Pizza’s one of my all-time favorite foods. Ok, maybe I don’t have a “totally saucesome” tattoo — but that magical combo of dough, cheese and sauce quickly puts me in a state of culinary euphoria. Here’s five spots in the East Bay that I head to when I’m craving a solid slice of pizza. And let me know in the comments who’s on the top of your list; I’ll also be doing a follow-up post in the future on my favorite places for pizza pies.
Whenever my husband and I visit Rotten City Pizza in Emeryville, we’re paralyzed by indecision. We spend quite a bit of time salivating over what’s ready to eat in their display case before we’re finally ready to order. If we’re in the mood for something decadent, the pork belly porchetta slice with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano and spicy salsa verde fits the bill ($3.62), although we’re partial to their Calabrian slice with housemade Italian sausage, Gaeta olives, Calabrian chilies, roasted fennel seeds, tomato sauce and a blend of cheeses ($3.62). I also highly recommend their meatball sub sandwich that’s made with slow-roasted beef, pork and veal, drenched with roasted tomato sauce, covered with tons of cheese and piled into an Acme Italian roll ($9.75). Everything’s prepared with mostly organic, locally-sourced and sustainable ingredients. You can take-out or dine-in — they have both upstairs and downstairs seating — and they even deliver to select areas of Emeryville and Oakland.
Another great outpost for New York-style pizza can be found at Gioia Pizzeria in Berkeley. While their newer second location in San Francisco offers full lunch and dinner service, Gioia’s original spot keeps it simple and just slings classic pies. Slices topped with their housemade Sicilian sausage and pecorino cheese ($3.50) or roasted cremini mushrooms with thyme, parsley and garlic oil ($3.50) are wonderful options. Seating’s limited as there’s only one narrow dining counter inside the small space, so I recommend getting your slice to go.
The Cheese Board Collective is the mother of a venerable cooperative empire that’s spread throughout San Francisco and the East Bay (its sister operations run under the name Arizmendi Bakery). They’ve been serving seasonal, vegetarian white pizzas with a sourdough crust since the late ’80s. In lieu of tomato sauce, pizzas are drizzled with flavored oils or housemade pestos. Slices are $2.50 plus tax, and servers will usually throw in a free extra mini-slice, too. You can find out what’s baking in their ovens everyday with their weekly online calendar. Be sure to stop by their cheese shop and bakery for fresh bread, local cheeses and pastries.
6211 Shattuck Ave. (between 62nd St. & 63rd St.) [map]
Ph: (510) 658-3903
Hours: Tue-Thu 8 am – 9 pm
Fri-Sat 8 am – 10 pm
Sun 8 am – 8 pm
Chef Nick Yapor-Cox, owner of the eponymous Nick’s Pizza, worked as a pastry chef in New York City and around the East Bay before opening up his own restaurant in the North Oakland neighborhood where he grew up. Inspired by his stint at Arizmendi, he serves up a similar hand-tossed, sourdough crust made with seasonal, organic and local ingredients. Unlike his vegetarian predecessor, he adds humanely-raised meats to his slices and pies, such as the bacon on his “BGT” slice with heirloom tomatoes and all-natural gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses ($3). The “Mediterranean” slice with roasted eggplant, red bell peppers, feta, mozzarella and fresh mint ($2.75) is also delicious. Vegan options are available for select pies and slices, and try their assortment of homemade baked goods and desserts, too.
Arinell’s Berkeley location is a steady favorite of students and locals in search of a cheap, fast and basic slice. While it’s not the perfect substitute for a real regular New York slice, it’s not too greasy with a thin, crispy crust. A regular Neapolitan cheese slice is just $2.50, or go for a thick Sicilian style slice for $3.00.