Pizza used to be about convenience. It was typically the lazy dinner when neither parent wanted to cook or the cheap option when eating out with high school friends.
However, Berkeley is home to an array of gourmet pizzerias that will change your perspective about this American staple. With so many different specialty pizza shops around town, it’s necessary to deconstruct the differences between each one and the spark behind each idea. Founder and owner Carl Chang, who once played for Cal’s men’s tennis team, opened his first Pieology near CSU Fullerton. Now, after expanding across Southern California, the Berkeley Pieology is the second Northern California location after San Jose.
Being typical UC Berkeley students, we spend the majority of our time studying (or at least we should). Pieology is the perfect mix of cuisine and studying. The name of the restaurant says it all, because according to the general manager, Brendan Duggan, “It’s the study of custom pizza— that’s kind of why the play on words with the ‘ology.’ It’s the study of pies or the study of pizza pies.”
Pieology has been compared to many other pizzerias in Berkeley, such as BUILD, but this restaurant aims to foster a community environment that knows good pizza. Unlike at BUILD, where you pay per topping, you pay a set price at Pieology. You still get the customized pizza without worrying about going over your budget for toppings.
“The company’s main stance on it is, really, you know they love food,” says Duggan. “They love the idea of breaking bread with one another and kind of having shared experiences when you eat and kind of getting to know people … It’s like fast casual but still family-oriented. We still want that family vibe to it.”
When we sat down with Chang, he revealed that his inspiration stems from a mix of different elements of his life: his four daughters, his love of the Food Network and his family’s background in the food industry.
The study of pizza pies as Chang imagined it definitely pays off with the many possible combinations. The menu has three sauces, four cheeses and 17 topping choices, along with seven “after-bakes,” toppings or sauces placed on the pizza after it’s baked. The plethora of options gives both customers of the pizzeria, and the pizzeria staff itself, an opportunity to be inspired to experiment. At a price of $7.95 per 11-inch custom pizza, the combinations are also affordable.
Walking into Pieology about 6 p.m., the restaurant was already crowded with a long line forming. Among the wall of inspirational quotes — a compilation of Pieology’s personally selected quotes that give the restaurant an uplifting atmosphere — our favorite was, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within,” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
About half an hour later, it was finally time to order. An herb butter and red sauce pizza with light-tasting mozzarella cheese and chicken, ham, tomatoes and mushrooms ended up being a great combination. The light and fresh taste of tomatoes and mushrooms balanced the stronger taste of chicken and ham, making the pizza manageable and easy to finish. A customized pizza without a high price point attached was a positive aspect of the experience.
Making Pieology personalized to every individual is not difficult with 16 locations in California and Colorado and four others to open in California. Pieology’s expansion shows its success and great taste. Whether going for pizza with a group of friends or parents, the friendly, family-oriented, relaxing and positive environment is bound to produce good laughter and conversation over delicious custom pizzas.