Friday, April 09, 2010

Cheese Board Pizza Collective (Berkeley, CA)

Cheese Board Pizza Collective
1512 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709
Fri 04/09/2010, 02:00p-02:10p

Cheese Board Exterior Cheese Board Interior
As an appetizer to the night's meal at Chez Panisse, we headed over to another Berkeley institution: Cheese Board Pizza, home to what I believe is the best pizza in the City.

Founded in 1967 by Elizabeth and Sahag Avedesian as a cheese retailer, the Cheese Board was, from the outset, a unique type of business, one focused on workers having equal power, equal say, equal pay. The shop eventually expanded outside of cheese to bread baking, which sowed the seed for the pizza that would come later on. In 1975, the Cheese Board moved from its original location on Vine (the site of the current Juice Bar Collective) to its current spot on Shattuck, and in 1990, it took over the space of the fish market next door.

Pizza-making began formally in 1985, but just on Tuesdays. Its popularity quickly grew, however, and pizza gradually expanded to Wednesdays and Fridays. In 1986, a neighboring business, the Pig by the Tail Charcuterie, went out of business and the Cheese Board quickly acquired the storefront to use as a dedicated space to sell pizza. In 1990, a separate Cheese Board Pizza Collective was formed, which allowed the growing pizzeria to operate full time. The entity is run as a standalone business, but still remains under the umbrella of the original Collective, which is now a corporation wholly owned by its members.

Cheese Board Menu
The menu is written daily, with generally only one (vegetarian) pizza available at a given time. It's $2.50 per slice or $20 per pie, so there's no discount for buying a pizza whole (how egalitarian?). Click for a larger version.

Cheese Board Pizza
And there she is, in extra-large glory, on the hood of our rental car in the nearby Andronico's parking lot: a picture perfect pie of roma tomatoes, onions, mozzarella and feta cheese, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cilantro. Biting in, the first thing that I noticed was the sweet succulence of the tomatoes, accented by the lingering tartness of lemon, which provided a piquant undercurrent to the whole pizza. The olive oil, meanwhile, contributed a palpable gravity, a certain weightiness that added a modicum of seriousness, of contemplation, to things.

I also appreciated the feta, and how well-integrated it was with the base of beautifully burnt mozzarella. I was afraid that the cheese was going to overwhelm, but rather, it contributed just the right amount of sharp saltiness into the fray. And let's not forget about the crust--thin, crisp, with a certain firmness and just the right amount of chew, it was the consummate stage to let the toppings shine. We devoured our pie with reckless abandon, savoring every morsel, and were still left wanting more. Yes, the Cheese Board's worth the wait, deserving of the fanfare, a legend in its own right--just go.


Blogger food je t'aime said...

it looks so good! i actually just saw something about this place on the foodnetwork...i think

Sunday, April 18, 2010 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

Definitely a place to check out for me, but my alliance is with Zachary's

Sunday, April 18, 2010 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I've heard that it's notoriously difficult to get pizza at Cheese Board, something about them running out of pizza after a few hours. Will have to try it sometime. As for Danny'd comparison to Zachary's, the pizzas are far too different to prefer one over the other. Both are delicious and satisfy separate niches.

Sunday, April 18, 2010 6:50:00 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

long time reader, first time caller. thanks for this review, kevin. brings back some great memories of berkeley.

Sunday, April 18, 2010 7:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Jenn Park said...

i have a question kevin: how do you afford all this food? I know this pizza joint doesn't produce that much of a fantastic bill but other places like the Michelin Star rated restaurants are once in a lifetime meals for some people.
Yet you've been able to go as many times as you want. Actually, money is not even an issue, it seems like during your last Robuchon visit, you simply didn't have TIME.
So tell me Kevin, is the blog that great of a success? Or are you some sort of secret theif?

Sunday, April 18, 2010 3:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Jai Kohli said...

CHEESEBOARD!!!!! God, in my 7 years of living in Berkeley, I must have eaten there will over 100 times. Still to this day my favorite pizza... though I have to admit that Gioia Pizza on Sacramento & Hopkins in Berkeley is really, really, really good too.

Sunday, April 18, 2010 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Christina: Cool! Which Food Network show was it?

Danny: Sure, if you're content with the Chicago style stuff. ;)

Aaron: Nowhere near as difficult as Di Fara though. In fact, I've never experienced them running out of pie.

Jay: No problem. Are you an alum?

Jenn: Neither option, actually. I don't make money off the blog (I'm one of the few blogs that don't advertise), and I'm definitely not some sort of criminal, either.

Jai: time. Never made it out when I was an undergrad at Cal!

Monday, April 19, 2010 5:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Jai Kohli said...

Yeah, I think Gioia opened after you graduated. I was only only introduced to it in 2005 when a coworker who grew up in Brooklyn took me there... told me it was the only pizza in CA that he liked!

Monday, April 19, 2010 5:53:00 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

I loved that place when I was an undergrad there. Also next time you're in Berk check out Gregoire around the corner, it's takeout French food and probably the best takeout ever!

Monday, April 19, 2010 6:29:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Jai: That would explain it. ;) So what are your thoughts on the infamous Zachary's?

Neil: Gregoire does look like the best take out ever. My old roommate used to love that place!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 4:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Jai Kohli said...

I consider Zachary's overrated, but my personal penchant is for thin, crispy crusts. I can't really compare Chicago style pizzas to "regular" pizzas.

And two huge thumbs up to Gregoire for lunch.. their sandwiches and potato puffs are out of this world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2:15:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Indeed. Your penchant and my proclivity for thin crusts are the same.

Now I wish I'd tried Gregoire's while I was there!

Friday, April 23, 2010 6:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Jenn Park said...

even more intriguing that you still havent answered my question.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 1:11:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Jenn--no need to discuss on a public forum.

Sunday, April 25, 2010 8:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A slice at Gioia costs 50 cents more and is quite a bit smaller. The folks at Cheeseboard Pizza stand by their collective values and refuse to gouge their customers. Anon

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 8:02:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Werd anon. Pretty much the best pizza ever for me.

Saturday, April 02, 2011 1:53:00 AM  

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