Nick’s Pizza owner Nick Yapor-Cox has an easy smile, an infectious enthusiasm for his hometown and a childlike zeal for sourdough. The down-to-earth entrepreneur grew up in North Oakland, just a few blocks away from where he opened his pizza business in 2012.
“I liked the idea of opening a neighborhood joint,” says Nick. “Pizza is a regular food, and I enjoy being a regular part of people’s lives.” Indeed, Nick’s has a strong neighborhood following, which is broadened somewhat by his evening delivery service. As we talk, Nick nods appreciatively to a customer seated across from us who lives a few doors down from the shop.
You might not guess from the unpretentious storefront that Nick cut his teeth at two of Manhattan’s finest restaurants (he worked as a pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park and Alex Guarnaschelli’s Butter Restaurant). Nick’s fine dining experience in New York made him homesick for the Bay Area, where he returned to continue his pastry training at the now-shuttered B Restaurant in Old Oakland and at Mary Canales’s then-new ice cream shop, Ici.
Nick started making pizza at B Restaurant, but it was his more recent experience at the worker-owned Arizmendi Bakery in Emeryville that crystallized his entrepreneurial vision and inspired a love of sourdough.
“Sourdough is the pulse of what I was excited about at Arizmendi,” says Nick, moving in a little closer to explain what makes sourdough such a compelling medium. “You really have to have a relationship with the dough,” he explains. “You have to watch it. You have to be careful with it.” Nick asks if I want to see the starter he uses, then leads me to the refrigerator to point out a bucket of the glistening, bubbling dough that he has used to start every delightfully chewy pizza crust he’s made since the tiny shop opened.