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Rotten City Pizza in Emeryville?

oddgirl Jan 7, 2009 12:32 PM

There's a new sign on the co-op kitchen building on Hollis in Emeryville, but nothing comes up for it when I google it.

Anyone have any info? I'd love to have a good pizza place around here.


  1. n
    nessav Jan 9, 2009 03:51 PM

    I think they will be opening soon. I saw a posting on Craigslist that they are looking to hire staff. So the place should be up and running soon.

    1. o
      oddgirl Feb 2, 2009 12:17 PM

      Yup - looks like it is open now. Some co-workers went at lunch and said it was packed. And delicious.

      I'll probably wait a few days.

      1. BernalKC Feb 2, 2009 12:56 PM

        I'll also confirm it was open and delicious. It was crowded, but more because of the inept service than the large crowd. The main guy better whip his help into shape quick, cuz the crowds will be there soon.

        My friend got a plain slice ($3), I got a mushroom slice ($3.5). Fancy names on the menu (neapolatain, funghi) to match the prices, and one slice is not enough for a lunch if you're hungry. We both agreed that the proportions and ingredients were very good. My friend thought the crust wasn't flavorful enough, but I disagree. I thought it was a very well made pie. Nice and thin, but cooked firm enough to hold up the slice. The crust was substantial and cooked to a nice light, crunchy perfection. My mushrooms were flavorful and aromatic, a lot better than the bland criminis one usually gets. I gotta try the anchovy and bianca slices next time. They looked excellent.

        First impression: high end delivery and execution of classic pizza. Delicious. Will definitely repeat. Again and again.

        6 Replies
        1. re: BernalKC
          Scott M Feb 2, 2009 01:33 PM

          Can you provide a little more explanation of the place in regards to menu and seating? Is the place more like Arinell's, Gioia, Lanesplitter?

          What are their hours?

          1. re: Scott M
            kc72 Feb 2, 2009 01:37 PM

            Address would be nice also.

            1. re: Scott M
              BernalKC Feb 2, 2009 01:46 PM

              Counter service. No seating. Some limited counters to stand by, which helped jam up the service. Best to order by phone and take the pie out, IMO.

              6613 Hollis St., Emeryville, 510.655.CITY
              11-8 mon-thurs
              11-10 fri, sat
              closed on sunday

              1. re: BernalKC
                mitzimarmle Feb 2, 2009 02:24 PM

                Do you (or anyone else) happen to know if they're going to deliver?

                1. re: mitzimarmle
                  BernalKC Feb 2, 2009 02:28 PM

                  Their take out menu says yes, but I would call to see if that is up and running yet. The same menu also shows a URL that currently appears to be parked: http://www.rottencitypizza.com -- clearly they need time to work things out.

                  1. re: mitzimarmle
                    kc72 Feb 2, 2009 02:29 PM

                    I Yahoo searched the name and a CraigsList ad came up looking for workers (including delivery ppl).

            2. s
              sydthekyd Feb 2, 2009 02:37 PM

              How did they get that name?

              1 Reply
              1. re: sydthekyd
                twocents Feb 12, 2009 09:51 AM

                Long-time reputation as a hotbed of corruption and iniquity. The back of their take-out menu explains, and there is a quote from Earl Warren that is the direct reference. Another Emeryville restaurant, The Townhouse, was apparently once the hangout of the corrupt mayor (I assume before the current incarnation of the restaurant).

                I pretty much agree with BernalKC's review above. I thought the crust was flavorful, enough salt, and baked just short of scorched (hints of black at the bottom, but no actual char). I liked the sauce, which was not too wet, preventing the slices from getting soggy though I would have liked a little more, and the ingredients were good quality and flavorful. Large, thin crust pies, not NY style in that there is much less cheese and better ingredients; not Pizzaiolo in that they are larger and less fancy. Still more like those two thank a typical California utility pizza.

              2. Glencora Feb 19, 2009 10:53 AM

                Their website is working now.

                I had a slice of the funghi for lunch yesterday. As BernalKC said, it's intensely mushroomy, the most mushroomy pizza I've ever had. Friend had a slice of the salumi of the day. It looked like prosciutto but it was something else -- beginning with a c. I can't remember. He liked it, anyhow. We both really liked the slightly charred crust, too.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Glencora
                  peterme Feb 23, 2009 06:19 PM

                  I just ordered a funghi pie delivered to my house. It was quite good, but not in the same league as Gioia. There's something about the Gioia pie that just fills your mouth with flavor... and the Gioia funghi experience is much more mushroom-y.
                  BUT, Gioia doesn't deliver. And this is definitely the best delivered pie I've had in the East Bay.

                  1. re: peterme
                    Glencora Feb 23, 2009 06:34 PM

                    Funny, I don't like Gioia very much. I think Rotten City is better, especially the crust. But pizza is certainly subjective.

