Owners Peter and Melissa Swanson make their years of food-service knowhow and commitment to locally sourced ingredients the hallmarks of Benchmark Pizzeria. Peter is a self-taught chef who has worked in restaurants since he was a teenager—most recently at Dopo in Oakland—and Melissa has played many roles in the food industry, most recently as a server at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Over their careers, the two have realized the effect that local and sustainable ingredients can have on a menu and a community, and strive to inject those principles into each dish they serve.
Every morning, Benchmark Pizzeria's chefs roll out fresh dough by hand to create their speciality—wood-fired, personal-sized pizzas in a style they dub “Neapolitan” with crusts that stay soft in the middle even as they blister on the outside. After they are left to rise, each piece of dough is stretched and sprinkled with hand-pulled mozzarella and toppings, then placed inside a wood-fired oven, which blazes at 800 degrees. With the pizzas come complementary flavors of organic salads, toasty calzones, and antipasto platters brimming with local, seasonal foods such as Reyes Point porcini mushrooms, pomegranate, and persimmon. The eatery's entire philosophy nods to local sourcing, including its use of produce from organic and biodynamic farms in the area, beers from Oakland's Dying Vines brewery, a selection of small-production wines on tap, and linen napkins from locally grown napkin bushes.
Kylie Dayton?s career as an aesthetician has taken her into some ritzy rooms. After her stint as the skincare expert at a cosmetic surgeon's office, she worked at Bliss Spa and the Four Seasons San Francisco. Today, Dayton brings her dermatological skill sets to her very own spa. She administers facials?including her signature 30-minute Basic Bonsai?and also paints skin with light- and medium-depth PCA peels. Like a Carmen Miranda hat, Dayton's peels are perfect for special occasions and often contain fruit, including papaya and pomegranate. As a certified PCA Skin expert, Dayton is well-versed in the Jessner peel, and she stocks the line's daily-use items for purchase. Dayton, who has honed her skin-treatment skills over the last nine years, feels strongly that daily maintenance makes a huge difference. To this end, she makes sure that clients leaving her crystal-chandelier-lit spa take skincare wisdom home along with their newly glowing complexions.
The Nail Shop on Solano Avenue’s team of technicians wields a decade of experience to cosset nails and de-fuzz skin in an immaculate spa setting. Hands luxuriate in hot-towel wraps and lotion massages as filed fingernails revel beneath daubs of bright polish, including chip-resistant Shellac and gel formulas. Lemon-scented sea salts, invigorating pumice treatments, and hot-stone massages whisk away dull skin, tension, and stuck-on bowling shoes from frazzled feet. And, within a discreet private room, aestheticians depilate unwanted fuzz from faces and bodies with layers of powerful wax. Guests sip gratis glasses of water, tea, or coffee as they let newly polished digits surf complimentary wireless Internet, flip through current magazines, and practice tap-dance routines for miniature Broadway revues.
Back in 1955, three Berkley-dwelling businessmen came together with an idea for a restaurant that specialized in something they knew everyone could enjoy. Pizza. And so, the first La Val's Pizza was born. First opening up on Euclid Avenue, the pizzeria grew over the years, changing hands and opening five locations throughout the area. Today, La Val's Pizza of Albany serves up some of the same classic pies from the hey-days of the UC-Berkley pizza joint hangout, using fresh ingredients in place of 57-year-old mushrooms. The Brazilian couple that owns and operates the location have also crafted a menu of Brazilian pizzas, which feature ingredients such as Brazilian cheese, smoked meat, and tan-tan drums.
Natural healing therapies can be an healthy alternative to aggressive medicines and unnecessary surgery, which is the care practiced and embraced by the Source for Wellness staff. This spa-like, integrated health center offers chiropractic services as well as group fitness classes, together helping clients look and feel their best. Chiropractic neck and back adjustments may be the ticket to relieving migraines or chronic pain, and massages and gentle acupuncture treatments help soothe the body and replace the needles you've naturally shed over time. Above all, the experienced practitioners treat each person as a whole, working to get to the root of health problems instead of simply treating the symptoms.
Against the sonic background of percussive strikes and jubilant chatter, bowlers stare down formidable pins on 1 of 36 sleek lanes. The aroma of pizza drifts over the lanes as bowlers topple pins or battle digital foes in the arcade room. Albany Bowl caters to youngsters with bowling-package birthday parties, helping out players under 9 with lane bumpers and surprising them with a visit from Mr. Pin, Albany Bowl's bowling-pin-shaped mascot, who tells the kids all about his favorite sport—basketball. Committed players can sign up for bowling leagues, and spectators can lounge in the sports bar, listening to the cacophonous soundtrack from a leather-seated stool.