While pizza is not the first food associated with the Bay Area’s dining scene, you get surprised when you actually count all the great pizzas that dot the neighborhoods—Cheese Board’s vegetarian pizzas in Berkeley, Pizzaiolo’s wood-fired pies in Temescal, and del Popolo’s modern Neapolitans in San Francisco, just to name a few. As all of these pizzas carry a uniquely picturesque freshness, we see that the Bay Area’s signature Chez Panisse-founded ethos of rustic, yet rigorous food marries beautifully with the art of pizza making, begetting a positively identifying Bay Area-style of pizza. Benchmark in Oakland is bringing its own voice to this glorious landscape.

The Ambiance

Stemming from an original location in Kensington, Benchmark Oakland is bringing neo-Neapolitan pizzas and Cal-Italian salads and pastas to Downtown Oakland. In an urban, hard-surfaced dining room filled with casual air, Benchmark is catalyzing the mainstream’s familiarity with chewy, fermented crust topped with creative, quality ingredients that stem away from the traditional paradigm of crust, sauce, cheese, and possibly meat. While the pizzas usher in a sense of classical craftsman-like fixation on achieving the perfect crust, they also stand to bring forth a refreshed ideal of pizza that is simultaneously accessible and thoughtful.

Reni Forer

With its intelligent pizzas, friendly service, and urban decor, Benchmark somehow felt like a neighborhood pizza spot mixed with a dinner place fit for a night out. Starting the meal off with a few salads, including a basic Caesar and a playful frisée, demonstrated a sensibility of freshness and keen eye towards simple, satisfying dishes. 

The Pizza

Reni Forer

Then, moving on to a fried sage pizza with browned butter, mozzarella, and garlic that exemplified Benchmark’s elegant intent on showcasing a wonderful crust through deliberate toppings, brought forth the range of flavors that pizza can masterfully command. With hints of lemony brightness overlapping with the richness of butter and herbaceous fried sage, the pizza unfolded a unique personality comprised of a playful attitude studded with serious ambition. It was if this pizza was purposefully designed to cause recurring dreams of crust, cheese, butter, and herbs.

The Entree

Reni Forer

Alongside the pizza, a plate of fish and chips offered up a different aspect of Benchmark’s personality. Coming with three sauces of ketchup, chimichurri, and aioli, the bites of battered fish were able to differentiate themselves—keeping the palate interested and enticed. Though the dish carried an elementally appealing nature, we found that the pizzas exhibited a more thoroughly focused mastery.


Overall, the food was well-executed and displayed authentic care. The dishes substitute the drama with affable flair—allowing approachability to ingrain every dish. While there are injections of creativity and displays of culinary knowledge throughout the menu, the items have a refreshing, neighborhood quality that allow you to envision Benchmark as the kind of place you could eat at all the time.

As the Bay Area adds more and more restaurants to its scene, a place like Benchmark is easy to take for granted. While pizza certainly isn’t a new trend, it stands as a signal of the Bay Area’s dining ethos—giving pizza establishments like Benchmark a humble, yet important role of demonstrating what the food scene is all about. Benchmark Oakland does a fantastic job of this through creatively executing knowledgeable pizzas in a space fit for the neighborhood.