White Christmas lights and a chandelier cast warm glows on the hardwood floors and white-linen cloths in Viva Vocé Café’s small dining room. Behind this elegant scene, chefs in the kitchen craft a lineup of traditional Italian dishes using simple, seasonal ingredients, including locally grown produce and quality olive oils. Chefs whip up caprese salads, margherita pizzas, pastas, and seafood entrees, which adults can pair with wine while their kids enjoy a beverage such as fruit juice, milk, or sippy cups of espresso.
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.
Four Star Pizza’s masterful pie artisans dole out steamy slices of pizza loaded with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella to complement hot sandwiches, wings, and baked italian pastas. Specialty pizza creations include an all-meat smorgasbord of pepperoni, beef, and canadian bacon and a greek pizza loaded with marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and ancient philosophical texts. Chefs make pies to-order daily in seven sizes, from the personal 8-inch pie to a massive 24-inch replica of a Roman chariot’s wheel.
Throngs of pizza-hungry crowds flock to Blondie's Pizza for creative style pizzas sold by the slice. Three types of mushrooms populate the Magic Mushroom pizza, in stark contrast to the three types of meat—sausage, salami, and all-beef pepperoni—that compose the Carnivore pizza. The eatery even serves up a healthy whole-wheat vegetarian slice, where organic tomatoes, basil, and a bounty of veggies top a whole-wheat crust. Inside both the Berkeley and San Francisco locations, various photos and tchotchkes adorn the wall, including mosaics and staircase railings full of cows and metal sausages.
Rotten City gives a green-thumbed go-ahead to chow down on any of its organically infused creations. Tip your cap to the funghi pie with roasted cremini mushrooms tossed about toasted garlic chips under a blanketing trio of mozzarella, provolone, and parmigiano cheeses ($23 per pie, $3.50 per slice), or fall mouth first into a marinara pie featuring garden-rich basil, fresh thyme, and toasted garlic splashed with extra-virgin olive oil and salted by the sea ($19 per pie, $3 per slice). The bianco verde is a fan favorite, with its potent combination of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, parmigiano, arugula pesto, chili flakes, and olive oil. Carnivores can hang a fang on hand-crafted salami, crater-laden sausage, and salt-cured anchovies for an extra $3 per ingredient.
Pizzas and microbrews. Arcade games and theater. While chowing down on a pepperoni slice, or twirling shrimp alfredo around a fork, guests at La Val's Pizza can sometimes take in a play, catch up with friends, or use a pool cue to spear a neighboring table's margarita pie.
La Val's dining area sprawls across several rooms. In one, Devo and Citizen Kane posters hang above red booths. In another space, sunlight streams in through large windows, illuminating ropes and half a bicycle hanging from the ceiling. Rustic, picnic-table-style seating lines a brick wall in yet another area. Across all the rooms, however, a cohesive palette of warm colors unites the decor and creates a friendly atmosphere.