle, with oddly configured prep tables and vast open spaces behind the kitchen bar.

Focus has shifted instead to a single wood-fired pizza oven that once seemed an afterthought. Now it’s the glowing heart of a humbled operation where a skeleton crew of three pull crusts, recite orders and feed the oven as quickly as orders come in.

“Two olives. Two Sebastopols. Mushroom. Fire two chickens. Make that three,” goes the rat-a-tat dialogue that’s always been the best part of sitting at the open-kitchen bar — a front row seat to your own dinner.

On a Saturday night, they’re quickly in the weeds. It’s a full house by 7:30pm, and orders are lined up 12 and 13 tickets long. Families, couples and large groups fill the bar, outside tables, two and four-tops, willing to wait.

Orchestrating is former WCG-partner Stephen Singer. He too seems humbled by the rollercoaster ride of opening, closing and then re-opening the restaurant with new partners, Gayle Pirie and John Clark of Foreign Cinema (in San Francisco). Greeting customers at the reservation desk, he floats around the restaurant as ad hoc waiter, sommelier and welcome wagon.

“We’re looking forward,” Singer tells BiteClub. Letting go of the big dreams of creating a Chez Panisse-style restaurant in the heart of Wine Country and embracing a pared-down concept as simple as its name: Pizzavino 707. Pizza and wine that take advantage of local produce at an affordable price. Partners also plan to add a tasting room with value wine finds in the future. No plans for lunch right now.

With so much at stake, it was a clever move to keep the evening menu simple.

A handful of antipasti to start — Caesar salad, simple salumi plates, seasonal greens and olives (none topping $10). Two nightly specials (roast chicken and smoked salmon on my visit), and ten pizzas ($12-$15) that mostly riff on one another.

Simple margherita with tomato sauce, basil  and mozzarella; moving up to mushroom with garlic, mint, lemon, thyme and three cheeses; onto pizzas that feature squash blossoms, zucchini, arugula or spinach layered with fresh ricotta or mozzarella. Swerving into less charted territory: Yukon potato with onions, Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Wild Arugula or an evening special described as “A classic wedge salad on a pizza — blue cheese, olive oil, butter lettuce, bacon and an egg in the middle. This isn’t Pizza Hut, so don’t expect gloopy gloppy sauce and 2 inches of toppings. It’s more of a gentle suggestion of toppings that let the crust shine through.

icecream.jpgSo the crust...The 10-inch(ish) rounds are thin and crispy, and in my opinion very tasty — but lack the cracker-snap, big bubbles and char that you see from other wood-fired pizzas. A chef who happened to be at the restaurant while I was wondered aloud if the oven was hot enough. Without temperature controls, it can be a tricky proposition to get just the right amount of heat without burning the pizzas to a crisp.

Desserts stay simple, too. Screaming Mimi’s vanilla gelato with fresh blackberries is almost childish in concept, but wickedly appropriate on a hot summer night. The wine list is predominantly Italian. Singer says he’s looking to find great tasting wines that are “super-value oriented”.  There’s a full bar with cocktails as well.

At PizzaVino 707, there are still kinks to be resolved. Though kitchen staff work at rocket-speed to get the orders out, waits can be long. There is one oven, after all.  Service is friendly, but as the night wore on, got a bit harried and confused. It’s something that was a tripping-point for the previous restaurant, so will hopefully continue to improve.

But Sebastopol seems to be a town willing to give PizzaVino 707 a chance, which is exactly what Singer and his staff seem to be asking for. And at this point deserve.

Pizzavino 707, 6948 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 829.9500. Pizzas available for take-out. Open Wednesday through Saturday, 5pm to 10pm, Sunday noon to 8pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

UPDATE: I just read in NapaLife that former WCG chef Darren McRonald has recently ended up at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena.

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39 thoughts on “Pizzavino 707 opens

  1. Had dinner there last eve, Sat and was very disappointed. Salads were small, mushroom pizza very late coming and boring. Servers were too busy talking to seat us initially and then overall mediocre in attentiveness.,

  2. People in the restaurant business talk, talk, talk. From the dishwashers on up to the owners. People in West Sonoma County are very accepting of each other and have complicated, enduring, overlapping relationships. And we talk, talk, talk. You can’t come into a town, propose to open a business and show the locals how it’s done, fail, and expect people to forgive and forget in a year. We already have great food, wine and service here.

  3. We had a lovely dinner there on Friday evening. Delicious and creative pizza, an outstanding salad, and a bomb of a crisp. Many of the ingredients were completely local, including the blackberries that came from the owner’s own patch on Baker Lane in Sebastopol. The wine may be Italian, but the $6 glass I had was truly excellent, and half the price of some “local” pours. Good value, great flavors and super-friendly service made us very happy customers.

