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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

With Paisan, Pizza Frenzy Set to Grip South Berkeley

Posted By on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 12:14 PM

click to enlarge Paisan (left) is adjacent to sister restaurant Sea Salt on San Pablo Avenue. Brace for the pizza tsunami, South Berkeley. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Paisan (left) is adjacent to sister restaurant Sea Salt on San Pablo Avenue. Brace for the pizza tsunami, South Berkeley.
Berkeley restaurant dynamos Haig Krikorian and Cindy Lalime are poised to add a pizzeria to their stable of concepts. That's right, oh ye thin-crust jaded: pizza. Paisan is expected to serve up its first wood-fired pie in oh, just about a month from now. Haig Krikorian says everything's set to go for the open at 2514-2516 San Pablo Avenue in South Berkeley, but he'd like to spend more time refining the recipes. The chef: Francesco Pece, a pizzaiolo Krikorian recruited from Naples. But, Krikorian says, Paisan's pizza style will definitely skew Californian, not Neapolitan.

"They'll be East Bay market related," he explains. "Farmers' market stuff." With the opening last night of Locanda da Eva, and the expected launch of Addie's Pizza Pie, South Berkeley is on track to rival San Francisco as the locus of Bay Area pizza activity.

Krikorian's K2 restaurant group includes Lalime's (which celebrated its 25-year anniversary this week), T-Rex Barbeque, Fonda, Jimmy Beans, and Sea Salt, all in Berkeley. Paisan is adjacent to Sea Salt, though the two won't connect, except perhaps through the rear garden.

click to enlarge Paisan's innovation: A two-sided oven accessible from inside and from the restaurant's patio (above). - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Paisan's innovation: A two-sided oven accessible from inside and from the restaurant's patio (above).
Once an antique furniture shop, Paisan's windows have long been papered over. The paper's down now, revealing a central U-shaped bar, tile on the floor, and glass doors leading onto a back patio. In fact, in a Bay Area saturated with pizza, Paisan's double-mouthed oven might be the restaurant's distinguishing characteristic. L.A.'s Earthstone created a two-sided oven that'll allow one pizzaiolo to work inside the restaurant, and another to work outside on the patio.

In other Krikorian-Lalime news, the K2 group recently became shareholders in the César restaurants, César España on Shattuck in Berkeley and César Latino on Oakland's Piedmont Avenue. Longtime César partner Richard Mazzera will still make day-to-day decisions, but Krikorian-Lalime's involvement will allow César to merge its purchasing with the K2 group.

"We have a system of two or three drivers who go to the farmers' markets a lot," Krikorian says. "It just makes sense to pool our resources." César's wine and liquor buying will now merge with K2's under Stephen Singer, who, incidentally, happened to be a co-founder of César back in 1998.

Nobody said East Bay restaurant culture wasn't incestuous.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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