The best pizza in Berkeley? Our readers decided

Pizza from the readers’ choice of Berkeley’s best pizza joint. Read on to find out where it is. All photos: Christina Diaz

Wow. Who knew Berkeley residents were so passionate about pizza? It’s right up there with free speech, free love, and free-range eggs — or so it seemed based on readers’ record responses to our request last week for their choice of the best pizza places in town.

Before we announce the winners of our, let’s face it, less-than scientific survey, a few caveats up front. Stunned by the sheer number of votes (over 220 comments including input on Facebook) we realized, after the fact, that we should have employed a poll counter. Next time. And, we’ll be sure to include a category for “other,” so you can weigh in with a pick not mentioned in the post.

Because it turned out, that despite writing in the story and later in the comment thread (several times) that the dozen pizza purveyors listed represented a sample of savory pies on offer here, many of our readers — including one rather irate pizzeria owner — read it as this site’s “best of” picks.

Privately, folks pointed out, too, that businesses left off that list may have been unfairly handicapped, a not unreasonable assumption, and it is duly noted.

So, we didn’t make it easy on you. And you didn’t make it easy on us. Some voted for more than one place. Some voted on Facebook or Twitter but not here. The crack accounting team at Berkeleyside opted to err on the side of generosity in tabulating results, including all favorable mentions in the count.

Many mentioned that a top pizza pick might vary depending on factors such as deep dish versus thin crust, East vs. West style, delivery, location, and omnivore/vegetarian/vegan options. Some argued that the pie produced at Cheese Board isn’t even pizza. (Where is the sauce? Potatoes and kale topping?) As one self-described pizza snob wrote: “While Cheeseboard is undeniably delicious, it’s not pizza.”

Pizzas being made at The Cheese Board Collective — a perennial favorite among Berkeleyside readers

All that said, we’re reasonably confident that these variables wouldn’t dramatically alter the pecking order below. Readers are, of course, free to disagree, as many no doubt will, in the comment section below.

At the end of the day, people, we’re talking about pizza. A take-away lesson from this exercise may be that there are many places to order a slice in this town — and many differing opinions on what tastes good.

With that in mind, might I channel my pre-teen son here and suggest “getting outside your comfort zone.” If there’s a spot on this list you haven’t sampled that appeals (or one in the comment thread from last week, where places like Phoenix Pastificio, Fellini, Nino’s, La Val’s, Jupiter, Summer Kitchen, West Coast Pizza, PIQ, and even D.I.Y. received a nod or two), you might want to give a different joint a try. Just saying.

Editor’s Note: As promised, one of our readers who voted in last week’s poll wins a complimentary pizza at the restaurant of their choice. The winner, chosen at random, is reader JT (their favorite, by the way — Arinell). JT: get in touch with us at Berkeleyside and we’ll make the arrangements!

Top Ten Readers’ Picks for Pizza in Berkeley:

1. Gioia: This New York-style, thin-crust pizza was the clear #1, garnering nearly twice as many votes as the second place getter. High marks for seasonal specialties (think asparagus and ricotta in the spring and butternut squash and blue cheese in the fall.) Readers’ picks include garlic and arugula, anchovy, and pepperoni. Wrote one: “When Gioia makes their asparagus pizza, I do a little happy pizza dance.” 1586 Hopkins Street (at Monterey), 528-4692.

2. Cheese Board Pizzeria: Those who voted for the collective’s pie value its quality ingredients, simplicity (vegetarian, one option, no sauce), and affordability. The feel-good groove of this joint was evoked by one commenter who wrote: “Each pie is truly loved by the coop folk.” Readers recommend slices topped with corn, lime or lemon, and feta.  1512 Shattuck Avenue (at Vine), 549-3183. Correction: In addition to cash or check, Cheese Board now accepts Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.

3. Zachary’s: For some, there is no other to rival the “stuffed,” saucy pies from this pizzeria. Readers recommend the deep-dish spinach and mushroom; thin-slice and gluten-free crusts available too. 1835 Solano Avenue (at Colusa), 525-5950.

