The Berkeley pizza scene is booming, but another East Bay town will get a taste of a pizzaiolo who’s taking the reins with his first shop: Pizzahacker alum Amrafel Tomas and business partner Shimei Burgueno are set to open Pizza the Bay in Castro Valley on Friday, February 24, serving sourdough pizzas with made-in-house ingredients such as meatballs and sauces.
Pizza the Bay will offer 14 pizzas made with sourdough crust, fired up in an electric Pizza Master oven that’s becoming de rigueur for pizzaiolos in light of the gas oven laws. There are the usual standards, of course, such as a margherita pizza and barbecue chicken pies, but also some new standouts. The Washington Square pizza features mozzarella cheese, onions, 18-month-aged prosciutto, grana padana, and an egg, for instance, along with other pies named after Bay Area landmarks. The pizzas are labor-intensive since Tomas and Burgueno focus on making — or putting their imprint on — many elements of the pies.
The sourdough crust is fermented for 24 hours; the cheese is stretched by hand at the shop; and sausage and Italian meatballs are crafted in-house, too. Even the house ranch dressing gets its own touch — which customers from the duo’s six-month stint working out of a San Mateo ghost kitchen loved, Burgueno says. “People like to take big quantities home just because we make the ranch in-house as well,” Burgueno says.
But the menu goes beyond pizza, and the made-in-house elements continue there. A small sandwich menu features Pizza the Bay’s sourdough bread, Burgueno says, dressed in butter and garlic. With that garlicky bread, customers can choose between an Italian meatball sandwich stacked with mozzarella, jalapenos, ricotta, and roasted garlic; a fried chicken sandwich option with chipotle mayo, little gem lettuce, and mozzarella; or a prosciutto sandwich with fresh spinach, arugula, mozzarella, and a pesto spread. The wings are also a popular offering from Pizza the Bay’s ghost kitchen days, Burgueno says, with a choice of lemon-chile, barbecue, Buffalo, or mango habanero sauces. And lastly, if you prefer your pizza calzone style, there are four options to dip into, including a chicken pesto calzone and a sesame calzone, made with kale, mozzarella, provolone, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, and sesame seeds.
Even with their own shop, the duo is quick to mention their roots. Tomas started at PizzaHacker as a dishwasher and prep cook, before working his way to a chef position in a matter of years, Burgueno says, leading the way to creating their own style of pies. “We want to give flowers to PizzaHacker and Jeff Krupman for teaching Amrafel and giving him the confidence to want to start his own thing as well,” Burgueno says.
Pizza the Bay (3295 Castro Valley Boulevard, Castro Valley) debuts Friday, February 24 and will be open noon to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.