Nature’s Perfect Food

As anyone with a full compliment of taste buds and an even rudimentary understanding of the gastronomic arts knows, pizza ai funghi is nature’s perfect food. As anyone who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than three weeks knows, the pizza here by-and-large sucks.

What a rapturous delight, then, to discover one of the planet’s best pizza ai funghi right under our Left Coast noses. Located on the northern fringe of the People’s Republic of Berkeley, Gioia Pizzeria makes a pizza ai funghi that justifies a ride across the bay on a motorcycle in a rainstorm – which, incidentally, we did tonight.

Where to begin? Perhaps where they do, with a basic pizza margherita: a hand-thrown, wafer thin crust with just the right balance of glutinous snap and brittle crunch, rimmed with a brushing of olive oil; a sauce that is smooth and mellow, the fresh tomato puree perfectly corrected for acidity, and without the excesses saltiness or acrid oregano overkill that plague most pizza sauces; and a perfect mix of high-quality cheeses: a dried mozzerella spread to achieve thorough coverage without heavy-handedness, a fresh mozzerella dotting the surface here-and-there, and a sprinkling of grana. If the Gioia pie falls short of perfection, it is only because their generic, gas-fired pizza ovens do not produce the uneven blistering of crust and intermittent singe of a wood-fired brick oven.

The ai funghi, of course, is topped with mushrooms; but not just any mushrooms. Gioia pre-roasts its mushrooms in olive oil and thyme, giving the pie a deep, earthy sumptuousness. The assemblage is garnished with chopped Italian parsely. It is both comfort food and decadence.

Deep gratitude to Julian Milenbach – geek, gourmand, and gentleman – for alerting us to this vital cultural institution.


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