4. Emilia’s Pizzeria: One man, one oven, one pedantic order schedule. Still, some ex-East Coasters said that this is the only authentic made-to-order, mom-and-pop style pie in town.  2995 Shattuck (at Ashby). Cash only. Reservations, beginning at 4 p.m., highly recommended, 704-1794.

Young customers enjoy the pizza at Emilia’s Pizzeria, which came in fourth in the reader rankings

5. Arinell Pizza: Fast, no frills slices at a hole-in-the-wall that, wrote one fan, offers “no silly toppings and no jazz bands.” Another contender for most authentic slice, if by most authentic you mean comes complete with garlic powder and parmesan cheese shakers.  2119 Shattuck (at Center), 841-4035. No cards.

6. Gather: The praise keeps piling on, from both customers and culinary critics, for this relatively new restaurant. In the pizza stakes, readers recommend the vegan spicy tomato (olives, capers, cashew garlic puree), farm egg with bacon, caramelized onions and herbs, or the duck sausage. 2200 Oxford Street (at Allston), 809-0400.

7. Bobby G’s Pizzeria: Loyal locals gave a shout out to this kid- and sport-fan friendly joint that boasts organic dough and marina sauce. It gets a thumbs up from the Chronicle, where it’s a regular on their annual Bargain Bites roundup. Readers’ picks include the goat cheese and mushroom or classic margherita. Vegan (even by the slice, which can be hard to come by) and gluten-free crust available. Open late with beer on tap and music too. 2072 University Avenue (at Shattuck), 665-8866.

8. Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub: This West Berkeley spot gets points from readers for home delivery, vegan options and pitchers of local microwbrews — as befits a pizzeria with “& Pub” in its name.  Try the basil, feta, sun-dried tomato, and artichoke heart combo. 2033 San Pablo Avenue (at Addison), 845-1652.

9. Addie’s Pizza Pie: Think New York-style crust with Cali-centric toppings, build-your-own (or not), gluten-free crust available. Kid-positive atmosphere in a restored, high-arched dining hall, with comfy red booths. Readers choice: Addie’s asparagus pie. 3290 Adeline Street (at Ashby), 547-1100.

10. Lo Coco’s Restaurant: Old-style Sicilian slices in this family-run and family-friendly establishment tucked away on the city’s North side. Gets the nod from Chronicle critics. Readers recommend L’Indecisa (proscuitto and arugula), Siciliana (anchovies), Vesuvio (pepperoni) and the eggplant, garlic, and artichoke heart special. 1400 Shattuck (at Rose), 843-3745.

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.

Where do you get the best pizza in Berkeley? You tell us [06.03.11]
Out in Berkeley: Delectable blues with Cheese Board Pizza [4.21.11]
Gather chef Sean Baker named best of the year [10.11.10]
Addie’s pizza pie will open for business this week [09.13.10]
The lunchtime music scene at the Cheeseboard [09.04.10]
Berkeley Bites: Ari Derfel and Eric Fenster [03.26.10]
Numero due for pizza [01.25.10]

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  • I love the Cheeseboard Pizza, but shouldn’t that guy be wearing a beard net?

  • Jenny

    Zachary’s is SOOOOO overated. Their pizza sucks, and shouldn’t even be on this list.

  • guest

    Emilia’s is terrible.  The one man is rude and the pizza is overpriced and average at best.

  • Patrick

    That’s a pretty good list, though personally I’d move Lococo’s up to the top 3. I’m glad Zachary’s made towards the top, that sauce is incredible. 

  • Why are all the recommended toppings odd?  What happened to Combination or Pepperoni?  Corn, Lime, Asparagus????  I don’t get it.  

