The Bay Area has its share of thin-crust artisan pizzerias, so recently opened Build Pizzeria Roma in Berkeley tries to stand out from the crowd with a gimmick that lets you create your own pie by choosing your own toppings.

The expansive dining room and adjacent bar is a mixture of Rome (large urban black-and-white photos) and California (reclaimed wood for tables and chairs), and the casual environment makes it a welcoming spot for families with young children.

How it Works
When you’re seated, you’re given a slip with your table number. Then you head to the “Building Department” where you start building your pizza that’s all made on a Roman-style pizza, or thin crust.

  1. First you choose the sauce: rosso, blanca or pesto
  2. Then you choose the toppings from the array of ingredients, including smoked mozzarella, pancetta, olives, mushrooms, and more.
  3. They take your pizza to the wood-fire oven and you pay at the counter. You start with the base price of $7.95 and pay per topping (from $1 to $3).
  4.  When your pizza is ready (about 3 to 6 minutes), they bring it to your table.

For now, other options include salads and soft-serve ice cream for dessert, and the bar is fully stocked with beer and wine on tap as well as an impressive cocktail program designed by Scott Beattie. But an opening bar menu with additional items like aranchini or budino was scrapped and a new menu is being developed.

Large black-and-white images add to the urban vibe

Large black-and-white images add to the urban vibe

The Last Bite
In my visits, I tried a pizza with a pesto base and overloaded with artichokes, bell peppers, and pancetta (bringing the total cost to about $13) and then a simpler rosso pizza with mushrooms and prosciutto (about $12 because of the prosciutto). Both times the toppings didn’t seem to meld together nicely, but the crust was always nicely charred and crispy on the edges with a chew in the center.

Build has a friendly staff, but it’s still learning how to get into a groove. For example, once I asked for a pizza with shaved fennel and the counter people didn’t know where it was, and said it would be added after the pizza was cooked but it never made it to the pizza.

I’ve found that building your own pizza can put a lot of pressure on a night out, especially when the flavors don’t seem to cook long enough to blend well. If you don’t like the pizza, it’s probably your fault because you chose the combination. (They do have a daily special with suggested toppings and some basic simple pizzas.) For now, Build is fun for small kids who are picky and adults who want an upscale but casual atmosphere for their pizzas.

Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
2-snaps

 

Build Pizzeria Roma, 2286 Shattuck Ave.(at Bancroft), Berkeley. PH: 510.898.1839. Open Sun.–Thu., 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–midnight (dinner from 5:30 p.m.). No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. buildpizzeria.com

BUILD Pizzeria Roma on Urbanspoon

The Building Department is where you tell the pizzaiolos what you want on your pizza

The Building Department is where you tell the pizzaiolos what you want on your pizza

You choose the base sauce and the toppings and they assemble everything

You choose the base sauce and the toppings and they assemble everything

While the toppings might not be melding nicely together, the crust is always tasty and perfectly cooked

While the toppings might not be melding nicely together, the crust is always tasty and perfectly cooked

I created a pesto based pizza with artichokes, red bell peppers, pancetta and smoked mozarella. I probably went a bit overboard.

I created a pesto based pizza with artichokes, red bell peppers, pancetta and smoked mozarella. I probably went a bit overboard.

The reclaimed wood creates a sleek contemporary California space

The reclaimed wood creates a sleek contemporary California space

The bar opens early for happy hour, and I tried a pisco sour (with apricot liqueur) and a simple side salad.

The bar opens early for happy hour, and I tried a pisco sour (with apricot liqueur) and a simple side salad.

I think keeping things simple makes the best pizzas, like this mushroom, basil, mozzarella pizza with prosciutto.

I think keeping things simple makes the best pizzas, like this mushroom, basil, mozzarella pizza with prosciutto.

I never had to wait very long for the thin-crust pizzas to be cooked in the wood-fired oven.

I never had to wait very long for the thin-crust pizzas to be cooked in the wood-fired oven.

5 Responses to How to Build a Pizza at Berkeley’s New Pizzeria

  1. Carolyn Jung says:

    I heard about that place and wondered what it was like. You’re right — just like those build-your-own-burger joints, you have to really take care with the combinations. The temptation is to just load on everything that you like. But a lot of times, you miss out on any kind of harmony then.

  2. Mai says:

    3-6 minutes does sound a bit too few, the artichoke doesn’t look like it has enough time to become nutty yet… Can customers ask for it to be cooked a little longer?

    • Ben Ben says:

      Mai, the 3-6 minutes time I cited is just an estimate. They might adjust for other ingredients, but generally it’s probably the same because you don’t want the crust to burn. The artichokes aren’t fresh, but marinated, so they’re already cooked.

  3. foodhoe says:

    I love the idea, cuz making pizza’s at home never come out right, probably cuz my oven isn’t a burning hot wood fired inferno!

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