Tiny and tucked away, Clayton's Freewheel makes the best pizza

Tiny and tucked away, Clayton’s Freewheel makes the best pizza

Tiny and tucked away, Clayton's Freewheel makes the best pizza
Jayden Gould of Clayton Valley Charter, left, Ethan Allen of Northgate and Justus Littlejohn of Clayton Charter help owner Randy Martin, second from left, in the Freewheel kitchen.

Richard Eber, Taste and TellCLAYTON, CA (Apr. 12, 2022) — For many families with children, the five basic food groups are hot dogs, burgers, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and, of course, pizza.

From Round Table proud to “No one out pizzas the Hut,” there are dozens of places that serve the pie of Italian origin consisting of a thin layer of dough with spiced tomato sauce, cheese and assorted toppings baked at a high temperature.

Price, convenience, weight of toppings and quality all come into play, and most folks have their favorite places to suit their cravings. My local destinations include 54 Mint and Rocco’s in Walnut Creek. Strictly to Go and Bambino’s in Concord consistently put out excellent products, as do DeVino’s and Melo’s in Pleasant Hill.

While I enjoy all of these non-franchise establishments, Freewheel Pizza Co. in Clayton is my top choice. Located at a service truck alley adjacent to the Safeway on Clayton Road and Ygnacio, it arguably serves the best pizza in the area.

Word of mouth

With current output at about 40 pies a day, Freewheel is hardly a candidate for the location, location, location school of restaurant success. Owner Randy Martin insists on only selling his product on the Internet. Word of mouth is virtually his only sales tool.

Prior to launching this business at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin owned and operated Vineyard Crust Co. The renowned mobile, artisan wood-fired pizza catering company specialized in providing food for Napa and Sonoma events, mostly at wineries.

The Philadelphia native describes his product as East Coast pizza with a “Wine Country twist.” He was also influenced in culinary school by superstar chef Bobby Flay, who advised him to “be bold in your food creations.”

For Martin, things start with his obsession with doing everything from scratch in small batches, utilizing fresh ingredients he finds on a seasonal basis. The dough takes 24-48 hours to cure, and the end product is soft yet chewy. This provides what amounts to a canvas to display his cooking artistry.

A good example is Freewheel’s popular Figgy Piggy concoction. It begins with fontina and gorgonzola cheeses, with a touch of char siu bacon along with fig jam. After baking, he drizzles it with a balsamic fig reduction, a dash of Maldon salt and a squeeze of lemon – and sweet and sour bliss is realized.

Six cheeses

You can find this same creativity in Martin’s other menu items, which utilize six different cheeses, Molinari’s sausage, truffle oil, cremini mushrooms, blistered shishito peppers and a unique red sauce mixture of several types of tomatoes and spices. The homemade meatballs are exemplary, as might be expected from Martin’s kitchen.

I tried the Detroit-style pizza, which is baked in the pan. Two types of mozzarella and grated Parmigiano provide crispy sidewalls of caramelized cheese on the edge of the pieces. Covered by a thick tomato sauce and a fresh chiffonade of basil, this masterpiece quickly disappeared when sampled at my daughter’s house.

Freewheel utilizes primarily upper-class students at Clayton Valley Charter and Northgate high schools for all the time-consuming preparation. This group hand slices cheeses, mushrooms, arugula and other fresh ingredients to fill the day’s orders. With the Rolling Stones blasting on loudspeakers to serenade the staff, they happily assemble the pizzas with enthusiasm that reflects Freewheel’s owner.

Place orders at info@freewheelpizzaco.com. Pickup is 4-7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday at 5433 Clayton Road, Suite A-1, Clayton. Visit their website here.

Contact Rich Eber at ­rjerje@pacbell.net. Read more Taste and Tell reviews by Rich Eber.

Rich Eber
Rich Eber

Rich Eber is a local journalist and long time resident of Concord.  His diverse topics covered go from politics to gourmet food.  He can be reached at rjerje@pacbell.net