Where do you get the best pizza in Berkeley? You tell us

Cheese Board Pizza straight from the oven. All photos: Christina Diaz

Today this space is all about cheese. And crust. And toppings.

Got opinions about who turns out the best pizza in town? We know you do. So here’s your chance to share your pie picks with fellow readers.

That’s right folks, today, the Friday food column takes a break from regularly scheduled programming to poll readers about their pizza preferences. (The first in an occasional series where residents weigh in on their favorite foods found close to home.)

We know that for every die-hard devotee of Cheese Board pizza there’s an equally loyal Gioia fan to be found.

There’s pizza for all palates and pocketbooks here, whether you favor California-style, wood-fired pies pioneered by the  Chez Panisse crew (foraged greens and artisan goat cheese, anyone?), Brooklyn-inspired bites with trademark thin crusts and judicious use of ingredients, or the sloppy cheese slices popular among the campus crowd.

To kick off this quest we’ve named, in alphabetical order, a dozen pizzerias around town. It’s by no means an exhaustive list; feel free to share your own go-to place when your thoughts turn to thin (or thick, your call) crust.

Tell us, too, why you prefer a certain pizza purveyor. Details about crust, cheese, toppings — along with craft, cost, and convenience — will go a long way to making this a handy guide for fellow pizza aficionados.

Feel free to vote for your own home-cooked crust (or the pizza mom or dad make) or for pies turned out at places where pizza isn’t the main (or only) item on the menu such as Giovanni, Jupiter or Summer Kitchen.

But just to be clear: Charlie Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo is in Oakland, people.

Editor’s Note: When the votes are in, Berkeleyside will compile a definitive Top 10 Berkeley Pizzas list — as ranked by our readers — and we will pull names out of a hat to offer one voter a free pizza from the pizza joint of their choice.

San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer gives Gioia's pies a thumbs up

1. Addie’s Pizza Pie: Think New York-style crust with Cali-centric toppings. Owned by Jennifer Millar, who runs Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, and Thomas Schnetz of Doña TomásFlora and Tacubaya. Families from nearby Malcolm X School welcome this relatively new addition to the ‘hood. Read a review of Addie’s in the East Bay Express3290 Adeline Street (at Ashby), 547-1100.

2. Arinell Pizza: Fast, no frills or fancy toppings on these no-nonsense slices. Check out what eaters say on Yelp, including “Arinell’s pizza drips orange grease; its crust is thin and floppy.  Nothing contrived, nothing trendy, nothing that people who groove on stuff like that latch onto.” 2119 Shattuck (at Center), 841-4035. No cards.

3. Blondie’s Pizza: Another slice-centric hole-in-the-wall caters to night owls and campus goers. Find out what Cal students and others think about these pies on Yelp. And read the P.O.V. of an out-of-towner on Serious Eats2340 Telegraph Avenue (at Durant), 548-1129.

Taking pizza from the oven at Emilia's

4. Cheese Board Pizzeria: Beloved Gourmet Ghetto haunt for more than 20 years. Long lines, cool tunes, popular politics. This co-op counts Alice Waters among its fans. But, it must be said, there’s only one vegetarian choice on the menu each day and it comes sans sauce. Read what food critic Michael Bauer makes of this pie. 1512 Shattuck (at Vine), 549-3183. Cash or check only.

5. Emilia’s Pizzeria: Another newcomer to the South Berkeley pie scene, Emilia’s offers made-to-order, build-your-own, old-school pizzas. It has quickly developed something of a cult following (a certain quirk factor helps) with Sunset naming it one of the best Bay Area pizza joints last year. More details over at The Epicurean Zealot2995 Shattuck Avenue (at Ashby). Cash only. Reservations, beginning at 4 p.m., highly recommended, 704-1794.

6. Extreme Pizza: Two locations for this national franchise with pie names like Drag It Through the Garden and Peace in the Middle East. Someone on the creative team worked hard at HQ to come up with those monikers. Yelpers weigh in here and here2353 Shattuck (at Durant), 486-0770 and 3204 College (at Alcatraz), 420-0770.

7. Fat Slice Pizza: Another long-time pie place dishing up thick slices to UC students and the pre-game set. Opinions about this pie on Yelp too. 2375 Telegraph Avenue (at Durant), 548-6479.

Zachary's signature deep-dish pizza

8. Gioia: Perfect pedigree for this good food obsessed city: Thin crust, East-Coast style pizza with mostly organic, sustainably raised local ingredients. Chronicle critic Bauer gives Gioia’s pies a thumbs up; check out this recent write up on Serious Eats. 1586 Hopkins Street (at Monterey), 528-4692.

9. Lanesplitter: This local chain has a location in West Berkeley and reviews on Yelp. A point of difference from this pie place: An option for vegans, their trademarked soy-based cheese alternative Notta Ricotta. 2033 San Pablo Avenue (at Addison), 845-1652.

10. Paisan Pizzeria: Authentic Neapolitan pizzas made by a pizzaiolo named Francesco Pece who hails, well, from Naples. This neighborhood eatery, the sixth for Haig Krikorian and Cindy Lalime, has been packing people in since it opened last year. Learn more from Carol Ness at the Chronicle. 2514 San Pablo (at Dwight), 649-1031.

11. Pepe’s: Newcomer whose claim to fame (infamy?) may be its all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for $6.99 — the sort of thing that makes slow food folks like Waters shudder. Not so East Bay food critic Anneli Rufus2516 Durant Avenue (at Telegraph), 644-9999.

