At one time or other, ex-IT guy Keith Freilich has spun pies at Flour + Water in San Francisco, Pizzaiolo in Oakland, Grimaldi's in Hoboken, New Jersey — hell, even a Garden State Pizza Hut. When he opened his own tiny storefront pizza shop in South Berkeley nearly two years ago, Freilich focused on one thing — coal-oven-style New York thin-crust — and succeeded in doing it well. A plain, Neapolitan-style pizza from Emilia's has a medium-thin crust with an open, rustic crumb; some char; and a simple topping of fresh and aged mozzarella, basil leaves, and crushed plum tomatoes. You can pimp it with other stuff (Molinari sopressata, Calabrian chiles) to please non-purists, but even basic, Freilich's pies have flavor, personality, and a consistent point of view. That personality extends to Emilia's ordering system, which on paper makes Freilich seem as rigidly rule-bound as the soup guy from Seinfeld, but don't worry. As long as you're good-natured about waiting up to two hours for your takeout phone-in pizza and remember to bring cash, he's a total sweetheart.
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