The marble counter at Gioia Pizzeria on Hopkins Avenue used to be crowded with people eating slices of formaggio or funghi pizza.
Not any more.
Now the counter is stacked high with black and white Gioia Pizzeria T-shirts and is verboten to customers.
In the last few weeks the pizzeria has had to stop offering patrons a place to eat their pizza pie. The restaurant, it turns out, did not have a permit for eating on site. And, before December, it did not even have a permit to operate as a take-out restaurant.
“The city of Berkeley has determined that we are to be a ‘to go’ only operation,” reads a sign perched on one of the counters. “Unfortunately, this means we may not provide seating of any kind, nor may we offer a counter at which our customers may stay and ‘dine in’ at. In addition we have been asked to remove our outside counter.”
Art Kinsey, the pizzeria’s general manager, said when Gioia’s moved into the space once occupied by Magnani’s Poultry in 2004, the owners, Will and Karen Gioia, did not know they needed to apply for a new permit to operate a restaurant. It came to the city’s attention recently, and the Gioias and Kinsey are now working fast to make everything legal.
Kinsey said this in not a case of the city being heavy-handed, as many customers — including many Berkeleyside readers who contacted us about the case — feared.
“Until they upgrade their permit they can’t have stools there,” said Jill Martinucci, an aide to city councilmember Laurie Capitelli into whose district Gioia falls.
The pizzeria recently got permission to operate a take-out restaurant and Capitelli is working to see if the city can expedite a permit to allow patrons to sit down and eat, she said.
Gioia’s was voted best pizza restaurant in Berkeley by Berkeleyside readers in 2011.