‘Beginning of the trend’: West Berkeley restaurant Pollara to offer Roman-style pizza

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A new pizza joint, featuring flavors straight from the streets of Rome, is slated to open its doors on Berkeley’s Fourth Street at the end of August.

Developing a restaurant that will feature a lesser-known style of Italian cuisine, the owners of new restaurant Pollara, Jon and Kayta Smulewitz, are launching their new business based on the recent popularization of a traditional Roman trend, which they refer to as the “buzz” this year in the pizza business.

Roman pizza, or pizza al taglio, is an up-and-coming trend on the American pizza scene, according to Joey Rachel, chef at Pollara. Pollara will sell Roman-style pizza by the slice, Rachel said, prepared in a long rectangular shape and rebaked for the consumer before consumption. Aiming for a fast-casual experience, the team is developing menu options representing cuisine that is offered on “every corner in Rome.”

“There’s really nobody doing this style of pizza close to here,” Rachel said. “It’s an old style of pizza, but it hasn’t quite hit here yet. We might be right at the beginning of the trend.”

The menu will feature about 10 pizza options on any given day. Some pizzas will be in seasonal or daily rotation, while a couple will be served regularly as staples. The menu may include about three salad options and a handful of antipasti, or appetizers, that “should be simple, quick” and may include some of the restaurant’s homemade cheeses, according to Rachel. The beverage menu will include Italian wine and beer by the glass.

The team prides itself on using top-notch local produce and several nonperishable ingredients imported from Italy, such as olive oil and dried pasta. In the case of Roman-style pizza, ingredients are gathered from various areas across Italy rather than from a single region, meaning the sourcing of ingredients may not be “100 percent Rome-specific.”

The team intends to translate the lessons it has learned at Dopo, the Smulewitz team’s Sicilian restaurant on Piedmont Avenue, to the new location, focusing on “thinking of the product we like and we’re excited about,” according to Rachel.

The Smulewitz team discovered the spot after the previous occupant of the property, Dona Savitsky, recommended that they rent out the space once occupied by her Mexican restaurant, Tacubaya. It was a “funny random coincidence” that the Smulewitz team ran into Savitsky at breakfast and got the tip on the Fourth Street property, Rachel said. When Savitsky’s restaurant moved a couple doors down, the previous space became available for rent.

While Dopo was a Sicilian restaurant with a traditional dining experience, Pollara will spotlight a variety of dishes that are found in Rome, according to Rachel. Jon Smulewitz and Rachel will be the primary crafters of Pollara’s menu. The team is also still working through a hiring process.

“(The process is) very much a collaborative thing,” Rachel said. “We sit around the table and have ideas and throw them on paper.”

Contact Sasha Langholz at [email protected].