For many years, I have been underwhelmed by the pizza offerings in Berkeley. I do enjoy the pizza at Cheeseboard, but it is always a meatless pizza, and there is only one combination offered daily. It is a bit of a crapshoot. It’s pretty much the same issue at Arizmendi and at Sliver. I am not fond of the crust in Zachary’s thin crust pizza, and don’t really care for their “Chicago-style” offering either. I want a thin-crust, ideally wood-fired pizza with some nice char and blistering on the crust. I want it topped to the edge, not to within 2.5”-3” of the edge as was my experience at Pizzaiola, and its equally disappointing cousin Boot & Shoe Service. I like the crust at In the Wood, but their choice of toppings doesn’t quite do it for me. Gioia’s was ok, but I like a firmer crust. I don’t want to have to fold a slice to keep it from flopping, and that also eliminates Arinell. I do like the pizza from Phoenix Pastificio a great deal, but getting one is a nightmare; every time I have called I was told I was too late to order or they weren’t making pizza that day. If I go to San Francisco, I can find what I am looking for at Delfina. If I go to Sacramento, I can get what I want at OneSpeed. I found good pizza in Denver. I found multiple places I like in New York City. And there was a great place in Faenza Italy, five minutes from the apartment we lived in.
My wife and I went to Pizza Moda as part of a summer mission to more fully explore pizza options in the Berkeley-Oakland area while the majority of undergrads are away from Berkeley. We went on a Thursday night, and arrived close to opening. We ordered the fried calamari appetizer and two pizzas. We had read that on Thursdays they offered free corkage, and after reviewing the wines they carried decided to bring a bottle from our cellar. I started with a pleasant pint of IPA. The calamari was nicely done. It was tender and not greasy as is sometimes the case. My wife is not an onion fan, and so the dish was a bit heavy on onion for her taste. I do wish there had been a bit more calamari. We ordered a broccoli rabe pizza and added sausage to it, and then a potato-pancetta pizza. They were topped to the edge, and not overtopped. Pizzas in Italy are quite lightly topped. The toppings should not be there to obscure the crust. I did like the flavor of the dough, and it was baked to a point where the slices supported the weight of the toppings. No folding of slices was necessary. My wife and I like to eat. We ended up with three-quarters of a pizza to take home. A 12” pie with a shared appetizer may be quite sufficient for a couple with more modest appetites.
The service was efficient and professional; I can’t say this of all the places I have gone for lunch or dinner. The food was tasty. I enjoyed the pizza. If you suffered through the first paragraph, you will understand that this is not commonly the case. I do like Delfina’s pizza more, but this is much more convenient. It is also easier than making a batch of dough, and waiting for it to rise slowly in a refrigerator before baking pizzas in a tile-lined oven at home. Overall, I thought it was a good dining value. I appreciated the free corkage option; they also offer wines at half price on Wednesdays. If you don’t like wine, a selection of beers is available. The parking lot gives you a welcome alternative to street parking.
My wife and both enjoyed our experience, and we will be back. Further research will be done in the next few months, but for now, Pizza Moda moves to the top spot on my list of pizza places in Berkeley. If you have been disappointed with pizza in Berkeley, you may want to give Pizza Moda a try. Perhaps you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
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