After many months of eager anticipation, Berkeley favorite Gioia Pizzeria (2240 Polk Street) has arrived in Russian Hill. The incarnation on this side of the Bay includes several notable additions that make it well worth the wait.
For one, owners Will and Karen Gioia have decided to expand the menu to include sandwiches, pastas, entrees and desserts. You’ll also notice a large and thoughtfully designed dining area featuring sit-down service. This is quite an evolution beyond the cozy pizza parlor vibe of the East Bay original. The East Coast-style thin crust pizza remains consistent, however, as it comes crisp with billowing cornicione from a large Montague gas oven. Somewhat cheeky diagrams are also on display, helpfully illustrating the preferred manner by which most New Yorkers enjoy a slice: folded.
The lunch menu is full of traditional Italian appetizers prepared with local fare. The housemade charcuterie as well as the Bellwether Farms cheese-stuffed shells appear to be standouts. I’ll confirm this after I’ve tried them. But after my first foray into this prized pizzeria, I couldn’t bring myself to try anything but pizza. The Salsiccia pie, served with housemade sicilian sausage, pecorino cheese and pickled peppers, is the optimal blend of spicy and savory and I wish had another slice or 4 in front of me as I type this.
The husband and wife team behind the eponymous restaurant received their culinary pedigree at Chez Panisse, so you can bet your oven roasted asparagus that they mean serious business. The quality of ingredients and thoughtfulness of preparation really shines through on all of the items that play prominently on this San Francisco menu. As a New York ex-pat living in Berkeley for over 5 years, Gioia was one of my ultimate go-tos. And now they’ve joined me on this side of the Bay, better than ever. Think you can find a better East Coast slice in this city? Fuggettaboutit!