Pizzeria Gioia

1586 Hopkins St (Berkeley)

Pizzeria Gioia slice.

Close to great, Pizzeria Gioia is pretty good but way too greasy.

The Yelp-ers are generally crazy about Pizzeria Gioia, and the pizzeria seems to be doing all it can to resemble a typical neighborhood New York pizzeria.  For example, even though it’s located in a dull area of North Berkeley, the bare interior with a few stools could easily have been ripped  from someplace in The Great Pizza City (I decided to invent an alternate nickname for New York).

The good thing about Pizzeria Gioia is that they know how to make good bread, and that’s usually the sign of a good pizzeria.  Pizzeria Gioia comes fairly close to the ideal crust with a crisp exterior with a fluffy, soft, and tearable interior.  But – and I am not one to wipe off pizza grease with a napkin and don’t like my pizza too refined – I had a problem with the grease.  There’s just too much of it.  It’s all over the dough, all over the cheese, and  altogether pools everywhere on the slice.  Greasiness may be a characteristic of New York pizza, but over-greasiness is the hallmark of bad New Jersey pizza.  In addition,  it seems very little effort was taken to produce a flavorful, impactful tomato sauce.  These shortfalls ultimately place Pizzeria Gioia in the second tier of Berkeley pizzas.

So, if you’re hanging around North Berkeley (why?), Pizzzeria Gioia might be a good place to drop by.  With a few improvements, the pizza here could rank amongst the best in Berkeley.  For now, you’ll just have to drain your pizza of grease first.

Summary: Good dough, good cheese, but too greasy with a weak tomato sauce.

Verdict: Maybe stop by.

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Published in: on August 27, 2010 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Summer Kitchen Bake Shop

2944 College Avenue (Berkeley)

Summer Kitchen Bake Shop slice

The basil was fresh, but look closer and you'll spot overzealous salting!

Is pizza a particularly fragile dish?  I would vote no, but certainly one wrong move can ruin an entire experience.  Take my latest visit to Summer Kitchen Bake Shop, a tidy shop in a particularly gentrified area of College Ave.  The interior is a spotless white, like you’d expect pizzerias in heaven to be.  So far, so good.

The first sign of trouble was when I noted that there was no parmesan cheese or red pepper flakes anywhere in sight.  This is usually a bad omen.  Still, the oven looked promising enough (even if it’s exterior label of ‘wood stone’ was a little too noticeable).   I ordered a slice, sat down, and watched as the lone pizza-maker worked at a furious pace.  A new pizza seemed to come out of the oven every minute, when the pizza man would promptly slice it AND deliver it to the tables before quickly preparing the next one.  This was all fun to watch, but the hurriedness would set the stage for the atrocity to come.

In short: the pizza was over-salted.  Well, actually it tasted like it had gone for a swim in the Pacific ocean.  So I will try to describe, as best as I can, what I could taste through the salt.  But , overworked pizza-maker or not, a pizzeria’s job is to deliver good pizza.

Actually, the best part of this pizza was the basil.  It was fresh and flavorful.  The pizza was somewhat undersauced – I saw the chef measure two ladlefuls for each pie; three would have been perfect.  I don’t think I tasted the sauce much – it just provided a liquid film connecting the crust and cheese (the picture over-represents the amount of sauce that was actually there).  I think the cheese and crust would have been above average, but they were hard to taste through the salt.  The crust had some nice heterogeneity from the oven – all parts were cooked well, but there was natural variation in color and flavor.

The oversalting notwithstanding, Summer Kitchen Bake Shop produces above-average pizza (I think).  But be wary – haste can make waste, and pizza can be a fragile dish.

Summary: Probably(?) above-average pizza, but the quickness in the creation led to disastrous levels of salt.

Verdict: Maybe stop by.

Published in: on August 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment