I love brunch. I mean, I really, really love brunch. There are two reasons for this: 1) Who doesn't love breakfast at all times of the day? and 2) It gives me an excuse to day-drink.
Very seldom is it okay to, in large quantities, consume alcohol before noon. For some reason, society’s values when it comes to sunrise imbibery shift drastically on Sundays. Maybe it’s thanks to the Catholics and their Sunday services. Maybe it’s due to some kind of time dilation that occurs once weekly where everybody’s internal clocks are shifted ahead several hours. Regardless, it’s a sure bet that late Sunday morning, you’ll find me enjoying a morning-ish meal and mimosa at one of Sacramento’s many fine restaurants.
So one of my friends suggested that we make use of that fact and share my “brunchpertise” with others. By visiting and reviewing local restaurants regularly, I can share with you, dear reader, some great places to spend your Sunday mornings. I suppose I can also warn you about some places to avoid as well, but let’s hope it never comes to that. The restaurants weren’t warned of our arrival (not because we’re writing a review, but because we may or may not have a reputation as brunchers around town already) and we weren’t offered anything for a favorable review. So, without further ado, I present:
There are a couple important things to note when selecting a perfect place for brunch, according to my standards. First, bottomless mimosas are almost always a must. If the restaurant doesn’t offer bottomless mimosas, they can compensate by having a wide variety of flavors of mimosa. Pizza Rock, fortunately, has both. We selected Pizza Rock for our first review for this reason, and because Kari (who you may know from photographing some of our shoots) really, really wanted to go to Pizza Rock.
Pizza Rock is a pretty happenin’ place. It’s been busy every time I’ve visited, and brunch o’clock is no exception. When we checked in, there was about a fifteen minute wait. Thankfully, they now use an app where they can text you when it’s your turn to be seated, so we were able to meander around K Street instead of being huddled in a crowded foyer, as you often do at busy restaurants. I hope this is a trend that gets picked up everywhere. You can’t expect not to wait at a downtown restaurant, so having the freedom to wander was nice.
It’s important to note that Pizza Rock is not a quiet, riverside cafe with French music and hummingbirds visiting your table. It’s loud – even more so during brunch. Every week, they have a live band entertaining diners, and people are often rambunctious and jovial. It’s funny how the band gets better further into their sets. It’s also funny how the change in my musical tastes directly correlates with the quantity of mimosa I consume… Basically, Pizza Rock is loud and if you want a quiet, intimate brunch, it’s likely not the place for you.
One of my biggest gripes with restaurants that serve brunch is that the service is often poor. It kills the point of bottomless mimosas when your server only stops by your table every 15 minutes or so. Luckily, Pizza Rock leaves pitchers of the drink at your table. I think they prefer having exuberant, well-mimosa’d patrons to having sober customers griping every ten minutes about finding the bottom of their supposed bottomless drink.
Our server, Danny, was attentive and friendly. He made sure our drinks were always full, and did an overall swell job. My only complaint regarding the service was that our entire party’s order of food was brought out at the same time, except for mine. I waited an additional ten minutes for my plate, which was a little irritating. Overall, though, the service was pretty good.
Pizza Rock’s food is exactly how you’d expect it to be. It’s a restaurant that specializes in – surprise! – pizza, not traditional Southern cuisine or neo-Japanese-Armenian fusion fare. The food was good, but it was nothing that would have me running back to visit every week. I ordered their eggs Benedict, and while it was a nontraditional take on Benedicts, it didn’t stand out as particularly interesting or unique. Others in our group ordered different dishes, and they’ll cover their own experiences separately a little later on.
The drinks at Pizza Rock hit the spot, though. Often, you’ll go to restaurants that offer bottomless mimosas, and they’ll give you regular mimosas, at about an 8 to 2 ratio of juice to champagne. Drinks being one of the most important aspects of brunch to me, I kept a close eye on Danny as he filled our pitchers. I’m happy to announce that at Pizza Rock, they do it right. The pitchers were filled at least halfway with champagne before they added the juice (John here: it looked more like a champagne to juice ratio of 8 to 2… so, perfect). On top of that, they offer a variety of flavors to keep things new and interesting.
Let’s just say that, by the end of the meal, I was well-mimosa’d. Kudos, Pizza Rock.
Pizza Rock doesn’t kid around when it comes to bottomless mimosas – we had fast turnaround time from our server, Danny, and the variety of flavors was impressive. Besides the traditional orange, we also sampled peach, pear, strawberry, raspberry, and pineapple.
For the non-liquid portion of my brunch, I wanted a solid meat-and-potatoes option, so I went with the butcher’s block omelette. It was packed with ham, two kinds of sausage, and two types of cheese, mixing mostly savory flavors with a little sweetness from the meats. A side of hash browns (and a dash or three of hot sauce) completed the meal.
Pizza Rock’s atmosphere was quite nice. There was live music on stage from local artists, kept at a reasonable volume so you didn’t have to shout for your neighbor to hear you. Not restricted to typical jams, the band received a round of applause from the restaurant after playing some Super Mario Bros. tunes. Highlight of the day for us video game nerds (after the mimosas, of course).
Lots of fun art work, especially a guitar-themed recreation of The Creation of Adam, plus the semi truck crashing through one wall. All in all, a great mix of drinks, food, and fun, and one of my top spots to grab brunch in Sacramento.