  4. We ate at PizzaVino on Friday night. The food and service was really good. I would recommend it to anyone. We are so glad that the best building in Sebastopol is up and running again. The guy who served us was very friendly and accommodating. He suggested the Sea bass to go along with our pizza. Very Good! Everything seemed very fresh and simple. He also told us that they will be hosting daily wine tasting from local wineries. You will be able to purchase a local wine and bring it into the restaurant to enjoy it with your meal. What a great idea!!

  5. The pizza is great as is the house cured salmon. You can tell they use quality ingredients which I’m sure are expensive. Why do people in Sebastopol get so bent out of shape and hold grudges. Aren’t they glad to have another good restaurant option?

  6. Wife and I stopped there Sunday after giving blood. We had the ceasar salad and the sauage pizza. Both were very good, but just needed a little more. The salad could have used another 25 cents worth of romaine. The crust a little more char, and the toppings a touch more cheese and sauage. We did enjoy the fare though and are looking forward to going back.

  7. the caesar hd great taste but was 1/2 the size it shoud be for the price. you wrote about this place pre-opening and i expected much more value firendly and surely much more local oriented. i don’t read italian and it is impossible to believe these folks thought an all italian list was a smart move here. dumb. nonehtless, this town still lacks a good place for a plain high quality sandwich or burger or BLT without a bunch of garbage thrown onto it and a comfortable place to sit and talk. oh yeah and maybe a reasonably priced italian place without stupid names for the pastas and oh say authentic pomodoro

  8. I don’t understand steph’s hostility. I could see feeling that way if we were talking about a huge corporate chain – but the fact that a couple of owners live in SF? Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t get it. The employees are local, the $ spent there will contribute to the local tax base, the food could be local (maybe it isn’t, but if they are smart it would be). I agree they should have CA wines though….

  9. Just at here AGAIN last night, and the food was absolutely fantastic. The service was slower than we would like, but it won’t stop us from going there again.
    This time we tried the screamin’ Mimi’s gelato with blackberries and whipped cream. It was very, very yummy!
    I also wish that they used local wines instead of wines from Italy, but I must admit that the italian wine I had with my dinner both times were wonderful… dare I say…better than many of the CA wines I’ve tried recently…but I still prefer CA over all others.

  10. Let pizza vino 707 GO BACK TO SF – Lets keep sebastopol LOCAL and not all this city stuff. I WILL NOT – WILL NOT EVER GO THERE. SORRY. Lets keep the locals in business like marys (been here forever and started in sonoma) fregenes – local sonoma county – mombos – local sonoma county – ALL THE REST – TAKE A LEAP OFF THE NEAREST BRIDGE WOULD YA…. LOVE

  11. Bryan – I’m pretty sure it’s Kashaya at the Sunday Farmer’s Market in Sebastopol, not Rosso.

  12. Um thanks. I think.
    Can’t please everyone, but at least I got your vote this time Samarati. 🙂 Appreciate your support.

  13. Sorry but the restaurant is in the Russian River Valley area and most of their wines are from Italy. Are you kidding me? Do you know how many patrons are in the wine industry… about buy local. I’ll stick to those who support the local wine industry: K&L, GTO’s, Eloise etc. You should probably take the 707 off your name.

  14. I want to compliment you on the high quality of this report. I’ve been following your column since inception. I think this is the 1st “real” review you’ve published. Welcome to adulthood.

  15. We dined at 707 last night and had a similar experience to Heather’s post: good food, mostly friendly (and apologetic) staff, but *very* slow service throughout and an unacceptably long wait for the pizza. The prices do seem reasonable and we loved the ‘za when it finally arrived–I tried the squash blossom/3 cheese, my husband the pepperoni. Hope they work things out!

  16. Personally, I would rather drive the 10 minutes into Santa Rosa for Rosso’s superior ingredients and specials or just wait for the Sunday Market in Sebastopol’s square where Rosso sets up their portable wood fired oven.

  17. West County Grill had the warm and fuzzies of a New York tax write-off. Now that you’ve taken your losses hopefully you want to be part of the community. Though 823 fits us more closely than 707 I hope you guys are done treating us like numbers. I, like the first commenter, hope the new place earns a name which speaks highly of its food and service.

  18. West County Grill had the warm and fuzzies of a New York tax write-off. Now that you’ve taken your losses hopefully you want to be part of the community. Though 823 fits us more closely than 707 I hope you guys are done treating us like numbers. I, like the first commenter, hope the new place earns a name which speaks highly of its food and service.

