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Apr 18, 2010 02:55 PM

Best pizza and beer in Bay Area?

I am planning a pizza and beer/wine tour for my Dad's 70th birthday. I am looking for fantastic pizza a la the Red Grape in Sonoma in SF, East Bay and South Bay. Also any recommendations for fantastic brew pubs with great pizza are welcome.

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  1. For the combination of great pizza and great beer, I think Little Star has to be a prime candidate. However, Little Star's specialty is deep dish, not thin crust, like the Red Grape. That's not to say that their thin crust isn't delicious, it's just not as superlative as the deep dish.

    21st amendment has decent pizza and great beers, gordon biersch, a little less so on each count.

    While some may suggest Pi Bar, I find their pizza to be just all right.

    Little Star Cafe
    1536 Newell Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

    2 Replies
    1. re: vulber

      Pizza + Beer is right in Pi Bar's strike zone. My wife and I happen to be big fans. They have an interesting, ever changing selection of beers. And their pies match my tastes really well. Their Pi-R-Squared happy hour specials are a good deal too.

      One reviewer complained that they over cook their pies, and I think there is some truth to that. But if you eat it there, and get your pie or slice fresh from the oven, it's all good.

      1. re: BernalKC

        compared to Arinell's, maybe its decent. but definitely not NY-style good, and overpriced. yes, they use higher quality ingredients, but that doesn't matter to me if it doesn't taste good.

    2. My favorite is the Berkeley Lanesplitter, because they have cask-conditioned beer on hand pump. (The Temescal branch's has been broken for months.)

      21 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I must be doing something wrong, because I've had pizza twice at Lanesplitter and both times it was mediocre at best. Can't speak to the beer because I never touch the stuff.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I think we may have very different taste in pizza. You said something in one thread about liking a lot of cheese. The New York-inspired style that Lanesplitter does demands a light hand with the toppings or the pizza doesn't come out appropriately crisp.

          My rule is to order a small whole pie and eat it there. Slices are fine but suffer from reheating, the large pies don't seem to cook as evenly, and (as anywhere) takeout suffers from steaming in the box.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I'm not really about a lot of cheese. If anything, I'm more about what you described in an earlier discussion "an assertively flavored sauce." I think pizza is all about the marriage of crust, sauce and cheese. Everything else is flatbread with toppings -- it might be delicious, but it's not pizza. Anyway, I found the Lanesplitter pizza to be seriously bland.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              We get either a "Carnivore" (pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and onion) or once in a while for a change a "Heartstopper" (bacon, gorgonzola, roasted garlic, and spinach), neither of which are what I'd call bland.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I've had consistently better pizzas from the Lakeshore branch than the Berkeley one - I also tried the Berkeley Lanesplitter twice and wasn't that impressed. Both times, the crust was too thick for my liking (I've only had the large pizzas there). I've only had that problem once at the Lakeshore branch (I get take out from them on a near-weekly basis).

                  Right now, my top pizza in the East Bay (not including Pizzaiolo/Boot and Shoe Service) is Emilia's, followed by Gioia (which should actually be out of the running due to their extremely restricted hours). I do like both Lanesplitter and Rotten City Pizza as well, and I appreciate that they both have interesting, signature pizzas not found elsewhere.

                  For me, a thorough East Bay pizza tour would include:
                  Pizzaiolo or Boot and Shoe Service (puffy crust, wood-burning oven)
                  Emilia or Gioia (super thin crust, spare toppings - for me, these represent the great NY-style pie)
                  Lanesplitter or Rotten City Pizza (these remind me of good New York street slices - Lanesplitter's toppings run more American, and Rotten City more Italian)
                  Arizmendi (idiosyncratic sourdough crust, no tomato sauce, veggie toppings. More delicious than it seems possible )

                  Unfortunately, I'm not being really helpful with the beer part...

                  5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                  Gioia Pizzeria
                  1586 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA 94707

                  3265 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA

                  Rotten City Pizza
                  6613 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

                  Emilia's Pizzeria
                  2995 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                  Boot and Shoe Service
                  3308 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                  1. re: daveena

                    Lanesplitter Lakesore is takeout only.

                    Emilia's has a couple of tables but no beer.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Ill have to try Lanesplitter again. I got a carnivore in Berkeley and the crust was soggy/limp not crisp as I was anticipating - so I had scratched it off for repeat visit.'

                      I like the thin pizza at Little Star as well as the deep dish. I also like LoCoco in Berkeley/Oakland. They use tiny pepperoni and it gets nice and crunchy (or I get the prosciutto and arugla one). But not really a beer place.

                      Lococo's Restaurant & Pizzeria
                      1400 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                      1. re: myst

                        Lococo's in Berkeley and Lo Coco's in Oakland have different menus. I believe they're owned by cousins. The Oakland one has a great fresh-ricotta pizza.