                    1. re: peterme
                      BernalKC Feb 23, 2009 06:39 PM

                      Comparing a slice from a home delivered Rotten City pie to a walk-up slice at Goia is problematic, no? It does suggest a fun lunch crawl / experiment: Go to Rotten City and get 2 slices of funghi. Eat one, hold onto the other. Head next to Goia and repeat procedure. Take remaining slices home and cool to room temperature. Reheat both at best you can. Compare and contrast.

                      1. re: BernalKC
                        abstractpoet Feb 26, 2009 06:30 PM

                        Ordered a funghi pie today. Found out, unfortunately, that they don't deliver as far as Lake Merritt, so we had to go pick it up. By the time we got through rush hour traffic both ways, the pizza definitely wasn't close to hot anymore. BUT, after eating a couple of lukewarm slices, we heated the rest up in the oven, and it reheated beautifully. Just five minutes in the oven, and the crust crisped right back up.

                        I liked the texture and how the pizza isn't too heavy with the toppings--might slightly prefer this to Lanesplitter in that respect, though $23 a pie definitely isn't a bargain. Still, I think we'd be ordering from here regularly if it were more close by.

                        1. re: BernalKC
                          Agent 510 Feb 26, 2009 08:10 PM

                          I guess I kind of tried this experiment last week...I tried slices of each place's Calabrian sausage pie, reheated at home, on consecutive days.

                          Based on this, I'd have to say Rotten City is the clear winner. It was more flavorful than the Gioia pie, which was more "greasy" than "flavorful" (and had more of the slice taken up by the crust at the edge).

                          Not sure if it's safe to say Gioia has slipped based on that, but based on 3 other slices I've had from there, Rotten City is the real thing.

                          1. re: Agent 510
                            BernalKC Feb 26, 2009 08:36 PM

                            You did the experiment? What a riot. I was just ad libbing, cojuring up a lunch adventure for myself...

                            ..but how cool. I think the reheating experience would totally depend on the toppings. I think I've pretty much had all their pies now, and I would feel bad about having to reheat the margherita. It just would not be as good.

                            As for Lanesplitter, their pies could do with a little drying out. A Lanesplitter Heartstooper 'refrito' style could work...

                            1. re: BernalKC
                              Agent 510 Feb 26, 2009 08:57 PM

                              Well, it was more like "I just want to try both places" rather than "I MUST do the experiment and prove conclusively which is best!" But, yeah.

                              Neither place has tables or a place to eat, so unless you like eating on the sidewalk or in your car (or live close by), reheating may be necessary.

                    2. rworange Mar 19, 2009 09:29 PM


                      Rotten City Pizza
                      6613 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

                      1. J T Mar 20, 2009 09:01 AM

                        I wish they'd use feta instead of ricotta on their Bianco Verde.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: J T
                          chemchef Mar 20, 2009 12:00 PM

                          Really???? I LOVE the ricotta and the slight sweetness it lends to the pizza.

                          1. re: chemchef
                            BernalKC Mar 20, 2009 01:35 PM

                            I just had a whole bianca pie a few days ago and I agree with both of you. It is a nice sublte flavor... and a beautiful spiral of pesto... but it could use a little added spike oof flavor. Replacing the ricotta with feta would be overkill. I'm thinking some red pepper flakes...

                        2. e
                          ernie in berkeley Mar 20, 2009 12:42 PM

                          They offer an authentic East Coast-style meatball hero sandwich (they call it a sub, though), so I tried it the other day.

                          It looked exactly right. Five or six meatballs in tomato sauce with a slice of provolone. The texture was exactly right, with a San Marzano tomato sauce soaking the properly-crusted roll. But something was off.

                          I finally figured it out when I left: the roll was sourdough, and a particularly sour one at that. Oh well, the pizza's good.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: ernie in berkeley
                            ernie in berkeley May 15, 2009 12:46 PM


                            They've switched to a sweet roll, as crusty and chewy as anything you'd get in New York, and all is well. The owner recognized me and mentioned that he saw Chowhound post above and credited it with influencing their switch. Vox Hounduli, the Hounds have spoken!

                            1. re: ernie in berkeley
                              chemchef May 15, 2009 01:32 PM

                              That is an awesome story! Will have to try the meatball sandwich. Every time I go in thinking I will try it, the pizza gets the best of me. Seriously, my husband and I have concluded that they must put crack in their pizza b/c we are ADDICTED to it! Right now, its my favorite pizza in the area (we live in Berkeley).

                            2. re: ernie in berkeley
                              Robert Lauriston Aug 21, 2012 02:50 PM

                              Finally got around to trying the meatball sandwich. First-rate. Better than the pizza, which is no slur on the pizza.

