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.
The cooks at Lanesplitter bake up a menu of New York–style pizzas and pocket-like calzones, and bartenders at the three pub locations pour a large selection of microbrews. An army of nearly 30 meaty, veggie, and vegan toppings stands ready to occupy thin neapolitan or thick sicilian crusts in combinations such as the herbivore's spinach, mushrooms, onions, and olives ($23.50 for a 19-inch) or the garbage pie's heaping mélange of spiced meats and crisper-drawer items ($27.50 for a 19-inch). The bar's taps have recently flowed with Racer 5 by Bear Republic, E.J. Phair's doppelbock, and hand-pumped Bombay by Boat IPA from Moonlight Brewing Company. Some locations host art openings, where diners and drinkers may admire photography, paintings, or mosaics made entirely of anchovies.
North Beach Pizza has been curing cravings for gourmet pizza, pastas, submarine sandwiches, and other hearty eats for more than 20 years. Thin and thick pizza crusts are tossed by hand and topped with whole milk mozzarella before baking evenly in industrial ovens, creating perfect, edible canvases ready to be bedecked in ingredients that include everything from fresh spinach and feta cheese, to clams and Linguiça––a form of Portuguese pork sausage. Delivery is free to eligible areas around each location, saving time that may be better spent setting the table or taking inventory of its legs.
Venezia is a locally owned and operated restaurant now in its 30th year, serving up delectable Italian fare for lunch and dinner. Kick off a memorable meal with house-made potato chips ($7) topped with reggiano and served with white truffle oil, or nosh on olive-oil flatbread ($9) flanked with an entourage of Licini sopressata salami, olives, and baked goat cheese with roasted garlic. Entrees include the spaghetti carbonara ($16), which tosses bacon with egg and chili flakes, and the malfatti hand-cut pasta ($17), which incites tongue tapping with a harmony of porcini and crimini mushrooms along with roasted tomatoes, vermouth, and cream. Satisfy an entire battalion of sweet teeth with desserts such as the Madagascar-vanilla-cream custard ($6.50) sprinkled with braised blackberries and strawberries and the bittersweet chocolate-mousse torte ($8) crowned with raspberry coulis and whipped cream.
Founder and chef Rebecca A. Bernstein operates Cioccolata di Vino with the belief that her delectable desserts and enticing antipasti taste particularly divine in a laid-back, warm setting that resembles a hammock made of cocoons. The soft lighting envelops patrons in a gracious embrace, where it's perfectly acceptable to stop by just for the blissful dessert menu. Choco-hounds flock to the succulent molten lava cake ($6.95), where a moist, spongy coating covers a warm liquid chocolate, generating a cocoa magma stream down Mt. Esophagus. Candy up your kisser with the award-winning, gooey chocolate-chip cookies (three for $3.95), which arrive packed with rich Callebaut Belgian chocolate and slivers of pecan. The light but feisty lemon tart ($6.95) is crowned with a fresh whipped cream, while the rich gelati and sorbetti ($4.95) rotate their flavors daily and their buckskin capes fortnightly.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.