Pollara Pizzeria Coming to Berkeley
The latest pizza trend? Going straight-edge.
Pollara Pizzeria is bringing Roman-style pizza to Berkeley.
Photo by Mitch Tobias
Call it Roman. Call it Sicilian. Call it Detroit-style. Call it Grandma. Just don’t call it circular.
Characterized by a thicker crust that can support heavier loads of toppings, pizzas cooked in square and rectangular pans offer a refreshingly sturdy alternative to the wispy Neapolitan-style pies that have dominated the Bay Area in recent years. In the East Bay, pizzerias catering to this new fad have sprung up in Livermore (Cloud 9 Pizzeria), Walnut Creek (Slice House), Oakland (Leaning Tower), and now Berkeley, where Jon Smulewitz is opening a slice shop focused on al taglio, or Roman-style pizza.
For Smulewitz, who also owns the Sicilian restaurant Dopo in Oakland, there is an obvious visual appeal to the style that he first encountered at Gabriele Bonci’s famed Pizzarium in Rome.
“You eat with your eyes, and the display and bounty of ingredients on top of the pizza just doesn’t seem real,” he says. “From charcuterie to vegetables to different anchovies, there are all these wonderful toppings laid out for you.”
Another revelation was the dough, which is cold-fermented for up to 72 hours to create a deep crust that’s deceptively light and crisp. Smulewitz has been refining this intricate dough-making process for eight years and is ready to unveil the results at his new restaurant, Pollara Pizzeria, debuting this month on Berkeley’s Fourth Street.
There, he’ll offer a menu of 10 pies to go—five regular selections, plus five rotating seasonal options—along with salads, antipasti, arancini, and wine and beer.
“It will be very visual and very beautiful,” Smulewitz says. “You see something that excites you, and you order it.” pollarapizzeria.com.
Diablo’s handy guide to the different types of square pizza
Roman (al taglio): A common street food in Rome, this style is characterized by a light, airy crust covered with a wide and eclectic range of toppings.
Where to get it: Pollara Pizzeria, Berkeley
Sicilian: These pies are similar to the Roman variety but typically have a denser, chewier focaccia-style crust and a sparser selection of classic toppings.
Where to get it: Slice House, Walnut Creek
Detroit-style: Popularized in (you guessed it) Detroit, this style has much in common with the Sicilian, but it’s customized using industrial steel pans repurposed from the auto industry. Defining characteristics include a crispy, cheesy, caramelized crust around the pan’s border and lines of sauce on top. Wisconsin brick cheese (similar to cheddar) is traditionally used in the Midwest, but it’s not widely available on the West Coast.
Where to get it: Cloud 9 Pizzeria, Livermore; Slice House, Walnut Creek
Grandma: Inspired by the kind of pizzas cooked at home by Italian grandmothers without access to a pizza oven, Grandma-style pies are made using shorter-proofed dough, resulting in a thinner, slightly denser crust. There also tends to be an emphasis on the olive oil–crisped bottom crust.
Where to get it: Sister, Oakland (weekend brunch only); Slice House, Walnut Creek