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The NDP Experience: Emilia’s Pizzeria

Nick’s Delicious Pizza Experience

By: Nicholas Dal Porto

It’s 4:15 p.m. and dozens of people are hastily dialing and redialing a number on their phones. For every lucky person who gets through, there’s 25 other busy tones being dished out. You’re probably thinking these people are after some free product or trying to buy tickets to see the next hit band in concert. They’re not. These people are committed and focused for one reason only: just one pizza pie.

While this might seem like an episode of the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, it isn’t. All these people are trying to get a pizza from Emilia’s, an obscure small pizzeria in Berkeley. Why the frantic calls and busy tones? Because this isn’t your typical pizza place.

First of all, you can’t just walk in and buy a pizza. That would be too easy. Instead, Emilia’s opens their phone lines an hour before they open. To get a pizza, you have to call and make a reservation, but you must be quick about it. There’s another dozen people vying for their own pizza pie. And this isn’t a reservation like a normal restaurant where you can sit down or have your meal delivered. Every night Emilia’s is open, there’s a predefined number of pies that will be made that night. Once people have called claiming them all, that’s it. They simply won’t make any more. This makes the very nature of eating there a competitive sport.

And if you’re lucky enough to get a pie, the physical restaurant itself isn’t a real high class establishment. Inside, there’s two tables, four chairs, a counter, and a tiny kitchen.. There’s a single employee, Keith Freilich. He is the mastermind behind the joint, cranking out each pie by himself with no additional help. This specialized work from a pizza genius causes the pizza to be inordinately expensive, coming in at $18-$30 a pie. The price is extremely high but the service is nothing special. You go up to the counter, give the guy your name, and he hands you a generic cardboard pizza box. Oh, and don’t forget your wallet – it’s a cash only establishment.

Now, you’re probably wondering why would anyone go through such a hassle for just eight slices of pizza. Why? Because Emilia’s makes damn near the best pizza pie you’ll ever have in your life.

Just the visual appearance of the slice is sheer beauty. Chopped basil, fresh mozzarella, splashes of tomato sauce, and a thin coating of olive oil comprise the top. Underneath, the crust achieves the perfect balance between crunchy and a drooping mess. Biting into the slice, the flavorful ingredients explode in your mouth. The sauce has a slight sour taste, uncommon in many pizzas, and the mozzarella is cooked to perfection. Due to the chopped basil, there’s a slight hint of it in every bite. You’ll want to keep eating it for eternity.

And, it isn’t just me. People on review sites like Yelp agree. “The pizza is truly excellent — thin, chewy crust with just the right amount of sauce and cheese.” said one reviewer. “I ate this today…and holy moly. It’s the best pizza ever” raved another.

Even with all its quirks and difficulties of obtaining it, Emilia’s is the pizza to try in Northern California. Even if you’re not a big fan, eating a slice from this place is pure and utter bliss.


Quick Hits:

Rating: ★★★★★

What? Emilia’s Pizza – 2995 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

Is it any good? With the perfect blend of old-school pizza making and the right ingredients, it’s probably one of the best pizzas you’ll ever have.

How much? Pies range from around $18-$25, one size. Drinks are available for purchase.

Any tips? Call early, and make sure to reserve a table if you want to eat it there.

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