Zach Zachowski and Barbara Gabel opened a pizza place in Oakland in 1983, and its popularity inspired them to open another one in Berkeley a year later. Zachary’s Pizza quickly became a Solano Avenue anchor that has brought folks from outside the neighborhood to North Berkeley to partake in its signature Chicago-style deep-dish pizza for 30 years. Now an employee-owned business, it’s a favorite spot for families and groups of all sizes, evidenced by the many framed posters, including one declaring it East Bay Express’s Best Pizza for umpteen years in a row.
I often order Zachary’s half-baked pizzas for large gatherings at my house. It’s been a fixture of our Oscar night for almost a decade. But I wanted the full lunchtime experience to report on, so I dined there this time. I’m glad I did because I got to enjoy all the artwork that kids and adults have created in Zachary’s name as part of their bi-annual contest. It’s definitely worth walking around to see how many different themes people have come up with in the restaurant’s history. Tweedledee and Tweedledum flank a pizza in one frame and local historic figures eat slices of Zachary’s in another.
Something on this visit that was new to me was the availability of a stuffed slice. Zachary’s has served slices at lunch for as long as I can remember, but they were always thin crust. When you order slices rather than a whole pie, you go up to the counter and get them right away. Dave ordered the special, which was any slice, any soft drink, and a half Caesar salad for $9. I had a half garden salad and a slice of cheese.
They brought us our salads shortly after we seated ourselves next to the window where we could watch the life on Solano stroll by.
I don’t know if this is always true, but my thin-crust slice was handed over on a paper plate whereas Dave’s deep-dish slice was served on the heavier plastic plates that they use when serving whole pies. My guess is that paper wouldn’t stand up to Dave’s slice. Perhaps they had suffered paper plate failure before and decided that the heavier slices required more heft.
My pizza and salad were both quite tasty, and the paper plate didn’t really bother me too much. Dave liked his pepperoni mushroom stuffed slice but made the same comment that I’d heard before—that the deep dish style had too many tomatoes. They were good tomatoes—there were just too many. He particularly liked the lemonade, though, and he’s kind of picky about lemonade. So bonus points were awarded there.
Because we were limiting ourselves to the slices that were available—it being a busy work day for us both—I couldn’t have my favorite of Zachary’s pizzas, which is the thin crust with chicken. But I’m sure I’ll be ordering up one of those soon for pick up…