Red Brick Pizza
4990 Telephone Road
Consider yourself warned. I am about to do the unthinkable and review a chain restaurant.
Now before you get all worked up, let me say this: I know what you are thinking. I’ve been there before myself, looking down my nose at the crowds gathered outside chain restaurants. I even giggled when that restaurant critic in North Dakota reviewed The Olive Garden.
Yet, it’s not food snobbery that keeps us from reviewing chains. Instead, this decision was born out of a desire to support local businesses. But when we heard about Red Brick Pizza — a chain with a conscience — we couldn’t resist breaking our own rule.
When I stopped in for dinner on a recent Sunday night, this casual yet modern restaurant was bustling. Inside, there are a few long communal tables, a handful of seats at a bar overlooking the kitchen, some small booths (each complete with a small flat-screen TV), and a coffee table surrounded by four comfortable leather chairs. Within the first five minutes, assumption No. 1, chains aren’t cool, was dashed.
It wasn’t too long after that assumption No. 2, chain restaurants would rather make a buck than do good for the environment, came crashing down as well when I noticed a large sign explaining all of the things this one does to minimize their impact on the environment. The restaurant uses LED lighting, nonpolluting paints and eco-friendly cleaning products. All of the tables in the restaurant are made from recycled wood, and all of the food containers and plates are made of a biodegradable and bio-compostable material that come from sugar cane.
The menu at Red Brick is both tantalizing and overwhelming. There are pizzas in all different sizes and a variety of crusts to choose from. There are wines available by the glass or bottle, and a selection of beers brewed specifically for Red Brick available on tap. It even offers its own draft root beer.
As you might have assumed, once we started to eat, assumption No. 3, chain restaurants offer average food, was also proven wrong. We started with an order of mozzarella bread sticks, which were served with a deep-red marinara sauce for dipping. Flavored with garlic and herbs, they were gobbled up quickly. The only letdown was that the marinara was served cold instead of hot.
The chopped Italian salad was filled with chopped romaine, peppers, salami, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini and croutons made from the bread sticks. The tangy salad dressing and the addition of Kalamata olives finished it off to perfection.
We ordered one margherita pizza with the açaí berry multigrain whole wheat crust and another pizza on the original crust. Since we were battling some serious indecision, our server suggested topping one-half with roasted garlic chicken, the other with prosciutto.
The margherita pizza was simple and uncomplicated — and it felt good to eat a pizza that was healthy. The crust was chewy and a bit nutty, the perfect complement to the straightforward toppings of cheese and fresh tomatoes.
The other pizza was also divine. One half was finished with an olive oil and garlic sauce, and topped with prosciutto, mushrooms and arugula, with the salty prosciutto and garlic flavors taking center stage.
The other half was topped with a creamy white garlic sauce, roasted chicken and bacon. What set it apart was the addition of fresh sliced tomatoes and thin slices of red onion layered on top of the cooked pizza. The crunch and coolness of the fresh veggies added a nice bite to the warm, garlicky toppings.
Wanting to try one of the signature fire-roasted sandwiches, the Fhazani, we went with the Italian: thin, crispy flatbread filled with ham, salami, Italian sausage, cheese and a sprinkle of thinly sliced red cabbage. It was finished with the signature Italian dressing and a bit of marinara, and was packed with different flavors and textures.
Gelato is the backbone of the dessert menu at Red Brick. You can order flavors like coconut, chocolate and mint chip in a variety of sizes. There is also a fun twist on gelato with the gelato truffles, in flavors like peanut butter and cookies and cream.
Another assumption you may make, that chains don’t offer anything for those with food allergies and dietary concerns, will also be debunked at Red Brick. It offers gluten-free dishes, vegan options and dairy-free cheese. Red Brick Pizza may also surprise you with its dedication to giving back. It gives a portion of the profits to the Celiac Disease Foundation, and to local charities as well.
Clearly, Red Brick Pizza is blazing new trails with both food and conscience. When you stop in for a pizza, be ready to check your assumptions at the door.
Check out my food tasting tours at www.venturafoodtours.com where you’ll find information on our new Eating Ojai Tour, gift certificates, and info on upcoming special events.