  • pooperoni

    Bobby G’s pizza is on the same level as Domino’s or Pizza Hut…not good.  Never understood why people like Zachary’s so much either.  I think people just like the idea and look of the stuffed pizza, but it’s really no better than your average, mediocre pizza from anywhere else–just more of the same mediocre junk piled into it. 
    Gioia is decent.  Cheeseboard is decent. But neither are great. Haven’t tried half of the others.

  • Guest

    Gioia is only good when the owners are there.  When the cat’s away…

  • MDAccount

    Watch and learn, people, watch and learn. Only Arinell’s qualifies as the real thing:

  • Nick Mamatas

    Emilia’s wuz robbed.

  • Nick Mamatas

    Sorry to post twice, but I just saw the anonymous attack on the “rude” guy at Emilia’s. Nonsense. He’s a perfectly friendly fellow cranking out delicious pizzas. Berkeley is notorious for slow service thanks to 420 kids behind virtually every cash register, so I can see why some people might actually forget that part of good service is getting out of the store with one’s food quickly, but it really is a virtue. Not everyone has to spend twenty minutes describing their latest yoga lesson (or just staring off into space) in order to rank as friendly, not even here.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this summary!  After reading the original article, I decided to try some of the places I have never been to, and we had 3 delicious pizzas (not to mention melt-in-your-mouth frozen custard afterwards) at Addies. What a pleasant space too. Still need to get over to some of those N. Berkeley places….

  • Nora

    I don’t know all the pizzerias on this list, but I often to Lanesplitters. It’s a nice place to go with the kids and for a beer, but that is not high-quality pizza. So it’s hard to take the rest of the list seriously. Lococo’s I’ve only been to a few times, but I thought the same about it.

  • Bryan Garcia

    Oh come on, it may not be the best or “gourmet” but to say that about Bobby G’s is ridiculous!

  • Guest email

    in the near neighborhood we have to add LIttle Star and Cugini in Albany.  four of five locals queried pick the Little Star deep dish over Zachary’s spinach mushroom deep dish.  We are truly pizza blessed but the best ever was a Greek pizza place, Olympic, in Arlington MA.

  • Nohochmuuch

    So glad to see Gioia on top! Their pizza reminds me of Pizza Suprema in Manhattan…good fat slices on paper-thin crust. Still looking for a pizzeria with a white slice in California. Anyone know of one?

  • Meliflaw

    Bobby’s is really better for panini than pizza, and for beer. Nice, friendly atmosphere–my husband and I go there to watch the WNBA and Cal women’s basketball when the girls are on the road.

  • Bushjob

    I second Jenny.  Zachary’s in the top ten much less the third highest.  Please.

  • Sal V

    Mmmm Arinell’s. Time for a second lunch.

  • Mark

    The LoCoco Special (at least at their Piedmont Avenue location in Oakland) is superb.

  • DL

    That was exactly my thought!  I work with a guy here at work who has the beard and pony tail and I find little pieces of his hair everywhere!!  Gross!!

  • Griffinsmama

    I can’t believe I see a vote for Greek Pizza on here!! I’m from MA and I seriously Miss my Greek Pizza! YAY!!!!!! My Greek Pizza mker’s name was R.O. and he operated a House of pizza… :0)

  • Griffinsmama

    I Loved Nino’s when I lived on the North side. Give that place a shot. Really good pizza and their Brazilian foods are yummy also.

  • Sock it to ME!

    mmm. arugula, carmelized red onions and hippy beard strands. now that a good a pizza!

  • I can’t understand how anyone could mistake Bobby G’s pizza for Domino’s or Pizza Hut. It’s not even close.

    It’s not fancy or anything and if you were saying it was like Papa John’s or Round Table I could understand it, but the comparison you’re making is totally unfair.

  • Nitenurse2001

    I also voto for Little Star…we went there on our way to Cugini’s for the calzone, and were really glad that Little Star was so delicious…I’ve had their classic combo deep dish and a thin crust with anchovies and I will never speak about Zachary’s in the same breath…we stopped going there years ago because the pizza was so terrible.  The sauce is wonderful at Little Star, the cornmeal crust crusty and the service is great.  Be prepared to wait for a table at peak hours, but go.  Gioia is also very good.