                            3. bbulkow Mar 24, 2009 10:49 PM

                              I was very happy with my two slices today. Really everything as commented here. Crust is thin and just right - good flavor, not to thin or too thick. Toppings have a *huge* taste. I don't even remember exactly what mine were, but the taste was bold and explosive. I think they had 12 pies available by the slice (or was it 9?) - lots, really. At 1pm, the slices seemed much fresher than Gioila, but I'm going to have to give Gioila another shot because my lunch buddy likes it so much. Much higher end than lanesplitter - and price to match. Two slices and a medium coke -> 8.50, which I suppose is what lunch costs these days.

                              I can't tell from authentic new york, I simply say "I like".

                              1. a
                                abstractpoet Jan 9, 2010 08:57 PM

                                Finally made our way back to Rotten City, after a long time away--not because we didn't like it our first time, but just because it's kind of out of the way for us (and we're outside of their delivery range).

                                Don't know when they put the counter w/ bar stools in, but I like that you can eat in reasonably comfortably now, though it's obviously still not a sit-down restaurant.

                                The first time we brought the pie home and reheated it, so this is the first time we ate their pizza fresh--I had a slice of the funghi and a slice of the salumi of the day. Don't know if that's a new thing too, featuring a pie with a different Fra'mani salumi each day. Today's was hot coppa. Just an awesome slice of pizza--great crust, perfect balance of all the components. The funghi slice was great too.

                                For this style of pizza (more or less NY-style, I think it's fair to say), I'm now convinced that Rotten City blows everything I've had in the Bay Area out of the water, though I still have to try Emelia's. Much better than Lanesplitter, even (and I like Lanesplitter!).

                                Other good news: They're now open on Sundays, until 8:00 pm, I believe.

                                We'll be back sooner than later this time!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: abstractpoet
                                  Sarah Jan 9, 2010 09:20 PM

                                  Eating their pizza on site makes a huge difference -- it's amazing -- take out and reheat(or not) pales... altho that may be true of any pizza.

                                2. rworange Jan 11, 2010 02:13 PM

                                  Rotten City Pizza is like Cheeseboard or Arizmendi but with NY street creds ... and meat ... and variety.

                                  Next to Cheeseboard, at this time I like Rotten City best for local pizza.

                                  Yes, they are not the same style. What they have in common is I’d order pizza from both more than once. They both taste good enough to me to throw calorie caution to the wind.

                                  With Rotten City being only a few blocks from Berkeley Bowl West, I can see stopping by for the pizza of the day and keeping an eye out for the elusive Rotten City Sicilian slice.

                                  What I like almost as much as the pizza was the vibe. It has an East Coast feel about … a tiny no-nonsense place with a simple glass counter in front holding all nine varieties on the menu plus the special of the day. The back is taken up with the pizza ovens and takeout boxes.

                                  The staff was also very down-to-earth and welcoming. They knew the customers. On a Sunday afternoon it had a real neighborhood feel.

                                  Thanks for the update, abstractpoet. This has long been on my to-try list. Yes, they are open on Sunday.

                                  The pizza itself is close to East Coast and even though there are better quality ingredients than the corner NY joint, it doesn’t Californicate the slice. I like Goia, but there’s too much of the whiff of Bay air about it.

                                  While Rotten City does have its California touches … the special was goat cheese, spinach and red onion … it doesn’t mess with the classics too much to be noticeable.

                                  I had two slices. I preferred the sausage to the mushroom. The sausage was spicy enough to add character but not be distracting. The olives on it are not really noticeable. They were there, but the sausage is the star. I never would have guessed olives if I didn’t know and did a seek and find mission.

                                  The mushroom just got too built up. It was a fine slice but I didn’t experience extreme mushroom. Maybe they changed the mushrooms? The menu lists cremini.

                                  I agree with BernalKC who wrote “I thought it was a very well made pie. Nice and thin, but cooked firm enough to hold up the slice. The crust was substantial and cooked to a nice light, crunchy perfection. …First impression: high end delivery and execution of classic pizza. Delicious”

                                  I couldn’t say it better

                                  Rotten City Pizza
                                  6613 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: rworange
                                    abstractpoet Jan 11, 2010 02:50 PM

                                    The first time we went was before BBW had opened, but you're right that that does add bonus points for convenience (and that did in fact end up being our itinerary on Saturday--pizza for lunch and then grocery shopping at the Bowl).

                                    Parking is also never an issue, as there really is not much of anything in the immediate vicinity.

                                    1. re: abstractpoet
                                      Oakland Barb Jan 12, 2010 08:00 PM

                                      Well... After these reviews we got Rotten City Pizza tonight.
                                      What a let down! It was absolutely "eh"! And the caesar was no better.
                                      Certainly not worth the drive.
                                      How disappointing!