Something the guys seem to have left out of their commentary on Pizza Rock is its background. Pizza Rock was founded by World Pizza Cup champion Tony Gemignani, who owns Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in North Beach, San Francisco. He’s been the subject of a number of articles, is a Food Network regular, and is, by all accounts, a guy who REALLY knows his pizza.
The first time we went to Pizza Rock last year, I was aware of none of this. All I’d heard was that they had wood-fired pizza, of which (a) I’m a huge fan, and (b) I’m as picky about my wood-fired pizza as any “eaten my way through Italy twice” foodie probably would be.
The very first time I went, I ordered their Pizza Margherita, which is, to me anyway, the gold standard of pizzas. I like when food can be uncomplicated but yet really tasty. We went on a Sunday, but thankfully we went shortly after they opened for the day, because as it turns out, they only make 73 of those per day.
I’m going to be honest here. The first time I went to Pizza Rock was over a year ago, so I don’t remember much except that we sat toward the front, and my pizza was absolutely amazing. That’s when I started nagging the guys about coming back. A few months ago I finally talked them into it, and while I’d planned on getting the Margherita again, I made the mistake of looking at the menu and stumbled across the Cal Italia. To me, there are few better combinations in this world than cheese, bread, and figs (or fig spread, as the season may warrant) and damn if that wasn’t one of the best food choices I’ve made in the seven years I’ve lived in Sacramento.
While we generally don’t repeat our brunch stopovers (since Sacramento has so many wonderful brunch offerings), I nagged them into going there again last Sunday, because I had to have that pizza again. And again, it was incredible. The only disappointing thing about it is the utter pain in taking the last bite… pain in my heart from knowing it’s the last bite, and pain in my belly from, yet again, eating way too much pizza. But it’s so good that it’s impossible to stop.
I feel like I should talk about atmosphere (noisy), entertainment (I generally find live bands at brunch to be really annoying, except when this band played an extended version of the Super Mario Bros theme, which was awesome), the service (really good except for the glitch with Josh’s order), the location (there’s something I love about people-watching on K Street) and the price (a bit expensive, but still cheaper than flying to Italy for good pizza) but I think the guys more or less covered that, so I won’t.
A final note: on our somewhat regular brunch outings, I rarely go for the bottomless mimosas. I’m just not much of a drinker, and I usually feel like I can’t justify the price for something I generally don’t drink much of. For Pizza Rock, however, I’ll make an exception, because their mimosas are just that good, both in variety and in flavor.
When Josh asked me to review our brunch at Pizza Rock, my immediate response was, “Um, I’m sober. I don’t think I can accurately talk about brunch while sober.” Well, I had a bottle of tasty Rubicon (drink local!), so now I’m in the right state of mind. So yes, as Josh noted, I ordered the pepperoni pizza. An unexciting choice, but I tend to prefer simple breakfast fare–the last time we did brunch, I had bacon and eggs–so this was par for the course. However, as far as two-topping pizzas go it was quite good, and I can’t complain.
But really, the main course of the day was the mimosas. As Matt already noted, they had quite the selection of flavors available, and they were kind enough to keep us stocked up on two carafes of different flavors of mimosa at any given time. For those who like to know what’s going into their beverages, I saw that they used Dole pineapple juice for their pineapple mimosas (which were excellent), and Kern’s Nectar Peach and Pear for those two flavors. I can’t speak for the others, but I can say that every single flavor I tried was excellent.
I am a bit on the noise sensitive side, and so brunch at Pizza Rock isn’t exactly the most relaxing time for me. However, one of the highlights of the day for me was when the house band lapsed into a several minute long instrumental production of the soundtrack from the first Super Mario Bros game. For those keeping track, the playlist featured levels 1-1, 1-2, 2-2 (screw you bloopers), and then the fast “time is running out!” version of 1-1’s soundtrack. Truthfully, that was one of the highlights for me. Judging by the fact that the only time the band received applause that day was when they concluded their Mario Suite, so I don’t think I was alone in feeling that way.
Overall, I tend to rank brunch based on three main factors: food (quality versus cost), mimosas (quality, cost, service), and environment (wait time, noisiness). I’d say that the food is average, because while it’s excellent, it’s also a little on the pricey side. However, their mimosa offerings are probably the best I’ve had anywhere in Sac–good price, and great, high-quality selection. (Really, they have some of the best mimosas I’ve had downtown.) And lastly, for those who like chill environments like me, it’s definitely on the stressful side, but still totally worth it. For those who like crowds and opportunities to people watch–while pleasantly inebriated–then this is absolutely the place to go.
Overall, we all enjoyed Pizza Rock pretty well. While they didn’t serve a wide array of what you’d consider “traditional” brunch dishes, they do have some unique offerings in that they’re one of the few places you can order, well, pizza for breakfast. They also do bottomless mimosas the right way – the drinks are strong enough, the flavors are varied, and we never found the bottom. The dining area is pretty packed and can be quite loud, so that may scare some people off, and it may not be as enjoyable if you have a convoy of children with you.
Overall, Pizza Rock gets my vote for a great place to enjoy brunch, earning a rating of 7 out of 8 slices of breakfast pizza. Give ’em a visit and make sure to tip the band!