                        I've found Lanesplitter's pizzas more consistent in the last couple of years. I used to specify dark bake but that doesn't seem to be necessary any more.

                        Lo Coco's Restaurant
                        4270 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I still ask for the crust extra crisp when ordering from Lanesplitter's (mostly the Temescal location), and the few times I forgot to, I really did notice the difference. Maybe it doesn't matter as much if you're eating in rather than getting takeout though.

                          I was really unimpressed when I tried the Lo Coco's on Piedmont, and couldn't stop thinking the whole time about how much better a meal I'd be having (for more or less the same price) if I had just gone across the street to Dopo instead. The cash-only stipulation was off-putting in a restaurant that I found to be neither particularly good nor a particularly good value.

                          Dopo is another place in Oakland with noteworthy pizza, though I don't think of it as a beer place.

                          4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                          Lo Coco's Restaurant
                          4270 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                          1. re: abstractpoet

                            I like LoCoco's pizza a lot, but I like Dopo's as well. They're simply very different animals. The LoCoco pizza is a thick, chewy crust with great flavor. It is not crisp.

                            As to the no credit cards situation, that is true, but unlike almost anyplace else on the planet, LoCoco's takes PERSONAL CHECKS! It's simply an old school, family run business. I find that both endearing and convenient. I once had a friend pick up a large order for my students. When she realized that she couldn't use her credit card, they told her to just have me drop by sometime the next week to pay them.

                            4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                            1. re: lexdevil

                              Except that I no longer routinely carry my checkbook!

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Me neither, but I do take it to LoCoco's. I like having a chance, every so often, to live in a world in which people still trust one another. It might even make the food taste a bit better (though nothing will solve the problem of their nebbish salads).

                                1. re: lexdevil

                                  The salads are a no go. Its the tiny pepperoni that get me. They get really crisp! But I like different types of pizza on different days. I have yet to find any NY style pizza in the bay area that tastes like NYC pizza to me. I'm in NYC at least once a year.

                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Loco's now take credit cards (at least the one on Piedmont does.

                                3. re: lexdevil

                                  The old school vibe was perfectly appealing, and had I liked the food, I wouldn't have cared about the cash-only thing (which isn't really that big a deal).

                                  I'm pretty open-minded as far as pizza is concerned -- I don't even mind Zachary's every now and again -- but the pie we had at LoCoco's just wasn't good. It's been a while, though, and they might have just had an off night, so if 'hounds vouch for it, maybe I'll reserve judgment and give it another shot.

                                  (Also, I lived in Providence, RI for 6 years, and there are tons of great old school Italian-American places in the same vein as LoCoco's there, so I may have had overly high expectations.)

                                  1. re: abstractpoet

                                    The sauceless ricotta pie with anchovies that Robert mentioned is pretty special and rather unusual. They will not do it as a take away because they don't think it holds up well. I agree with myst on the more-ishess of the pepperoni. There are times that I like the eggplant, and other times that I find it overwhelming. The artichoke and mushroom that is the house veggie pizza is solid comfort food. Just remember that every LoCoco's pizza has a chewy, bready crust, and that all but the ricotta pizza feature LOTS of gooey cheese. If you desire a crisp crust, restraint, or subtlety, you will not be happy.

                                  2. re: lexdevil

                                    Lococo’s in Berkeley had fallen of my radar for so many years. Had a chance to try it again tonight on the recommendation of a good friend. Such a delicious pizza. Reminded me of pizza I’d had as a child – Italian restaurant pizza, not fast food, not take-out, not frozen - but pizza from an old school Italian restaurant. Really flavorful sauce, great crust – crispy but not too thin, yet not doughy at all – perfect amount of cheese. We ordered it with their fantastic Sicilian meatballs – so good, but I wish I’d gotten a side of them on their own, as I remembered doing about 12 years ago, along with a side salad. Regardless, their pizza is going to be my take-out go-to for the East Bay.

                                    We also had their board special papardelle Bolognese – WONDERFUL. Perfectly al dente papardelle -toothsome- yes, i used the word, toothsome!, tender and meaty/flavorful meat sauce – I don’t think I’ll ever order anything else there again for pasta, although my linguini and vongole was very yummy too, as were my friends’ pesto ravioli and pesto gnocchi, respectively (ravioli was better), and even my dad’s take-home ravioli with sugo (just tomato sauce) was fresh, rich and flavorful, a really nice tangy tomato sauce - again, something about it evoked childhood for me - and i didn't grow up eating homecooked italian food, so i don't know what that was about..... Pillowy raviolis. Their bread is really good too, comes nice and warm and toasty. So glad we rediscovered this place.

                                    I know this was slightly off topic, because i had no beer (we had white wine), but my first search for the place turned up this thread. maybe the mods will end up moving it...

