Admittedly, this place only has 4 stars in my review, but that's because I was holding it to a very high standard. As far as wood-fired pizza in the East Bay goes, Pizzaiolo takes the cake. The frequently changing menu is laden with a tasty variety of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The pizzas may be creative, but never to the point of becoming inaccessible. As usual, you get what you pay for; expect to splurge a bit at this restaurant. Pizzaiolo offers the perfect pizza for a fun yet sophisticated night out.
Emilia's serves up a version of New York-style pizzas. The pies here are big, floppy, and flavorful. However, they have the odd quirk of tasting much better in the shop (or in your car parked outside!) than when you get home. For some reason, this pizza doesn't reheat well at all – and it's so thin it loses heat quickly. Ordering at Emilia's can be tricky. You have to call in advance to reserve a 5-minute time slot in which your pizza will be ready. All the hassle is worth it, though, when you take a bite of the heavenly pizzas. If you're lucky, your pizza box may even have a hand-drawn picture by the owner's young daughter Emilia.
Located in North Berkeley near the Gourmet Ghetto, Gioia has no choice but to be excellent. Order by the slice or by the pie at this quaint shop located near such Berkeley staples as the Monterey Market and Berkeley Horticultural Nursery. The pizza choices tend to be on the safe side, but they're so flavorful that even familiar topping combinations take on a new life. There are only a few seats inside, but so many of the orders are take-out that you will probably be able to sit if you wish. Alternatively, you can stroll through the quaint neighborhood and window-shop at various stores while munching on your slice.
If you're not in the mood for thin crust pizza of one style or another, you're in luck. We East Bay residents are spoiled with two amazing Chicago-style deep dish pizza places. Little Star barely wins out over Zachary's, thanks to its flavorful and crunchy cornmeal-dusted crust and its less chunky sauce. The deep-dish pizzas here are thick, hearty, and very filling – a couple of slices should be enough for a full dinner, especially with a salad on the side. Because the pizzas can take a while to cook, be sure to call in your take-out order in advance.
Zachary's is another excellent deep-dish place. If your loyalties to the East Bay run deep, this is the place to go; it's an Oakland native rather than a San Francisco transplant (like Little Star). The sauce here is chunky and tangy, and the crust is flaky rather than crunchy or chewy. The thin crust pizzas are good, but not especially noteworthy. Zachary's has two locations in the Oakland area: one on College in the Rockridge neighborhood and one in Berkeley on Solano Ave.
Despite being a pub rather than a restaurant, Jupiter offers a range of flavorful, creative, and reasonably priced pizzas. These pizzas all have mythological names to fit in with the name of the bar. For example, you might find yourself ordering the Cassiopeia (a barbecue chicken pizza), the Athena (which has pesto, artichoke hearts, feta and sun-dried tomatoes) or the Triton (with sausage and onions). Because it's a bar, this place is designed more for dining in than taking your pizza to go.
To be fair, not all pizza has to be groundbreaking or earth-shattering. Sometimes a pizza should just be a pizza. That's what Bobby G's provides. This fun restaurant is clearly geared toward the college crowd, and the atmosphere can get loud and rowdy at times. Nevertheless, the pizza is very good and is made with high-quality ingredients. If you're a garlic fan, you'll love Bobby G's – where they definitely don't skimp! Just make sure everyone else in your group has some too, so you aren't left as the only one with garlic breath.
With several locations in the East Bay, Lanesplitter is consistently a solid choice for tasty and satisfying pizzas. You can create your own pizza from their fairly long list of toppings (including a few unusual choices like roasted eggplant and vegetarian sausage). Alternatively, you can choose to go with one of their house special pizzas. Again, the pizza isn't earth-shattering, but it is consistently very good.
This is probably not going to be a popular placement for this restaurant – but at least it made the list! The very thin pizzas that are sold here tend to be very good, though the crust could use some work. The biggest drawbacks are the line (which is almost always out the door) and the fact that there's only one kind of pizza available per day. If you're not a fan of mushrooms, for example, you may be out of luck for several days in a row. The pizza really is very good, but there are so many other fantastic places in the area that don't involve the same issues.