Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
New (Veggie) Pizza in Town
“Make Pizza, Not War.”
Like the logo. Pizza sliced into the no-nukes peace sign.
Walking along Island, from the Tivoli, through Chinatown (you can tell by the street lights), heading for Fifth. Notice this new place in an old building. And it promises Chicago deep-dish, but where the deep part is stuffings, not inch-thick pastry.
And, oh yeah! I think I recognize these guys from the Little Italy farmers’ market. They sell half-baked pizzas there. Not half-baked as in not much good, but actually half-baked so you can bake it to completion at home. But that was it. They had no other place you come to sit down and eat.
Now, looks like they have a home (Berkeley Pizza, 539 Island, downtown, 619-937-0808).
Right in the heart of Chinatown.
It’s kinda nice, lots of friendly chat. Crew seems fresh, enthusiastic. Yes, it's bare bones seating inside but —good sign — a big kitchen. Priorities right.
“We started at the farmers' market two years ago and moved in here two weeks ago,” says Eric Rochester. He’s manning the counter. Seems the place's founder, Danny Palacios, was studying at U.C. Berkeley, eating some pretty good Chicago-style pizzas around the campus, and got the idea. Bring it on home!
This is how his family basically made pizza. 'Specially a deep-dish mushroom spinach pizza. Me, I’m hot for anything. Except, if you order a deep-dish pizza, you wait an hour, hour and a half. That’s how long these things take to cook. Slice, maybe five minutes.
So I get a spinach-and-mushroom slice for me and a pepperoni for that beautiful carnivore, Carla.
Eric and my mushroom-spinach pizza slice
By the time I get them both back to the ranch, we do have to rebake. But, oh, talk about deep-dish relish. Plenty of tomato and whatever mush, not all thick dough, and that great four-cheese combo with the spinach. We both get red mustaches and one slice is almost a meal. I mean, mine cost $4.25 and Carla’s $3.50, so, yes, high expectations.
Most crowded time? Any night between one and two. They get lines. Really chatty lines. They say a lot of beautiful relationships are beginning out on the sidewalk. Danny says they're working on tables and umbrellas outside, too.
And, hey, forget Chicago. Maybe this is the real deal San Diego pizza.
But, Danny, seeing you're in Chinatown, how's about 'Diego's first Chinese pizza...?