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.
The same year it launched its airy Telegraph Avenue outpost, Pasta Bene jumped onto the Bargain Bites 2010 list in the San Francisco Chronicle, which also praised its "friendly" service. Its family of owners, however, arrived with 20 years of experience behind the scenes of area Italian restaurants, meaning that its menu of stone-fired pizzas and hearty entrees leavened with California freshness came together naturally. In 13 pasta dishes, noodles entwine with slow-photosynthesized seasonal vegetables and rich tomato and cream sauces, while the dessert menu may suggest an easier choice with its house-made tiramisu, a customer favorite. Wooden rafters and iron chandeliers vault over the casual, sunlit dining room overlooking a street-side patio.
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.
North Beach Pizza has been curing cravings for gourmet pizza, pastas, submarine sandwiches, and other hearty eats for more than 38 years. Thin and thick hand-spun, stuffed, and gluten-free 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 Italian sausage.