In the Resy Questionnaire, we play a game of 20 questions with the industry folks behind some of our favorite restaurants. What’s your most memorable restaurant experience? Your favorite kitchen tool? Who’d you invite to a dinner party?
For this edition, we sat down with long-time industry vets and wife-and-husband duo Alexis Rorabaugh and Gerad Gobel of Rose Pizzeria. The two first met cooking at Bar Agricole back in 2010 and as of December 2021, now have a space to call their own, where they specialize in what they dub hybrid “neo-Neapolitan/New York/New Haven” pizzas.
1. What made you want to open up a pizzeria?
While working at Soho House in Chicago, we operated a few pizza concepts and really got into pizza making, mainly wood-fired pizzas. On our days off, we would frequent two spots: Spacca Napoli, which is Neapolitan, and The Bungalow at Middle Brow, which is its own style. Both of these places are really different, and we wanted to make the space for something that was a bridge between Italian-inspired but with newer toppings, fun starters, and a wine list that has something for everyone.
2. What has been the most challenging part of opening?
Honestly, we thought it was going to be staffing, but we found great staff off the bat. Permits were slightly challenging, as we started to apply for them in early 2021 and the city of Berkeley was still working remotely. But all-in-all, it went pretty smoothly as far as most restaurant openings go.
3. If you could only pick two pies to order, which ones would they be?
Gobel: Pepperoni. We use really high-quality pepperoni cups by Ezzo from Ohio. It’s a nod to classic American pizza, but sprinkled with fennel pollen and Sicilian oregano for extra oomph.
Rorabaugh: She Wolf (with anchovies!), for all the brine. You can’t go wrong with tomato, capers, and olives, smashed down with creamy burrata and salty anchovies on top.
4. What’re some Berkeley restaurants you’ve also been enjoying?
Fava — we have eaten so many great chicken and falafel wraps while working on the space and they have answered so many questions when we needed help. Garden Variety, our neighbor, makes killer fried chicken sandwiches and tuna melts. Bartavelle for coffee and treats. And Ippuku, because how can you not want everything on that menu? We can’t wait for Chez Panisse to reopen*.
5. Favorite splurge meal?
Mister Jiu’s — we have only been once and it was when they first opened, but we’ve thinking about the duck ever since.
6. What’s your favorite wine that you offer?
Gobel: Lambrusco. Best pizza wine, especially with pepperoni! By the bottle, Gibil by Agricola Vira, it’s a special skin contact wine that goes well with everything.
Rorabaugh: Luna Lies’ sparkling rosato — super interesting, peppery peach with bubbles — and Cantina Horus’ Frappato, a wine meant for anything with tomato.
7. What do you wish to see more of in the industry?
More transparency for opening restaurants, especially from local municipalities. For example, trying to navigate “how much such and such costs,” like permits, health care, etc. It’s really hard to find ballpark figures.
8. If you could change one thing about how the restaurant industry operates, what would it be?
You don’t have to do everything all the time. Take it step by step or day by day. Burnout is real, slowing down and reflecting is a necessary piece of the puzzle.
9. Kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
Gobel: Bench scraper!
10. What’s the best part of running your own restaurant?
It’s rewarding to see the dining room full of people that are having a good time. It’s the best part of hospitality.
11. If Rose wasn’t a pizzeria, what else could it be?
A “French bar” — tons of oysters, a good steak, roast chicken, and frites.
12. If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be?
Rorabaugh: My grandfather. He passed away a while ago and I wish I could cook him dinner one last time.
13. What is the one restaurant meal you’ve had in the last decade that stands out to you the most?
Osteria Donna Teresa in Naples. Yes, Naples is all about pizza, however, the last time we were there, we went to this very small, four tables restaurant on the top of Vomero. The menu changes daily and is pre-fixe for an absurd deal (we are talking 14€ with wine). It is super humble and honest food, [which is what] we love the most.
14. Where would you like to travel to next for inspiration culinarily?
Abruzzo, it’s a region in Italy we’ve never been to.
16. What’s on the playlist for the restaurant?
Music we like to listen to, basically. It spans from Father John Misty, Parquet Courts, and King Krule, to Aretha Franlklin and Bob Seger — all over the map.
17. Cocktail of choice?
Negroni and Negroni.
18. Favorite Bay Area bar?
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Shop — can’t go wrong with the house Campari and endless people watching. Or The Phone Booth — so many memories.
19. If you could only eat one protein for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?
Rorabaugh: Chicken. During the pandemic and not working much, I started cooking a lot of ground chicken, roast chicken, confit chicken — basically chicken 50 ways, all the time.
Gobel: Pork, it’s the most versatile in so many applications.
20. Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks to everyone who has come out to dine with us. We really appreciate the support when there are so many options out there.
Rose Pizzeria is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. For pickup and delivery, go here.