                                  3. re: abstractpoet

                                    At the Lakeshore Lanesplitter I find the crust highly dependent on who's manning the oven- if it's the tall guy w/ dark hair and sideburns (forget his name, sorry) you're in good hands; otherwise I find the char lacking more often than not.

                                    Paying $13 for a large pepperoni picked up 2 minutes from my house goes a certain distance toward making up for this, however...

                                    1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                      Yes! I've had the good luck to have that guy make almost all of the pizzas I've had there. He makes the crusts thinner, too.

                                  4. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    I have noticed some variations in the menus and some similarities too, but the pizza seems good at both. I like the meatball in Berkeley and the mushroom appetizer in Oakland.

                2. The best brewpub in the country is Russian River Brewing Company in downtown Santa Rosa. They make a pretty good pizza and make incredible American and Belgian style beers. If you put your focus on going to Russian River, you could also easily visit Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa, Bear Republic in Healdsburg, and Lagunitas' Beer Sanctuary in Petaluma.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pininex

                    the ales from the Russian River Brewing are among the best artisan brews in this country; there are many more places one can find good to great pizza than there are comparable brew pubs.

                  2. Does the pizza and beer have to be at the same place? If not, I'd recommend Gialina, Flour+Water, Pizzeria Picco, Tony's Pizza Napletano.. probably in that order. For beers, I'd recommend Toronado (it's more of a dive bar with great beers than a place that makes their own, but they've got a great & wide selection of beers at very reasonable prices)

                    2842 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94131

                    Pizzeria Picco
                    320 Magnolia Ave, Larkspur, CA 94939

                    Tony's Pizza
                    440 E Todd Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: jlfoodie

                      Not a Brew pub and probably won't work for the OP.

                      But Rotten City Pizza in Emeryville has a daily special of a can of PBR and a fantastic pizza slice for $5.

                      I have been getting it every week...I'm hooked!

                      Rotten City Pizza
                      6613 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

                      1. re: Mission

                        I'm not a beer drinker, but Rotten City (esp the pepperoni) is exactly what I thought of too. These are the NY slices of my childhood--the ones everyone claims to have, but no one else really delivers on.

                        Thin crust, greasy, perfect light touch on the cheese and sauce, reheated for 90 seconds. Don't overdo it with the toppings.

                        Pi Bar has a better beer and wine selection, and the slices are fine. But Rotten City's in a different league.

                        1. re: Windy

                          Even as a Pi Bar fan, I agree that the Rotten City pizza is in a different league. But the OP is looking for the beer + pizza combo, and RC is mostly take out and beer free. Same with Goia, right?

                          And I'd put the Jupiter up there with Lanesplitter. Not cuz their pizza is so awesome, but because their beer selection is good and its a nice place.

                          1. re: BernalKC

                            Although the beer selection is good at Jupiter, I feel that they have a problem with keeping the taps clean. I don't really like the pizza at Jupiter.

                            I love, love, love the beer at Russian River, but find the pizza to be substandard.

                            I'm at a loss for a good combo of beer/pizza except for Lanesplitter. Love the Heartstopper.

                            What about B Restaurant and a trip to the Trappist?

                            1. re: The Dive

                              Agree that the pizza at RRBC is substandard when considered on a standalone basis, but as brewpub pizza I find it superior to the typical mediocre brewpub fare at Bear Republic, for example.

                              I am partial to the Mamma Mia, pepperoni, pineapple & jalapeno, which is a combo I normally wouldn't consider but again, as brewpub fare it's perfectly fine and pairs well with Blind Pig or Pliny.

                              1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                I actually like the food mre at Bear Republic (especially if they have an interesting chili), but the beers at RRBC win me over every time. And if beer is more important than pizza, I strongly recommend RRBC.

                              2. re: The Dive

                                B has a small but good selection of draft beer, current menu has Trumer Pils, Red Seal Ale, Deschutes Porter, Haywire Hefeweizen, and West Coast IPA.

                                B Restaurant & Bar
                                499 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                              3. re: BernalKC

                                I'm sure I saw beer at Rotten City.

                                1. re: Windy

                                  RC does have beer in bottles.

                                  But OP wanted a place for a birthday dinner, so that leaves RC out.
                                  For a birthday dinner, where people won't be too picky about the quality of the pizza, I'd go with Lanesplitter. I like Zachary's myself, but unless you go early, it isn't a place to hang out for a birthday party, and the beer selection is limited. (Although in Rockridge, you could take the party down the street to Barclay's or Ben & Nick's).

                                  1. re: Bryan Gros

                                    The original post says "a pizza and beer/wine tour," not dinner.

                        2. How is the pizza at Bobby G's in Berkeley? They carry some good beers and usually have Pliny the Elder on tap.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pininex

                            The ingredients are good quality (often organic) at Bobby G's and there is pliny on tap, but I wasn't blown away by the pizza. I defnitely liked Lanesplitter more. Need to check out Rotten City.