  19. oooh – pizza smackdown! So exciting! But so many different kinds that are like apples and oranges! NY Pie, Mombos, Rosso, Diavola, Kashaya…even Mary’s and La Vera. And the New Yorker in Petaluma. And then there is Old Chicago which isn’t really how I think pizza should be, but I’m sure it is great for people who love deep dish. But you have to categorize – NY style, Neopolitan style, California style, deep dish, Sicilian….(but does anyone make good Sicilian here?) When I moved to California 27 years ago from NJ I was shocked to discover that it was like a pizza desert – awful places like Round Table and Straw Hat ruled (sadly, many people still think Round Table is good), and some places (OMG) cut the round pizza into gridlike SQUARES so that pieces in the middle had no crust. SO wrong. It felt like pizza renaissance when NY Pie and Mombos came to town to supplement the few decent California pizza places here, and now we have Rosso and Diavola too, and people are starting to *get* good pizza here.

  20. I’ve never quite understood it either. Not to make too many generalizations…but for one, I think Sebastapoolians have very strong opinions on things and tend to voice them (which I heartily approve of). I think the former restaurant partners made a deep impression on people. And well, it’s pizza. That an hamburgers get people riled up.
    Honestly, though, it’s a mystery. People is people.

  21. My husband, 3-year-old, 1-year-old and I ate there a few nights ago and LOVED it! The appetizer of roasted farmer’s market veggies was fantastic for the whole family, and we all thought that the pizza was super-delicious! I had a couple of glasses of wine, which was delicious as well, and the waiter told me they were specially chosen to go with pizza, which I believe. The service was very friendly and accommodating for the kids. It was a bit slower than we would like, but not bad by any means.
    We are so happy to have this new family friendly, delicious restaurant in Sebastopol and will definitely be eating there frequently.
    Good luck to the owners — we hope this one makes it!

  22. Not sure why Rosso would be the standard of comparison. Bovolo in Healdsburg is a much better pizza than Rosso.

  23. I am very excited to try this much talked about pizza. Unfortunately, the Sebastopol town center sits at the intersection of two highways. I think one of the benefits of the old WCG site is that you have an opportunity to dine 200′ away from traffic, great dine to auto distance for Sebastopol. Sure, the outdoor seating is basically on the edge of a parking lot, but those cars are usually idle. Until Sebastopol realigns the highways, this town will never live up to its fantastic hamlet potential. Imagine Sebastopol as a pedestrian friendly location…how many Michelin rated restaurants would you have then?

  24. I love love love pizza (to the point where it is a bit of an obsession) and look forward to trying this place. Speaking of other great pizzas though – Rosso is wonderful (although I personally do not like when they char the crust, which they seem to do more often than not). But my two ABSOLUTE FAVORITES are Diavola pizzaria in Geyserville (better than Rosso in my opinion), and Kashaya’s Wood Fired pizza. She has a mobile pizza booth at the Fridiay Occidental Farmer’s Market and her pizza is the BOMB. And – only $10.00 for a pie, same size as what you’d get at Rosso, Diavola, and this place for $12-15. I heard she was at the Santa Rosa and Sonoma Farmers markets also, but not sure when those are. I swear, I have absolutely no association wth Kashaya’s pizza, but I’ve had her pizza twice, once at Copperfields Books and Bikes Fair in Seastopol last year, and once at the Occidental Market. I can’t wait to go to the market again for that pizza – probably this Friday. Oh – and if you search for her pizza on yelp, there are pictures….

  25. John Franchetti (Rosso) is the complete package, IMHO. It’s the bubbly pizzas, plus the amazing mozzarella, plus the incredible specials, plus the uber kid-friendliness…
    Sindy…my pix are horrid. Sorry. The crust is thin, but yeah…not the cracker thin crust that’s considered more Neopolitan style from what I’m told. Didn’t stop me from eating a 10-inch pizza on my own, however.

  26. That pizza doesn’t look very thin. Hopefully they don’t waste the wood oven. I’ll try it, but this could look more promising.

  27. Great Happy Hour prices ($3 drafts) and nice staff. That is all I need (oh, the pizza is really good also).

  28. I think everyone deserves a second chance (maybe not a third). What has to be earned is trust and respect. Just my take. But a notable point.

  29. I would love to see this place succeed, but who decided that PizzaVino 707 was a good name? No numbers and especially no area codes in your restaurant or band names.

  30. We’ve eaten here 3 times already and have seen a progressive improvement in the service. I LOVE the pizza! On my last visit, there was also a chicken entree on the menu, so I had that this time. It was good.
    Sitting outside on the plaza is my favourite spot. Good place to watch Sebastopol peeps while sitting with a beer, delicious appetizers, pizza and good company.

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