1960 University Ave. (near Milvia Street), Berkeley
Wednesday-Sunday, noon-9 p.m.
Rose Pizzeria, a hotly anticipated pizza and wine spot from two seasoned industry veterans, is set to open Wednesday on University Avenue in Berkeley.
The new restaurant is making a calculated risk by bucking a couple big trends, Gerad Gobel, who co-owns Rose with his wife, Alexis Rorabaugh, told Nosh. First, Rose will not serve takeout or delivery orders, and will insist that patrons dine in only. And second, though Gobel and Rorabaugh have only recently returned to the region from Chicago, their restaurant won’t serve deep dish pizza, nor will they serve Bay Area-ubiquitous wood-fired pies.
“We keep asking each other if we’re nervous,” Gobel told Nosh Monday night. “But we’ve done this before, for other people, and for ourselves.”
As Nosh reported in May, Gobel and Rorabaugh met over a decade ago while working at Bar Agricole, a James Beard Award-winning restaurant in San Francisco. Between the two of them, they’ve toiled at popular SF spots like Delfina and Abbot’s Cellar, then moved to Chicago to open Italianette in 2019, a well-regarded handmade pasta spot that abruptly shuttered after a headline-making landlord issue. “They were very, very good,” Eater Chicago editor Ashok Selvam told Nosh. “I think they had bigger plans.”
Those plans sent Gobel and Rorabaugh back to the Bay Area mid-pandemic, where the pair started looking for an East Bay space to, perhaps, launch a West Coast iteration of Italianette. But instead, they found the spot last occupied by Pedro’s Brazil Cafe, and fell in love with its “really cool, really cute patio,” Gobel said. It’s an outdoor rose garden they’ve outfitted with two heaters to keep the wind-blocked space warm even in the cooler months, and where diners still reluctant to eat indoors will be seated.
Between the outdoor space and the dining room, Gobel said he expects they’ll be busy enough that “we can’t offer takeout at the jump.” The Rose kitchen is “very, very small,” Gobel said, and “our menu might be a skosh big and a little ambitious.” Given that, for now, “we’re trying to create a great dine-in experience,” he said. Takeout might come later, after Rose’s staff has best figured out how to be “efficient in the space.”
Speaking of the menu, expect a tight list of starters (a salad and a couple snacky things) at open as well as seven different thin-crust, 12-inch pizzas Gobel described as “a mix of Neapolitan and New York.” They’re using a PizzaMaster oven to prepare the pies — an electric, deck-style oven that offers a “nice dry heat,” Gobel said. Their dough is naturally leavened and made with West Coast-sourced flours from Capay Mills, Cairn Springs and Central Milling Co., basically a “vegan baguette dough,” Gobel said. With a “sweet spot” of about 650 degrees — a lower cooking temperature than one sees with gas ovens, and a more consistent cook than one might get from a wood flame — the PizzaMaster was the best choice for Rose’s pie plans.
The selection of pies will rotate, Gobel said, but at open expect standards like a Margherita and a pepperoni, as well as a yukon gold potato pie with smoked mozzarella and truffle or a take on a Hawaiian pizza called the “beach club,” with pork coppa, pineapple and jalapeno.
Rorabaugh is responsible for the wine program, a mix of glasses and bottles from Italy, France and the West Coast. Beer is sold by the pint from craft brewers across California.
One thing you won’t see is a gluten-free pizza, Gobel said, as the size of the kitchen prevents that separate offering. There will be vegan options, however, made with a plant-based mozz from a nearby maker (as of publication time, that vendor hadn’t been finalized — Nosh will update when we receive final confirmation).
Diners also shouldn’t expect a pasta entree at Rose, even though that was the centerpiece of their first business. “We have one induction burner,” Gobel said, “That’s it; as much as we love pasta, there’s no way we can do it here. Maybe…” he said, before trailing off. Was he already thinking about a second restaurant when his first had yet to open? Gobel laughed. “Yes and no,” he said. “But right now, we need to just open this one. I mean, there’s only so much you can prepare for, but I think we’re ready.”
Rose Pizzeria opens on Wednesday Dec. 1 at 11 a.m. Hours will be noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Service is walk-in only (no reservations) and takeout is not available.