                                      1. re: Oakland Barb
                                        abstractpoet Jan 12, 2010 08:55 PM

                                        The salad I can't speak for, but the pizza... what was it that you didn't like? Did you eat it in the store or bring it home?

                                        As mentioned, eating the pizza fresh really makes a difference, though in my experience it does reheat in the oven nicely. If driving the pizza home to Oakland during rush hour, heating it up again would be a must.

                                        1. re: abstractpoet
                                          Oakland Barb Jan 13, 2010 12:23 AM

                                          You're right.
                                          But, it's a "take out" pizza, basically, so it should hold up.
                                          The crust was average and toppings poor at best. The general, over all taste was crappy, chewy...
                                          We had a white pizza. I thought it was great that they put ricotta on the pie.
                                          White pizzas I've had elsewhere had topping! This was strange- little topping.
                                          The mozzarella topped the crust enough to make it unpleasantly chewy and the ricotta was hard to find.
                                          The arugula pesto was in almost concentric circles spaced about 3"apart and 1/4" wide with 1" holes- (this is difficult to describe!)- in the circles. It was really bizarre! As if someone really stoned made the pizza.
                                          No problem if it were good.
                                          It wasn't!

                                          1. re: Oakland Barb
                                            BernalKC Jan 13, 2010 07:21 AM

                                            Ah, the bianca -- as I said up above, it needs a flavor boost. I find that adding some chili flakes makes a big difference. Others suggest grated cheese. Of all their pies, it needs a kick in the pants. It is also more moist than the others, which combined with the carry out delay may explain the chewiness. I agree with you about the salad.

                                            Next time, if you give it another shot, I recommend trying a different pie and stealing a slice as soon as you get it. It does (with the possible exception of the bianca) hold up to reheating, but its never as good as it is fresh from the oven.

                                            1. re: BernalKC
                                              rworange Jan 13, 2010 08:23 AM

                                              There may be a reason they limit their delivery area. It may have to do with delivering a warm pie.

                                              Oddly, this pizza isn't great eaten cold. It does get chewy and loses flavor. Early on when they were doing delivery there was a complaint on yelp about the pizza being lukewarm and tasteless. Rotten City did correct the situation. When they screw up, they seem really good about taking action to make things better.

                                              This does reheat beautifully. I've been using a tip I got on Chowhound to reheat a piece in a skillet. It crisps up the crust really nicely, better than an oven, IMO ... however, if you have a whole pie that isn't an option.

                                              Since they have the pizzas sitting in the cases and reheat slices, it seems logical that it can be reheated well.

                                              It is a NY slice, which means by default the topping is sparse. It is not as sparse as some and less than others. As I mentioned in my first post, the olives on the sausage slice are so light as to be unoticable. without paying attention.

                                              I also don't think it is a destination place, but a great neighborhood joint. For me, it is well worth while to make a pit stop when shopping at Berkeley Bowl West.

                                              Instead of commiting to a pie, I hope you'll give a different slice a try sometime if you are near the Bowl. Eat it there, hot from the oven because that way ... oh my. It is about the crunch of the crust. Where this does lack for me is the sauce. And that is where every single California pizza fails. So far no one has duplicated a good East Coast sauce ... and for me, it is aout the sauce.

                                              1. re: BernalKC
                                                Melanie Wong Feb 11, 2011 12:05 PM

                                                I finally had a chance to try a slice at Rotten City Pizza last week. It's open on Sundays now.

                                                I tried a slice of the bianca verde and ate it there.

                                                I liked the sweet milkiness of the two cheeses, but have to agree that the arugula pesto adds little other than color. Also the crust at the tip was soaked through and soggy. The garlic flavor came through and I kicked it up with some grated cheese and chili flakes. The edges of the crust had nice flavor even at this stage of blonde. I'd try something else next time and would definitely go here again for a slice.

                                                Rotten City Pizza
                                                6613 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

                                    2. The Dive Dec 11, 2012 10:19 AM

                                      Finally hit Rotten City last night. I really liked it -- I think it is a better version of what they are doing at Lanesplitter (which we like, but I think can get too soggy). Got the Acciughe, which had good anchovy flavor (actually, could have had even more -- the Dopo pizza at, uh, Dopo is actually the best melding of pizza and anchovy I know). Also had a bite of the pepperoni, which was great. Love thin crust and withstrained toppings. Location and limited delivery area only downsides.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: The Dive
                                        Robert Lauriston Dec 11, 2012 08:41 PM

                                        I never find Lanesplitter's pies soggy when I get a 16" to order in the restaurant.

                                        Rotten City's good for a quick slice but compared with any of the Lanesplitter pub locations not a pleasant place to sit down and enjoy a whole pie. I'll have to give the delivery a try.

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