The history of pizza begins in antiquity, when various ancient cultures produced basic flatbreads with several toppings. A precursor of pizza was probably the focaccia, a flat bread known to the Romans as panis focacius, to which toppings were then added. The word pizza was first documented in A.D. 997 in Gaeta and successively in different parts of central and southern Italy. Modern pizza evolved from similar flatbread dishes in Naples, Italy, in the 18th or early 19th century. Pizza was mainly eaten in Italy until after World War II, when allied troops stationed in Italy had come to enjoy pizza along with other Italian foods. Veterans returning from the Italian campaign proved a ready market for pizza in particular, touted by “veterans ranging from the lowliest private to Dwight D. Eisenhower.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
First Berkeley Pizza
“When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!” Dean Martin, 1956
The first Yellow Pages advertisement listing pizza in Berkeley appeared in the May 1956 Oakland Telephone Directory, for La Val’s House of Pizza on College Ave. No delivery was promised:
However, the first advertisement for pizza in Berkeley appears to have been placed not in the Telephone Directory but in the fall 1953 Berkeley High School Yearbook, Olla Podrida.
Granata Restaurant was listed in the Telephone Directory at that address (but with no advertisement) from October 1949 until closing in 1989. An identical advertisement appeared in the fall 1954 Olla Podrida, the year of Frank Granata’s graduation from Berkeley High School. Frank (b. 1936), who would eventually run the restaurant, was the son of founders Phil and Rose Granata.
First Berkeley Pizza Delivery
La Val’s House of Pizza
“The first food delivery service was for naengmyeon (cold noodle) in Korea, recorded in 1768. Haejang-Guk (hangover soup) was also delivered for the Yangban (aristocrats) in the 1800s.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The first Yellow Pages advertisement listing pizza delivery in Berkeley appeared in the May 1957 Oakland Telephone Directory, for La Val’s House of Pizza:
La Val’s had been founded by Milton LaGrave and Joe Valencia (hence the name) with the first White Pages listing, at the College Avenue address, in 1951.
Dan Fogerty (brother of the Creedence Clearwater Revival duo) and Alex Kershaw purchased La Val’s Gardens in 1976, opening the Durant Avenue store in 1982. In 1985 Fogerty bought out Kershaw; Fogerty and his wife Eileen then partnered with Roger Spenger (Eileen’s brother) and his wife Debbie. The Durant Avenue store ran La Val’s deliveries until it closed in 2005, when deliveries reverted to the Euclid Avenue store.
A view of the delivery business, from a La Val’s “Driver,” who delivered pizza from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s: “I was hired at age 16, before all Drivers were required to be 18.” All Drivers were required to have their own car and insurance; they were paid minimum wage plus tips.
“In 8 hours I would make $24 in salary and $100 in tips—it was out the door and up to Tower Records to buy CDs.” Up to 15 Drivers would work shifts from 11 to 4 or 8 pm, 2, 4 or 5 to 10, and others would work until closing time at 1 am or earlier if orders dwindled. “It was a great job; I knew one kid who worked as a Driver into his 30s.”
THE PEOPLE’S PIZZA
The Cheese Board Pizza Collective
“Although people line up on weekends for the cheeseboard’s famous pizza…the cheeseboard is more than just a food store . . . [it has] a strong social conscience.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 10, 1988
At its founding in 1967 as a “worker-owned collective,”1 the Cheese Board initially focused on bread and cheese. However, it embraced pizza starting in 1985: “Pizza became a regular staff lunch. Someone grabbed cheese from the case, someone else would run next door to the Produce Center for vegetables. A half hour later, pizza was served. Before we knew it, we were selling slices for lunch.” “Nowadays, the pizzeria is . . . in a storefront just down the block . . . While pizzeria members2 don’t arrive as early as the bread bakers, their shifts are long and end only after the dinner crowds have been fed.”
 This quote & others below are from The Cheese Board Collective Works, 2003, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley.
 Pizzeria “members” are Cheese Board employee-owners.
PIZZA AT HOME
A Few Berkeley Cookbooks
On March 5, 2020, The Real Yellow Pages (online, pre-pandemic) listed 48 restaurants serving pizza in Berkeley. On that date, YELP! Listed its top 10 pizzerias in Berkeley, as follows (with one sample offering from each menu):
Cheese Board Pizza: zucchini, red and yellow onions, french goat cheese, mozzarella, gremolata, garlic olive oil.
Sliver Pizzeria (Telegraph Ave): Wild Mushrooms, Red Onions, Green Scallions, Mozzarella, Bulgarian Feta Cheese. Topped With Cilantro Mixed Lemon Zest, Garlic Olive Oil
Emilia’s Pizzeria: Toppings (max 4 Per Pizza): Red Onion, Roasted Peppers, Mushrooms, Pepperoni, Sausage, Sopressata
Zachary’s Chicago Pizza: Fresh spinach, mushrooms and a blend of three cheeses and special spices. Our pride and joy!
Gioia Pizzeria: Lacinato Kale, House-made Sicilian Sausage, Red Onion, Chili Flakes, Garlic, Mozzarella, Pecorino
Lucia’s Berkeley: Myiokos cashew mozzarella, Brussels sprouts & leeks puree, kale, almonds, pickled cauliflower, woodfire roasted bell peppers
Sliver Pizzeria (Shattuck Ave): Whole Featured Pizza of the Day; Whole Cheese Pizza, Vegan Pizza of the Day- (NO Vegan Cheese)
Jupiter: Hobbs bacon, housemade pork fennel sausage, Hobbs pepperoni; green onions, smoked mozzarella & marinara
Pollara Pizzeria: Sea level early girl tomatoes, guanciale, straciatella
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza: Slices: Artichoke, Crab, Meatball, Margarita, Vodka Sicilian, Margarita Sicilian
By George Petty