A restaurant review, a former editor liked to say, is a snapshot in time. Kitchens change: staff moves on, recipes change, ingredients move in and out.
When I ate at Addie’s Pizza Pie in Berkeley back in January, I loved the frozen custard, not so much the pizza. Owners Jennifer Millar (Sweet Adeline Bakeshop) and Thomas Schnetz (Flora, Doña Tomás, Xolo, Tacubaya) were reaching for something interesting —- East Coast thin-crust nostalgia filtered through the consciousness of someone who couldn’t imagine living without a weekly CSA box — but what they ended up wrapping their fingers around seemed, well: underbaked.
The pizza dough seemed like something a pastry chef (that’d be Millar) would come up with, the crispness and textural polish of something yearning to be a tart crust. And the toppings on the Southside were odd, frankly — tomato sauce and olives were fine, but the Italian sausage seemed like a misguided attempt at deconstruction, all craggy pork bits and large, limp pieces of fennel.
Since then there’s been a transformation at Addie’s, which just turned a year old. After a visit last week I left with a different kind of snapshot than the one I stored in my food memory’s cache last winter. Earlier this summer, Addie’s got a new kitchen manager, Joe Pelzers, who — though he’s only 23 — has managed to cook a lot of pizzas in his young career. He started out at Rustica, did a gig at now-shuttered Pie in the Sky, then worked as pizzaiolo at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Tony Gemignani’s borderline-obsessive North Beach pizzeria.
At the same time, Millar and Schnetz had a consultant suggest tweaks to the Addie’s offerings, including the crust. No more hundred-percent Caputo 00 flour, now it’s a mix of 00 and Giusto’s organic. The crust is chewier than before, more elastic, less brittle: better. So is the Southside ($14.75), spread with a mildly spicy tomato sauce Pelzers has made adjustments to, nubs of more conventional Italian sausage than this pie once floated, and fennel that keeps its presence to a soft, perfume-y whisper. It was good pizza, and made a better case for bringing together New York and California, in the vault-like shell of an historic South Berkeley bank.
As for the frozen custard, I’m glad to say it’s the same as it ever was. After putting away the better past of a pizza and a pint of Drakes Blonde, I ate two scoops (vanilla and milk chocolate). Unlike driver’s license ID photos and those sweaty, red-faced drunk shots from trips to Vegas, some pictures just don’t need re-taking.