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Menu Please: Fire and Pizza at Cinders

In his 1983 book “Third Helpings,” journalist Calvin Trillin investigated the infamous Fried Chicken Wars of Crawford County, Kansas. It seems that Chicken Annie had made a name for herself in the 1930s until 1943, when Chicken Mary opened up her fried chicken palace at the corner where customers turned off the main road to get to Annie’s.  There was subtle guerrilla warfare between the two restaurants – little digs, “accidentally” directing drivers to the wrong restaurant –  that finally came to a head in the 1970s, when a road may or may not have been named in honor of Chicken Annie. Chicken Mary partisans denied involvement with the sign being torn down. Eventually Chicken Annie’s grandson and Chicken Mary’s granddaughter married and opened their own chicken restaurant.

Femme de Joie isn’t sure who brought the first wood-fired pizza oven to Redding, but so far there have been no squabbles, no shots fired, no attempts to sabotage the mozzarella.  As far as M. de Joie can tell, the proprietors like each other. Cinders was the first to jump through the building code hoops to bring their pizza indoors – it took an eternity – but now they have set up a successful shop in Market Square. A varnished wood counter with red plastic stools allows diners to watch pizza being made; or sit at wooden tables inside or outside the shop.  Service is friendly; if they’re busy expect to wait about 20 minutes for your order.

Half Caesar salad, $5.00

M. de Joie isn’t sure about those asymmetrical bowls – they tip, and one side lower than the other makes it hard to mix with a fork – but she did like the crunchy Romaine and shards of Parmesan cheese in the Caesar. She’s given up expecting real Caesar dressing in restaurants (it involves a raw or coddled egg) but this lemony dressing was pleasant in its place.

Greek pizza, $10.00

Greek pizza included feta, mozzarella,  fresh basil, olive oil, Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and balsamic reduction. Femme de Joie liked the toppings, especially the balsamic reduction contrasting with salty olives and feta, but thought the crust was undercooked and a bit doughy.

Half Greek salad, $5.00

Spinach and spring mix, sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta with balsamic reduction and olive oil

Again, the odd bowls made this difficult to eat.  Sweet-tangy balsamic reduction and olive oil against the salty mixture of Mediterranean ingredients made for a light and refreshing salad, though the sun-dried tomatoes were in unwieldy hunks that couldn’t be cut into manageable pieces with a fork.

Margherita pizza, $8.00

Margherita is the Little Black Dress of pizza.  It has nothing to do with the tequila drink, and doubt has been cast about whether it was really named for Queen Margherita, but it’s the Pizza Standard.  The fresh basil was the best thing on this pizza: it was underbaked, leaving a globby morass of mozzarella and much too much sauce floating on top, never adhering to the crust.

Pepperoni pizza, $8.00

This was a wonderful pizza, Though there was a lot of oil – hard to avoid that with pepperoni – the sausage was spicy with crisp edges and the crust was baked so that the bottom was slightly crisp, the interior chewy, soft and naan-like.

Cinders have wisely limited their menu by not including sandwiches and lasagna and bread sticks at the restaurant; they normally offer about six pizzas at any one time along with specials. Ingredients are high-quality and fresh. The prices are right for individual pizzas and salads.  Femme de Joie would like to see the pizzas baked longer to become a fusion of topping/crust rather than separate goopy sliding elements.  Don’t fear that random blackened bubble – that’s going to happen with the unpredictable temperature fluctuations in wood-fired ovens.  There are good things going on here and M. de Joie hopes they get better,

Cinders Wood Fired Pizza,  1415 Market Street, Redding, CA 96001 (in Market Square at the north end of the mall). 530-605-0665. Open Monday through Saturday, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM (though they may run out of dough and close early). Cash, cards. No alcohol. Parking lot. Vegan and vegetarian options; gluten-free crust offered. Website at http://cinderspizza.com/ or follow them on Facebook.

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com