Will and Karen Gioia passion for cooking has taken them everywhere from the coveted kitchens of Rick Bayless and Chez Panisse to rural France. But the breadth of their travels led them to a singular focus for their own restaurant: tradition. At Gioia Pizzeria, they prep thin-crust pies with locally sourced and sustainably grown ingredients and strive to recapture the flavors of Will's childhood in Brooklyn, which was spent surrounded by Italian relatives and recipes. Today, Will and Karen evoke the same familial spirit at their two locations: a casual countertop spot in Berkeley, and a spacious San Francisco restaurant lit by vintage fixtures.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian differentiates the couple's pizzas from greasier East-coast variants, deeming them "New York-spirited, with hearty crust and California-fresh toppings." Pecorino and house-made Sicilian sausage sprinkles the salsiccia pizza, whereas the vegetarian butternut squash pizza derives its complex flavors from organic squash, mozzarella, gorgonzola, and gremolata. The Julian—a pizza named after Karen and Will's son—changes its ingredients seasonally, having sported prosciutto, red onion, and garlic in the past. The team's emphasis on homemade fare doesn't end at pizzas, either. They fill their sweet, ricotta-stuffed cannolis onsite and tap their own lemon trees to fill glasses with fresh lemonade everyday.