A new restaurant is joining the exciting Berkeley pizza scene, serving three types of pan-style pies for the square-slice fanatics in the Bay Area. Pizzeria da Laura is the debut restaurant for pizzaiola Laura Meyer, who’s bringing her competition-winning pizzas to downtown Berkeley.
The opening of Pizzeria da Laura marks Meyer’s time to shine: As an alum of Tony Gemignani’s San Francisco pizza group, Meyer’s name has been understandably linked to Gemignani’s, as the two embarked on international pizza competitions and worked together at his restaurants. But when Meyer dabbled with a focaccia-focused pop-up, a personal project during the pandemic, the popularity gave her the opportunity to try on the role of entrepreneur. It proved to Meyer that there was something for her there, and she enjoyed the challenge of it. “The pandemic made you sit down and question a lot of things about life and where I was heading and what I was doing,” Meyer says. “So if I was going to make a change, now’s the best time to do it — and then it spurred everything else from there.”
Given that Pizzeria da Laura is Meyer’s first restaurant, she pulled together an extremely personal menu. There are the pizzas, of course, with Meyer making her favorite pan-style pizzas — Sicilian, Detroit, and grandma, the ones that have earned her recognition and awards across the pizza world — alongside New York-style pies. Customers will be able to choose between the different styles of pizza dough, topped with Meyer’s selection of ingredients. La Regina, for instance, is her 2013 World Pizza Competition-winning pizza topped with ingredients from the Parma region of Italy: soppressata, arugula, prosciutto, and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, which can be ordered in any of the four styles. It’s a mix-and-match-style system, aimed to offer something for everyone. For those who prefer a crisper crust, Meyer points to the grandma pies with their crispy corners, while cheese fanatics won’t be disappointed by the cheese-crisped edges of Meyer’s Detroit pizza. Meanwhile, New York expats might find themselves gravitating toward the New York-style slices that come in 12- or 18-inch pies.
But the menu goes much further than just pizza. There are housemade pastas, such as Meyer’s father’s ragu, which she grew up eating. Along with Dad’s Ragu, there will also be a bucatini amatriciana served in pomodoro sauce, and an eggplant pasta dish featuring fried eggplant over bucatini with whipped ricotta and ricotta salata slices on top, as well as crisp salads to help round out the meal. Charcuterie boards feature torta fritta, or fried dough, which Meyer would look forward to eating when she would travel to Italy for pizza competitions. Desserts such as cookies and ice cream are a throwback to Meyer’s childhood when ice cream was served out of coffee cups rather than bowls, as it will be at the restaurant. “It’s very personal to me,” she says. “The things that I love and the things that I grew up eating and the things that I consistently make for myself, they are simple, but they are delicious and executed well.”
For drinks, Meyer will open with beer and a wine menu leaning toward women-owned and -operated wineries. She’s still working on a full liquor license, but Meyer’s looking to do a cocktail menu that brings forward her love of amari and cocktails with bitter notes, such as negronis. She also plans to stock a selection of low-ABV options.
Pizzeria da Laura marks a turning point for Meyer’s career, and she’s proud of this new accomplishment and moment, she says. She’s finding her own voice, and it’s exciting that she’s finally pursuing and developing her sensibilities as a chef. “It is something that I have to remind myself that, yeah, this is an accomplishment to be a young female-owned and operated restaurant,” Meyer says. “I’ve done this, this is purely by my own doing, and I’m very proud of that.”
Pizzeria da Laura (2049 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley) debuts Thursday, March 23 and is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.