  • Fleidy

    Lanesplitter is some of the worst I’ve ever had.  I’ve been to them all except Lo Coco’s, will have to try it.  I’ve been making pizza for years, so I like to try ’em all.  Started at Arinell’s, then Gioia, now mostly it’s Bobby G’s, son loves that place, and we like the beers :).  Emilia’s schedule doesn’t work for us since we live in San Leandro, but I took one home once and it was okay, but that type of pie has to be eaten ASAP, reheating it is no good.  All in all I think my pie’s are the best ;)

  • Morgan

    Little Star in Albany is I think, head and shoulders above Zachary’s and Cheeseboard–and those are my two other favorite places to get pizza. Not a Lanesplitter fan; the crust always seems soggy (though we’ve never eaten at one of the places; only gotten takeout).

  • Anonymous

    Yep – less than scientific, but I can add some valuable input, as I am not a broke college student. Gioia IS the definitive victor in this battle, as Will Gioia grew up in Northern NJ, and knows what real NY style pie is all about. Cheeseboard has taken a huge dive in recent years since the expansion, as their pizza is not true pizza (no sauce, so think cheese-bread), and furthermore they use baking ovens with wire racks to cook the pies, then finish them on a griddle (just look at the above photo, with the bearded guy). Just not a great product, but sure – they are making money hand over fist selling this to the college kids mostly. Zachary’s has their work cut out for them, since the new LITTLE STAR on Solano is exponentially better (deep dish). Emilia’s? Refuse to eat there, as they only make one pie (margarita), and never seem to make enough (“When we run out, you are out of luck”). Arinell’s was one of the original in town, but albeit, one of the lowest quality. Gather? It’s a hippy-veggie place, and if your main business isn’t pizza, I don’t want you on this list. I have had their pizza, just ok. BobbyG’s? Never heard of it, must be new, and who actually dines on University Avenue, besides college kids? Lanesplitter is good, not great, with their best feature being they serve food late in to the evening. Addie’s is really good, cracker thin crust, but just overpriced for that part of South Berkeley. LoCoco’s isn’t deserving of this list either, as their better spot is on Piedmont Avenue. And even there the pizza is good, but not fantastic. Surprisingly absent are Pizzaiolo in Temescal and Dopo on Piedmont Ave, who also make an amazing pie. But both spots are in Oakland, so they were omitted, but people here should know about them, instead of hearing about a few of these other sub-par places.

  • Autumn

    ***and who actually dines on University Avenue, besides college kids?***

    Boy are you missing out these days!

  • Anonymous

    Well now we know how you really feel, EastCoast_EastBayPride.  If you’d seen our earlier story you’d know that we were only reporting on Berkeley pizza,.Little Star, Pizzaiolo, and Dopo all out of the ‘hood, as previously noted.

    As for dining on University…where have you been? Berkeleyside has covered both Slow and eVe and there’s much more to choose from on that street:

  • Kyoto


    Regarding Zachary’s you do not know what you are talking about. You probably like frozen pizza from Safeway.
    Agreed that the guy in the cheeseboard photo is one reason not to eat pizza at the cheezboard

  • I’ll second what Nick said. Not only is the owner friendly, so was his family that was eating there when I was waiting for my pizza.

  • Anonymous

    Zachary’s is good, but go try Little Star. Even better!

  • “Emilia’s? Refuse to eat there, as they only make one pie (margarita)…”

    Not true, actually.

  • If you think that guy looks bad, I assume you’ve never seen the people who work in most industrial food plants.

    For an older gentleman working in food service he’s much more clean and well-kempt than average.

  • I agree with you on this point!
    Little Star has definitely stolen the spotlight for deep dish pizzas.

