UPDATE: This restaurant suddenly closed in April 2015.
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.
- First you choose the sauce: rosso, blanca or pesto
- Then you choose the toppings from the array of ingredients, including smoked mozzarella, pancetta, olives, mushrooms, and more.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
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
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