PICTURED: El Diablo with crushed tomatoes, spicy Calabrese salami and chiles. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
Freda’s Woodfired Kitchen
The Mark, 2024 Ventura Blvd., Camarillo
The Mark, recently opened in Old Town Camarillo, is a new development concept built around “eat, drink and live.” The complex includes food and beverage vendors below and chic apartments above, giving residents nearly effortless access to dining options just steps from their front doors. A location in the heart of charming Old Town, with an art center, wine bar, shops and restaurants a short walk away, doesn’t hurt, either!
I recently popped into the food hall — a large open space, similar to the Annex in The Collection at Riverpark — to grab some ice cream at Rori’s Artisanal Creamery. Topa Topa Brewing Co. is there, too. But the first thing I noticed when I entered was the scent of pizza. Intrigued, I followed my nose to Freda’s Woodfired Kitchen.
I immediately knew what we were having for dinner that night.
“Kitchen” is in the name, but pizza is the main game here. There are New York-style pies, with chewy crusts surrounded by a thick perimeter you can get your hands on. The other option is a thinner, crispier brick-oven pizza (think Neapolitan style). Both come in a variety of gourmet options, such as spinach with roasted onions, speck with arugula, smoked salmon and potato and bacon, but there are classics like pepperoni and Margherita, too.
I placed a to-go order that I figured would satisfy everyone in our household: a New York-style pepperoni, a spicy brick-oven El Diablo, and a brick-oven white pizza (sauceless) with mushrooms and truffle oil. I sat outside on The Mark’s spacious, comfortable patio and ate ice cream while I waited. I had been told to come back in 15-20 minutes, but the kind person behind the Freda’s counter delivered my pizzas to me at the table. Not sure if that’s the usual order of business, but I appreciated it.
Arriving home with my purchases, it didn’t take long for the family to dig in and declare Freda’s a fine choice for supper.
Unsurprisingly, the kids were fans of the pepperoni. The meat was well sourced; greasy but delicious (which is kind of the point of pepperoni, right?). The crust had good flavor, although it was pretty chewy. Traditional, but the jaw got a workout. It was quite blackened on the bottom, which elicited a few complaints — and yet, despite any protests, the entire pie was gone in minutes.
I enjoyed the mushroom pizza, with its truffle flavor and nice mix of different mushrooms. As a white pizza, I knew it wouldn’t be particularly moist. Having said that . . . it was pretty dry, even for a sauceless preparation, and I think more oil would improve it.
My favorite was the piquant El Diablo, topped with crushed tomatoes, Calabrese salami and chiles. What a great kick! The sauce and cheese were both on the light side, which I like, and the crust had a wonderful touch of char from the brick oven on the bottom. Us grown-ups were happy to claim this one entirely for ourselves, and I’d be content to eat this any day of the week.
And if you live at The Mark, you can! I’m envious of those who can walk downstairs to get one of Freda’s wonderful pizzas, wash it down with a cold glass of beer from Topa Topa Brewing Co., and grab an ice cream cone for dessert at Rori’s before strolling around pretty Old Town Camarillo. Not a bad way to live. Freda’s Woodfired Kitchen is definitely helping The Mark make its mark on the neighborhood.