We last spoke with Aziz Fattahi some years ago, when we'd first encountered his marvelous Village Bakery in Davis, across from the train station.
We asked him about the Mediterranean influence on his brick oven-cooked pizzas goat cheese, Kalamata olives, fresh tomato, roasted vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper).
"I'm from Iran, where feta cheese is a breakfast staple," he explained. "The feta and herbed French goat cheese are like extra toppings, adding a sour flavor that goes well with the roasted vegetables."
On the phone last week, Aziz allowed that the same influence boldly shows itself on the menu of his 3-year-old Village Pizza & Grill, at the corners of Fourth and G streets in Davis, an area crowded with good restaurants.
Yes, some of the pizza toppings are Mediterranean-accented, but we also found pepperoni, salami, sausage, smoked salmon, chicken and egad! pineapple and Canadian bacon.
Also, Persian stews, beef and chicken kababs, falafel burger with tahini sauce, and a house salad with Persian cucumber, Kalamata olives and feta among its ingredients. The dishes change direction to include chili and clam chowder, five burgers, sandwiches (fried chicken, Reuben, meatball), fish tacos and New York steak.
"It's an eclectic menu with (a repertoire of dishes) like you would make at home," Aziz said. "There's always something different."
Segue to the Village Bakery, which makes some of the best artisan breads in Northern California, wholesaling to about 120 restaurants. Locally, those include Sienna, Osteria Fasulo, Matteo's, Amore Cafe and Cafe Campanile. Add the Michelin-starred One Market in San Francisco and Lark Creek in Walnut Creek.
Retail-wise, the breads are at the Natural Food Co-ops in Sacramento and Davis, Taylor's Market and, of course, the bakery itself.
Village Bakery was founded on Aziz's "quest for good bread," he said when we first talked. "I wasn't satisfied with the breads available in this area, so I bought a baking book and baked at home for two years, with some help from some baking classes later on."
Shift back to Village Pizza & Grill, where lunch pals Sharon Gerber and her husband, Rob Scherer, and I sat on a shaded deck. Inside the remodeled house are hardwood floors, jazzy tract lighting and eye-catching art.
We'd ordered a roasted beet, mixed greens and goat cheese salad; Swiss-and-mushroom burger (on the world's best bun); beef kabab wrap; fried fish sandwich on ciabatta; and a pizza topped with crème fraîche, thinly sliced prosciutto and red potato, herbs and black pepper (it really worked).
Sharon runs Six Degreez, which coordinates local fundraising events such as Suits and Slippers. She was behind the orchestration of Mayor Kevin Johnson's inauguration.
So, what are the three essential tools an event planner must have?
"Creativity, the ability to multitask and phenomenal relationships," she said. "I'm pretty famous for getting local celebrities to get onstage and do silly things. Deep down, everybody wants to be a performer."
As demonstrated by her Broadway-type show, "Stop! In the Name of Love!", which filled the Crest Theatre on May 14. In it, Sen. Darrell Steinberg did his best Bobby "Julie, Do You Love Me?" Sherman, and KFBK news anchor Kitty O'Neal doubled for Jackie "What the World Needs Now Is Love" DeShannon.
Rob owns the Dale Carnegie Training Center franchise on Exposition Boulevard. With his movie-star voice, he could launch a second career narrating audiobooks.
These days, Rob agreed, the late lecturer-salesman Carnegie would be called a "motivational coach." His legacy is his immortal advice on "how to win friends and influence people." How does one do that?
"By becoming genuinely interested in them," Rob said. "Ask about their loves and interests, and listen to what they say. Most people have no trouble talking about themselves."
As for lunch, the table's favorites were the juicy, hefty burger; the salad (with a fried disk of creamy goat cheese); and the fish sandwich (though in need of sauce); followed by the luscious pizza and the nicely spiced but dry beef kebab wrap. The crisp 'n' creamy hand-cut fries also were in the running.
A note on the fish: The firm, crunchy-coated fillet is swai, a type of catfish native to Southeast Asia. It's sourced from a Davis-area aquaculture farm.
A note on the wine list: The vinos are from local wineries.
As usual, the most important question in restaurant-reviewing is: Would we go back?
Uh ... are we there yet?
VILLAGE PIZZA & GRILL
Where: 403 G St., Davis. The sister bakery-pizzeria, the Village Bakery, is at 814 Second St., Davis; (530) 750-2255
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; noon-9 p.m. Sundays
Food: Three 1/2 stars
Ambience: Four stars
How much: $-$$
Information: (530) 750-0100