Gone is the chain restaurant feel and automatic pizza dough press at the California Pizza Kitchen at Valley Fair Mall. The company is turning back toward its creative Californian roots by giving the restaurants a more rustic feel, bringing back freshly hand tossed dough, and adding fresh, organic items to the menu as part of a much needed revitalization. Part of the new menu includes a certified gluten-free dough and cooking process to reduce any cross contamination issues that would normally cause problems for those with Celiac Disease.
The new design was unveiled last month, featuring a rich design using sustainable wood, a living herb garden, and more to add to the relaxed, welcoming feel of the restaurant. On the menu is pizza, as always, but now you can watch it being hand tossed in the open kitchen as chefs prepare the orders. Organic items are on the menu and things like basil are hand torn to give the pizza a handmade feel. Before, the emphasis was on making all of the pizzas look uniformly the same, but now crusts that are not a perfect circle show the individuality of the product. The San Jose location is the first in NorCal to get the updated look, but other stores will follow soon. The Valley Fair spot features a firepit with couches on a back patio. That spot can be reserved for events or else it is open for customers to enjoy food and cocktails outside.
For those gluten-free, California Pizza Kitchen takes the matter very seriously. They introduced a gluten-free menu and changed their entire prep work and station to become GIG (Gluten Intolerance Group) certified. When a gluten-free item is ordered, the manager will stop by the table to verify if the diner has Celiac. The pizza is prepared in a gluten-free station, and is delivered by the manager to verify the correct pizza is served. Rice flour is used solely in the kitchen – regardless of if it is the gluten-free station or not – to prevent any open air cross contamination.
We got to try out the new menu recently and among are new favorites were the Spicy Fennel Sausage and Poblano Flatbread, Avocado Club Egg Rolls, and the Salted Caramel Pudding. In addition to standard food menu, there are some fun food-based cocktails, too.
Disclosure: We were invited to a menu tasting event put on by CPK.