In this pizza lover’s humble opinion, our directory of Farm to Table Pizza is a go-to resource when traveling. The directory now lists nearly three dozen pizzerias (and some bakeries), from Arizona to Wisconsin, which serve artisinal, hand-crafted pizza utilizing fresh and local ingredients.
On a recent trip to attend a wedding in California, it was a matter of course for this pizza lover to check out the pizza directory, and Berkeley’s Cheese Board Pizzeria became a destination but not only for its pizza. As a member/owner of many years of the Honest Weight Food Co-op in my hometown of Albany in upstate New York, I also wanted to see first hand a unique cooperative business fueled by the energies of its member/workers.
Cheese Board Pizzeria is operated by the Cheese Board, a worker-owned collective since 1971 when the two original owners of the Cheese Board sold their four year old cheese shop business to their employees and created a 100% worker owned business of which they remained a part.
Originally, the Cheese Board operated a cheese store. But over time, the Cheese Board expanded its business to Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue, and now operates a cheese store and bakery (featuring an espresso bar) known as the Cheese Board and the Cheese Board Pizzeria, a few doors down the street. (Across the street on Shattuck Avenue is Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, the mother of all farm to table restaurants.)
The Cheese Board Pizzeria is unique! It started with a fun idea on a shift at the cheese store by cutting off hunks of extra sourdough baguette dough, grabbing favorite cheeses from the counter and throwing on vegetables from the market next door.
Now what is offered at the Cheese Board Pizzeria is the pizza of the day made from fresh and local ingredients, for lunch and dinner 5 days a week. But the main guiding principle remains the same from 1985 when the Cheese Board started serving pizza to its customers after regular hours on Friday nights: one type of vegetarian pizza is made each day, using fresh ingredients and unusual cheeses from the Cheese Board on top of a thin sourdough crust.
There are three big reasons for a line of pizza loving folks to start forming outside Cheese Board Pizzeria as it opens for evening hours at 4:30PM: its flavorful pizza with excellent and mostly organic ingredients from local growers and sources; reasonable pricing for the quality of pizza (a slice of pizza is $2.75, half pizza $11 and a whole pizza $22), and the camaraderie of the folks in line which approaches the feel of a happening. And as an added bonus, during lunch hours and in the evenings, there is excellent live music. It was an enjoyable 20 minutes or so waiting outside on the line on the November day of my visit in temperate Berkeley.
The pizza of the day was clearly noted: cremini mushroom, onion, goat cheese, mozzarella, garlic olive oil and italian parsley. Delicious! The ingredients for the salad of the day consisted of organic roasted cauliflower, toasted pinenuts, currants, organic salad mix, chile-red wine vinaigrette. Wow!
Cheese Board Pizzeria, on its website, notes the changing pizza of the day for a week at a time: very handy for those who live within driving distance of downtown Berkeley to choose a particular pizza to enjoy. And with new music every day, the pizzeria’s website also notes the musicians playing at lunch and dinner on its home page, and also includes a link to a monthly calendar which has information on the musicians playing a few weeks in advance. Another Wow!
[Cheese Board Pizzeria, 1504/1512 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley (Alameda County), 510.549.3183, Lunch: Tues-Sat (closed Sun & Mon) 11:30AM-3:00PM, Dinner: Tues-Sat (closed Sun & Mon) 4:30PM-8:00PM, cheeseboardcollective.coop]
(Frank W. Barrie, 12/13/19)