On a recent trip to the Bay Area, I had time for just one pizzeria in Oakland. Thanks to a strong recommendation from Slice of SF, I ended up at Leaning Tower, a pizzeria that gives me great confidence in the increasingly evolving pizza community of Oakland, CA.
The place itself has been around since the 1970s and there’s a real charm about it that harkens back to the crossover of New York style pizza and laid back California style. That’s all changing thanks to the explosion of Silicon Valley and Leaning Tower of Pizza (its former name, now owner Isaac Lim prefers the simpler Leaning Tower) is a sign of things to come.
Let’s start with the slice itself. Leaning Tower employs a starter for their fermentation, but I want to point out that this starter isn’t just a San Francisco sourdough gimmick. I’ve seen a few places in the area make a dough with over-ripe starter in an effort to play off the local sourdough culture but the flavor totally takes away from the rest of the Slice. Leaning Tower is using the starter process for a much more mild flavor that allows the cheese and tomato to do their thing.
The pies here bake up great, with some nice char that’s usually reserved for fancy brick oven pizzerias. But they manage to get it here from the tank-built gas-fueled deck ovens. Flavor and texture are great but there was a bit of an issue with the edge of the pie rolling over itself. I saw some of the other pies and it didn’t look like much of an issue.
Moving on to the Sicilian slices, it’s clear that this is a California pizzeria. The main even on the square side of life was the jalapeño pineapple slice. This thing was good! I like a topping combination like this and really relieved to see fresh pineapple. I truly believe that so many people dislike pineapple pizza because they haven’t had a good pineapple pizza. This was one of the good ones. Unlike the regular slice, this Sicilian doesn’t employ a starter for fermentation; we’re back to regular old commercial yeast. That’s fine by me because the flavor on the crust is just right.
I was joined for this slice by Vahab, my Lyft driver for the excursion. Vahab is pretty into pizza, so much so that he decided to come into Leaning Tower with me. He agreed that the crumb looked pretty promising.
The pizza here at Leaning Tower has been completely redone since Isaac took over 4 years ago. The interior is a nice wide open space. Pretty raw. And there are cool murals leftover from the previous owners. This mural form the inside of the space is pretty neat because it was created steadily over a number of years and by a number of artists.
Even the outside is covered in a mural! Sadly, both these murals’ days are numbered. The mural inside will have to make way for a new door in the wall, where Isaac plans to connect the space with the neighboring storefront, which he plans to turn into a coffee roastery. He hopes to save pieces of the mural, but longtime residents of the neighborhood are weary of any change and see it as the end of an era.
Here’s Isaac Lim, owner of Leaning Tower in the Haddon Hill neighborhood of Oakland, CA.
498 Wesley Ave.
Oakland, CA 94606