Blondie’s Pizza

2340 Telegraph Avenue (Berkeley)

Blondie's pizza slice

Blondie's passable pizza.

I won’t say Blondie’s pizza is good, but it is edible.  It tastes like the pizza you get at street fairs.

The interior of Blondie’s blends in well with the streets outside – it’s loud and hipster-ish.   Most of the wall space is covered by images of various pizza topping incarnations, but one neat feature is the counter area that displays pages of a Rolling Stone at eye level so you can read while you eat.

Anyway, perhaps my standards of the Telegraph area are lowered due to Fat Slice, but at least you can taste all the components of Blondie’s pizza.  The crust is pretty thin and the cheese dominates the slice.  Speaking of the cheese, it (strangely) has a very thin, crisp outer layer on top of its somewhat tough and firm interior.  I guess this is a result of the grease selectively burning the top layer of cheese?  Anyway it works OK, and while the sauce is not great it can be tasted and adds to the slice.

Apart its unquestionable property of being edible, Blondie’s pizza doesn’t really have any truly memorable components.  Unfortunately, selection in the Telegraph area is pretty limited, so this might be the best you can do.

Summary: There’s not much reason to stop by Blondie’s unless you’re patrolling the Telegraph area.

Verdict: Skip it

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Published in: on August 29, 2010 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jupiter

2181 Shattuck Ave (Berkeley, CA)

Jupiter Pizza slice

Jupiter's pizza leaves much to be desired.

Jupiter is a fun place to hang out and have drinks.  But it is not a place to eat good pizza.  I ordered their version of the Margherita Pizza (which they’ve renamed the ‘Mercury’) and came away squarely disappointed.

When a pizza doesn’t have tomato sauce, it needs good, rich tomatoes.  Unfortunately, Jupiter’s Roma tomatoes are more like nature’s water balloons.  Jupiter’s cheese and basil are also lacking; you’ll get grease, but not flavor.  Jupiter’s hallmark is their brick oven honey wheat crust, but it all just tastes very homogeneous, bland, and lacking texture.  The service at Jupiter is generally rushed and impersonal; this is understandable when the place gets packed, but it was like this even during my fairly empty visit.

But, if you’re having a few drinks and enjoying live outdoor music, maybe you won’t notice?

Summary: A good place to hang out, but skip the pizza.

Verdict: Skip it

Published in: on August 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

North Beach Pizza

1598 University Ave (Berkeley)

North Beach Pizza slice

California-style pizza at North Beach.

Eating at North Beach Pizza is like being whizzed into the early 90s.  Aside from the green furniture aesthetics, I heard multiple Phil Collins singles during my stay, and the place was adorned with cheap film camera snapshots of customers with dated clothing smiling next to pizza.  If the pictures didn’t convince you that the pizza would be amazing, the hundreds of pasted comment cards around each booth surely would (one near my table was from a couple who claimed North Beach pizza was better than anything they had tasted in Italy).

But it’s a farce!  Or maybe I just don’t understand California pizza.  Or both.  But really I didn’t see anything special about North Beach pizza.  The crust was very thin and crispy – more like a cracker than bread. This was interesting even if not particularly my style.  Did I mention it’s greasy?  It is.  But the interesting parts of the pizza stop there.  You see, the cheese basically smothered the entire slice, and it wasn’t particularly flavorful.  There was tomato sauce, but all it contributed was a little bit of wetness to the pizza.  There was basil, too, but it too had been squashed underneath the cheese layer (which was kind of strange) and had surrendered its taste.  The only surviving component of flavor was the sliced Roma tomato, which had managed to escape the cheese and was not bad.

Maybe I just don’t like California pizza.  Maybe it doesn’t like me.  But I could go without North Beach pizza.  That said, it does offer something different than your garden variety pizzeria, so maybe that’s some incentive enough to stop by.

Summary: The flavorless cheese smothers all other components in this 90s time machine of a restaurant.

Verdict: Skip it.

Published in: on August 27, 2010 at 11:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bobby G’s Pizzeria

2072 University Ave. (Berkeley)

Bobby G's slice

The tart-yet-bland pizza at Bobby G's.

I wish I could give Bobby G’s a better rating.  The ambiance sports a comfortable, spacious interior with nice wood furniture, tasteful artwork, and a bar area.  Each table comes set up with the proper pizza condiments (parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper) and the service is friendly.  The interior is nice enough that if, for whatever reason, you are going to a pizzeria to just hang out and not really taste the pizza, then Bobby G’s is a good choice.  But, alas, I just can’t recommend the place.  The pizza is just too bad.

The cheese is the only acceptable component – it’s really stringy which is interesting, but the flavor is a little empty and can come off as what I can only describe as tart.  The sauce job, on the other hand, is just strange.  It comes as land mines littered about the slice.  Most of the time, your bite will yield no sauce.  Every once in a while, you will catch a large pocket of it, but – like the cheese – the sauce’s flavor seems to have somehow been drained and replaced with tartness.  The crust would be nice if it were fluffier, but it seems almost squished and lacks any softness in the interior. It is crisp – a little too crisp – and again fairly flavorless.

If I were to somehow lose my sense of taste, Bobby G’s is the pizzeria I would frequent.  Until then, though, there are better pizza adventures to be had.

Summary: Great atmosphere, bad pizza.

Verdict: Skip it.

Published in: on July 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Extreme Pizza

2352 Shattuck Avenue (Berkeley)

Extreme Pizza slice

One slice (not two) at Extreme Pizza.

