Little Star Pizza. Albany, CA
Not Just A Great Pie
Little Star Pizza is one of our favorites. Not just for the pizza, though we both think it’s the best Chicago style around (including Zachary’s up the block which we like, but don’t love). The decor in the Albany location is cozy and rustic, the draft selection is always good with a steady rotation of things to try, and the staff is the best. We’ve tried just about everything on the menu now and have settled into a regular rotation of preferred items.
They always have Bear Republic’s Racer 5 on tap. Racer 5 is my personal IPA exemplar. It’s got the right amount and variety of hops, a nice balance of malt and just a crisp, clear finish. It’s not overly grassy and despite its relatively high IBUs is not too puckery. It’s not my all-time favorite IPA, because I don’t think I could even begin to pick ten favorites, but it’s the one I compare the rest to. If someone puts an IPA I haven’t tried before in my hand I ask it, “are you as good as Racer 5?” If the IPA in my hand says “yes” than it makes it into the rotation. If not, nice knowing you.
I get the Racer because I happen to think cornmeal crust pizza and an IPA are about as good together as Peanut Butter and Jelly. Even given that Little Star’s rotation of taps have introduced us to some great beers, Calicraft Oaktown Brown comes to mind, as well as a fantastic Hefeweizen whose name escapes me now.
The wings at Little Star are really good, as are the house-made meatballs. If we’re in the mood for either of those though it has to be on a night we want thin crust. This doesn’t happen too often. Not that the thin crust isn’t good, it is, some of the best, but it doesn’t compare to the deep, gooey, corn-crunchingly delicious deep dish. For that we try to stay light on the starters, which most often means the Goddess Salad.
You probably already know the drill with a Goddess Salad: Baby gems (or some other type of crisp green) with a pesto dressing, topped with chives and toasted almonds. Every other restaurant in these parts has one, but Little Star’s dressing is perfect. Not too heavy and just the right emphasis of flavors. A winner every time that strangely also tastes nice with the IPA. Our back-up to the salad are the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chevre and drizzled with a balsamic reduction as thick as molasses.
The Pizza, Deep Dish
We’ve tried all the house-built deep dish pizzas, we’ve even had most of the thin crust styles made into deep dish. Now we always go with the namesake “Little Star” with spinach, ricotta, feta, mushrooms, onions, and garlic. All of course smothered with rich, fresh-chopped tomato sauce. It’s the best, by far. I wouldn’t add or remove a single thing. The small is plenty big for us and we still have a couple pieces leftover for lunch the next day.
We really adore this place, and were it not for the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley wouldn’t see much point in getting pizza anywhere else.