  • Combo & pepperoni are things one could safely assume any pizza joint on earth would have.

    The “odd” toppings are the ones that get mentioned because they are out of the ordinary.

  • enc

    There are just too many things wrong with your comment to ignore:

    1. Did you poll people standing in line at Cheese Board or something? I see so many families and people of all ages there, you are obviously just making assumptions! I am not a college student and have been eating their pizzas for over a decade.
    2. Gioia pizza’s also does not have sauce, with the exception of their Fromaggio Pizza. That’s why my spouse likes it. Based upon your logic, they don’t serve pizza either!
    3. Emilia’s offers a build your own pizza. Read their website.
    4. Bobby G’s pizza is great. If you are skipping it because it’s on University, that’s your loss.
    5. If Addie’s is great, why should they charge less because they are in South Berkeley? Seriously.
    6. Duh, the poll was about Berkeley Pizza.
    7. Your insights just aren’t that valuable. I bet most people commenting were not college students.

  • savingracesarah

    I can’t help it EC_EBP, you lost me with Gioia knows NY pizza ’cause he grew up in Jersey!

  • savingracesarah

    Furthermore he’s a great person!

  • Jenny

    Zachs is a parent trap. A ridiculous excuse for pizza. They’ve managed to brainwash folks, as far as I can tell. 

  • Jenny

    Hah! Ninos. That place has been there forever, and has NEVER had one customer in it (except for you, of course). If any place were a front, and washing money, it’s Ninos.

  • I think you mean a “snood”.

  • Bobby G’s is best at the pan-fried pizza.  I’ve never had a thinner, crispier pizza.  Their regular stuff isn’t for my favorite, though.

  • Dickwad

    Yeah I always love my pizza served by some bearded guy. Great.

  • Fisolani

    Agreed that Cheeseboard while good, is not really pizza, more like cheese/vegetable flat bread…

    PIQ has real Italian style pizza like you get in Italy, deserves a mention…

  • Anonymous

    The pizza poll was great idea. It was fun to read and obviously had wide appeal. The impressive part is it ran simultaneously with the coverage/discourse on proposed changes at BAS (and also Telegraph Avenue.) Such diverse stories and agenda-free coverage reflect life in Berkeley much more accurately and usefully than the rants of the self-appointed (and self-funded) we’ve become accustomed to.     

  • I hope Berkeleyside does other polls. And I hope they employ a voting tool. I am not a tech-knowledgeable person. If I was looking for use a tool for voting, I’d ask a tech buddy who is up on the latest survey tools. Surveymonkey is one I used to use but it’s been a few years. I am sure there are latest and greatest poling tools.

    But you still want to have a discussion.

    I have been thinking about pizza all week because of this poll. Yesterday evening, after I had had my dinner, I went to Little Star’s website three times and lined up an order for a spinach mushroom deep dish but I stopped myself. I wasn’t hungry.  I would have eaten a lot of it, even though I wasn’t hungry. But it proves the power of pizza, eh? and the power of such a happy, fun debate.

    So I am going to suggest other food competitions.  Mexican. Best burrito?  Best taco?  Italian. Best pasta?   Coffee.  Pastry. Best cakes?  Best breakfast sweets?  Best cookies? Indian. Best spinach paneer? Best Indian street food such as that found at Vik’s?  Best frozen yogurt? would you combine froyo and ice cream? 

    Or how about best food shopping.  Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods, Andronico’s, Safeway, Lucky, farmers markets, Mexican specialty shops, Asian speciality shops, Indian grocery stores

    Best walks in parks. Best views of the Bay?

    Best breakfast joint?  Best pancakes?

    Best festival?

  • SZunderwood

    Obvious omission:  best Chinese food.  Years ago, I believe I read in the East Bay Express that Solano Ave. had a higher density of Asian (not all Chinese) restaurants per square foot than any other street in the US.

  • Anonymous

    best baguette … best milkshake … best birthday cake … best cappuccino … best beer on tap