When you order a slice at Extreme Pizza, it’s actually two slices (extreme!).  Actually, they take extreme-ness quite seriously around here; the walls are adorned with sports paraphernalia (surfboards, skis) as well as photography of extreme athletes in action.  There’s a good chance you’ll find your ears blanketed by hard rock.  Order a small soda, and you’ll get something akin to a large at other places.  While it’s probably (ok,  certainly) too much, it does give the place a different vibe than your typical garden-variety pizzeria.

My favorite thing about Extreme Pizza is the amount of sauce they put on the slice.  To me, this is the perfect amount – heavy enough that it really competes with the cheese for dominance in flavor.  Unfortunately, the particular sauce Extreme Pizza employs tastes like Prego, but I applaud the effort.

I think Extreme Pizza blends cheddar into their mozzarella.  This can give a bit of a macaroni-and-cheese spin to the flavor.  Personally, I like that it gives the taste an added dimension and blends in fine with the overall lack of sophistication in the flavor.

The crust is flat, and it feels like a hybrid between pita bread and pizza dough.  It feels soft and undercooked, and is my least favorite component of Extreme Pizza.

Extreme Pizza certainly lives up to its name in terms of decor and quantity, but falls short with cheap tasting ingredients and a lackluster crust.

Overall: Although Extreme Pizza throws in plenty of ingredients and has a unique atmosphere, it lacks any manner of sophistication and just tastes cheap.

Verdict: Skip it.

Published in: on June 19, 2010 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tomatina

2132 Center St (Berkeley)

Tomatina slice

The (basil-filled) slice at Tomatina.

At first glance, Tomatina appears to be a cut above your average pizzeria.  The restaurant interior, for example, is well put-together and a courteous wait staff takes your order.  From there it’s all downhill.

I ordered a Margherita pizza,  so the slice came with basil on top.  A lot of basil.  Way too much basil.

Other than that, the worst thing about Tomatina’s pizza was the crust, which had the consistency of a pillow without any compensating crispness.  Biting into it was like punching air.  In addition, the top of the crust was burnt – an impressive feat considering that the rest of it seemed undercooked.

The cheese had a nice stretchiness to it but came with only a light flavor.

Finally, the tomato sauce (I imagine that Tomatina’s specialty would be the tomatoes) was altogether too tart.  To their credit, they did add a decent amount of it, but it could not save the slice.

The service was friendly, but tipping adds to the already expensive pizza ($9.50 for personal, $11 for medium-sized).  It’s just not worth it.

Overall: Tomatina’s pizza fails in numerous ways, and there is no reason to eat here other than the friendly service.

Verdict: Skip it

Published in: on June 12, 2010 at 10:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pie in the Sky

2124 Center Street (Berkeley)

Pie in the Sky slice

Pie in the Sky's middle-of-the-road pizza.

Pie in the Sky has a friendly staff, but that’s probably the best reason to stop by here.  The interior is about as typical as you can imagine – neutrally lit with a few tables by the window, a soda fountain, and a fairly significant section behind the counter for the employees.

While the pizza isn’t bad, it certainly isn’t inspired either.  There looks to be a good amount of sauce on the slice, but it’s hard to taste.  Rather, the flavor and texture are dominated by the cheese, which can be likened to frozen Mystic Pizza.  At times it’s too chewy.

The crust is medium thin, but not at all crispy.  You won’t have any complaints about it, but that’s because you won’t really notice it.

Finally – and this is more annoying than you think – the straws are made of cardboard.  While this is probably(?) a little more environmentally friendly, you’ll taste cardboard in your mouth.  Just saying.

In the end, Pie in the Sky is decent pizza without a personality.

Overall: While Pie in the Sky is OK, there really isn’t much reason for stopping by.

Verdict: Skip it.

Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bowzer’s Pizza

Note: As of 6/11/2010, Bowzer’s Pizza appears to be closed, to be replaced by a Papa John’s.

2222 Shattuck Ave (Berkeley)

 

Bowzer's Pizza slice

The super cheesy Bowzer's slice

In Berkeley, even the homeless have canine companions.  If there were ever a list of best places to open a dog-themed pizzeria, Berkeley would surely rank among the top.

Bowzer’s pizza – an easily-missed aside on Shattuck Ave. – fills just that niche.   The inside has the feel of a lower-grade Italian restaurant, not the hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that its exterior and pit bull logo implies.  Actually, the dog-related flair is restricted to one wall, where you’ll find a ‘Dog of Fame’ with pictures of famous canines from Lassi to Family Guy’s Bryan.

On to the pizza.  It’s not very good.

The crust itself is not bad – an interesting medium ground between crispy and foldable.  It’s nothing to write home about, but the dough has a pleasant sweetness to it.

The sauce is meek, overpowered by the cheese and dough.  This is largely because there isn’t enough of it, but I suspect it also doesn’t have much flavor.

The cheese is like when you were a kid making homemade pizza and mom looked away and you decided that this was going to be the cheesiest pizza ever.  Viewed in profile, the cheese on a Bowzer’s slice easily consumes 2/3 of its thickness.  Worse – it’s not particularly good cheese.  It tastes like the stuff they put in frozen pizza.  And because it dominates the slice, it’s basically all you taste.

The atmosphere in the place is not bad – the guy behind the counter was friendly, and the mood is warm.  That is, if you can ignore the stern signs prohibiting refills, free water, loitering, and using the restroom by non-customers.  Finally, the price point is very reasonable – when I stopped in 2 slices and a soda were $5.50.

Overall: Despite a pleasant crust, the overabundance of bad cheese and the lack of a robust sauce to balance it out makes this a slice you can miss.

Verdict: Skip it.

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment