.New Pizzeria three.one four Opens in North Berkeley

A ‘swanky pizza lounge’ has dislodged Lalime’s ghost

The pizza recipes at North Berkeley’s three.one four pizzeria belong to a chef who lives in and runs a catering business in Los Angeles. Mario Vollera, along with a silent business partner and hospitality expert Brandon Wilson, have reimagined the former Lalime’s space as a “swanky pizza lounge.”

Wilson previously helped Restoration Hardware open restaurants across the country, most recently in Marin. While working at Restoration in Corte Madera, his soon-to-be business partner suggested that Wilson take a trip to Los Angeles to try Vollera’s sourdough pizza.

“I was just blown away,” he said. “It’s in a strip mall next to a nail salon and my initial reaction was, ‘What am I doing here?’” But Vollera himself turned out to be “genuine, warm and outgoing.”

After taking one bite of the pizza, Wilson knew this was the food he wanted to serve at his first restaurant. “It turned out that Mario was looking for a good hospitality leader to extend his brand, and we just hit it off,” Wilson said.

To launch three.one four, Vollera trained the Berkeley kitchen staff for three weeks. He’s also contractually obligated to make quarterly quality control visits. The full-time chef, Noah Gonzalez, is a former chef de cuisine at A16 Pizza in San Francisco.

The pizza-centric menu at three.one four also lists several salads and starters, including something called a black tart ($19).

“Flour, water, some olive oil and a little bit of yeast builds this pillowy dough,” Wilson said. “We dye it with squid ink and then we top that with brie, caramelized onions, seasonal fruit, arugula and a balsamic glaze.”

There’s also burrata ($20), served with cherry tomatoes, basil and grilled sourdough; a fromage and charcuterie board ($23); and what must be Vollera’s “grandmother’s meatballs” ($19). But the farro salad ($18), with cherry tomatoes, basil sauce, pecorino, arugula, onions and fennel, is Wilson’s favorite.

“It’s absolutely to die for, very fresh, very lively,” he said.

The 10 pies on the menu should be familiar to anyone who’s ever eaten a pizza. The “Westbrae” ($23) toppings include crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, speck, mushroom, egg and arugula. And in honor of the dearly departed, the “Lalime” ($23) is a braised lamb pizza with sun dried tomatoes, feta, red onion and tzatziki.

At the bottom of the menu sits an “Ask Quietly” entry for $23. Wilson said that this section alluded to two “off menu items,” which are simply pasta dishes. One is cacio e pepe, a cheese and pepper dish, and the second Wilson likens to a chicken pot pie. “We cover the pasta in Mario’s pizza crust, and bake it in the oven before cutting it open tableside,” he said.  

Before Wilson and his partners signed the lease at the famed Lalime’s address, they were focused on San Francisco. Wilson, who’s from Oakland, suggested shifting the search to the East Bay. Their real estate agent texted him about a historic spot about to hit the market. She felt the pizza lounge concept was a perfect fit.

“I remember when I met the landlord, he was very transparent and let me know he already had some letters of intent,” Wilson said. But his pitch worked. “I could not be more proud to be in the space following such tradition and history. Honestly, the community around this restaurant has been absolutely fantastic.”

Wilson signed the lease in 2022, two years after Lalime’s closed, but it took another two years before three.one four opened. The city of Berkeley’s permitting process wasn’t the problem.

“To get a project off the ground, we had to raise close to a million dollars,” he said. One silent investor who’d committed verbally to 70% of the funding dropped outright when construction began.

“It was a situation where I was able to find a couple of private investors right away, but then it was about eight months before I was able to find the next one,” Wilson said.

His hospitality group also applied for a loan and received approval on it 12 months later. With enough capital secured to finish construction, three.one four began baking pizza pies for customers in March.

three.one four, open Sun to Thu 4–9pm and Fri to Sat 4–10pm, 1329 Gilman St., Berkeley. 510.616.0101. threeonefourpizzeria.com.


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