The Bay Area takes its pizza very seriously. We happily fork over $25 for an individual pizza. We exclaim over the beauty of the wood-fired oven. We roll our eyes at yet another stinging nettle pizza--so passe! But what about the times when you want something a little less serious? When you've got $4 in your pocket and need a filling meal? When your child decides they hate all foods that aren’t a combination of bread and cheese? Or when you’re drunk?
Therein lies the beauty of pizza by the slice, ideally served by a surly teen and showered with a mountain of (probably sawdust-containing) Parmesan. It’s cheap, accessible and much easier to eat while walking than a burrito. A few years ago, we covered pizza by the slice in the East Bay--Rotten City, Gioia, Cheeseboard, Nick’s Pizza and Arinell’s-- but since then, there’s been a wave of new restaurants catering to the universal desire for good, cheap pizza.
Our new list features pizza by the slice joints in Berkeley and Oakland, baked in a traditional gas oven. Whether or not you blot--or use a fork and knife--is between you and your gods, but let us know what you think in the comments: did we miss your favorite spot?
Oakland’s Slicer is relaxed and colorful, with communal tables, a crowd-pleasing selection of drinks (including homemade agua frescas), and a giant sasquatch painting decorating a wall. But even though it looks like just another pizza place, it has a serious pedigree (owner Colin Etezadi is a Pizzaiolo veteran) and a commitment to local, sustainable produce. They do things like make their own sausage and offer toppings like calabrian chilis, but they still offer powdered Parmesan and Coke. The crust is slightly thicker than your average thin slice, and a cheese slice was satisfying chewy and tender, and large enough that it required folding. Their creative use of that sustainable produce makes for some delicious combinations, like the eggplant slice I tried. Savory, slightly spicy and minty, it was complex and one of the most enjoyable slices I tried.
4395 Piedmont Ave [Map]
Oakland, CA 94611
Ph: (510) 808-5424
Hours: Tue-Sat, 11:30am-9pm, Closed Monday
Facebook: Slicer Pizzeria
Price range: $ (Slice $10 and under)
Top Dog is a Berkeley institution, with two locations bordering the UC campus offering a delicious menu of creative sausages served in a setting that recalls the city’s counterculture history. (Fun fact: in 2013, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke at a UC Berkeley graduation. During his speech, he talked about his love of Top Dog, declaring that that Apple’s famous minimalism was partially inspired by the Top Dog’s simple pricing). A few years ago, owner Dick Riemann decided to change things up, and transformed the Northside Top Dog across from campus into Pizzahhh. Fear not: the sixties hippie vibe remains, as does their instructive poster about the value of hard work (buy it for only $10!). And like their other restaurants, they’ve maintained their combination of cheap prices and surprisingly gourmet touches: some of the pizza toppings include eggs, figs, or a porcini glaze. They also offer three sausages (including a mango habanero) to add to your pizza if you miss their pork products. The cheese slice was delicious and salty, as was the the second slice I tried, one of their rotating daily specials. It was topped with artichoke hearts, onion, olives, ricotta and pesto, a thoughtful vegetarian slice that--coupled with the tacked up treatises against Bernie Madoff and the prison industrial complex I read while eating--made for a distinctly Berkeley experience.