12. Zachary’s: Local chain serves deep-dish, Chicago-style, saucy pies. Frequent “best” pizza pick by consumers in local press. 1835 Solano Avenue (at Colusa), 525-5950.

Let the voting begin.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

West Berkeley photographer Christina Diaz likes to shoot life as it happens. She favors Emilia’s pizza when she wants sauce and, when she doesn’t, she chooses Cheese Board.

Out in Berkeley: Delectable blues with Cheese Board Pizza [4.21.11]
Open near campus: Pepe’s pizza for hungry folk [3.15.11]
Addie’s pizza pie will open for business this week [09.13.10]
Berkeley Bites: Summer Kitchen & Bake Shop [08.06.10]
Numero due for pizza [01.25.10]
The lunchtime music scene at the Cheeseboard [09.04.11]

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  • Phil

    Bobby G’s (on University below Shattuck) surely deserves a mention!  High-quality ingredients, classic crust and flavor.  Try the margherita before branching out — it’s really good.

  • eltee

    Will have to go with Cheeseboard on this, but haven’t had a chance to try Emilia’s yet.

  • Amy B

    I love Addie’s pizza, and frequent the restaurant thanks to its friendly staff and atmosphere.  However, the chef just recently changed!  The menu went from being fresh and unique to typical… gone are the artisan, Cali-influenced salads and pizza toppings, replaced with your typical Caesar (over-dressed), iceberg wedge, and green salad, and typical pizzas like Vegetarian and Greek.  They had a great rotating pasta special, too, with a delicious veggie lasagna, now replaced with a nightly Spaghetti-and-meatballs.  What happened to the old chef??  Is the new one still just finding his/her groove??  I really hope they don’t lose what momentum they had with this major change…

  • I’ll be heading over to Lanesplitter for the vegan wheels. Thanks for the scoop.

  • Lindsey

    I had the same experience at Gioia: cheese so thick and rubbery I was gagging on it and crust so soggy I just couldn’t do it. I actually walked my slice back in after two bites and asked for my money back. They didn’t seem to care about my complaints, but they did give me my money back.

    My favorite pizza is what I bake from scratch. Haven’t tried the newer pizza places. Arinels I love for the nostalgia (been eating there for 25+ years) and tasty sauce. But it is so gross how the cashier puts the toppings on with his bare hands after taking the money and in 25 years I’ve never seen hand washing going on there. I just hope the hot ovens kills things. Cheeseboard good for the vibe, but if I eat more than one piece of pizza I feel sick. And where the heck is the sauce? Wrong, not pizza!

  • LNT

    I agree that we have some really great pizza options for a relatively small town.  But what really gets me is that you can’t get a decent pizza DELIVERED!  I have lived in a number of cities, many of which had universities, and there is fierce competition to deliver pizzas to those campuses.  Now I live right next to the Cal campus and my only options for delivery either have really bad pizza or they fail to show up (really- I’ve had to cancel after an hour wait with two places).  I would even take Dominoes (scary I know but I have kids), but the Dominoes outlet that used to deliver here is gone.  Isn’t there a business opportunity here?  Don’t students still order late night pizza, or am I just out of the scene and everyone is making their own in the dorm?   

  • Bob

    I admit I have not tried others, but whenever we go to Berkeley to visit our daughter we go to Zachary’s for their deep dish. Even went there for a late lunch on the same day we went to a relative for dinner.

  • Ava

    I love Zachary’s deep dish.

  • fran

    Gioia’s peperoni is sublime, but how could you have missed mentioning Lo Coco, our Sicilian restaurant? Their pizza with eggplant, garlic, and artichoke hearts is so so delicious. 

  • Gurujulp

    You didn’t even mention what I consider to be the best pizza found in my 14 years in Berkeley- Bobby G’s!
    I don’t really like the athmosphere, but I like the pizza!

  • As of now, we have closed comments on this post in order to count the votes. Thank you for your astonishing response and fervent views! Expect to see the results of the votes on Friday June 10th.

  • Joyce

    Lo Coco’s Mushroom pizza!

  • Archagon

    Emilia’s is the best pizza I’ve ever had, by a healthy margin. Even the best neapolitan-style pizzas in SF can’t compare, IMO. The sauce is amazing, the crust is perfect, the cheese is creamy and melty, and it’s run entirely by one awesome fellow. It’s too bad he doesn’t sell half-pies!

    After that, Gioia and Cheeseboard are tied for second, because they both do very different things with their pizza. Cheeseboard has a wide variety of unique flavor combinations and a lovely atmosphere, while Gioia is consistently toasty and delicious, but much more ordinary.

    Sadly, I wasn’t impressed by the margherita pizza at Addie’s, but the decor and frozen custard alone are worth coming back for.

  • Archagon

    Oh, and even though I’m not really a huge fan of La Val’s (mostly mediocre flavors, inconsistent quality), their cheese slices are the bomb, especially for a late-night snack.

  • Archagon

    Oh, and even though I’m not really a huge fan of La Val’s (mostly mediocre flavors, inconsistent quality), their cheese slices are the bomb, especially for a late-night snack.

  • Michael R.

    Bobby G’s doesn’t only have great pizza, it has the best beer line up in Berkeley, including Pliny the Elder!

  • M .

    I agree that the pizza and salad selections did seem worse in June.  I didn’t know about staff changes.  Good news is, on a visit in mid-July things seemed back to their old quality.

  • sara

    Chez Panisse Cafe!