Fat Slice Pizza, a Berkeley staple known for its huge pizza slices and low prices, closed Nov. 4 after 34 years in business.
The shop closed because of declining business — a decision the Fat Slice team had been considering for seven to eight months before closing, according to restaurant employee Chris Pisarra. Pisarra added that he is sad to see Fat Slice go, but understands every business has a “lifespan.”
“It was just a simple — be it painful — business decision,” Pisarra said. “Telegraph Avenue is not what it used to be. There’s just not a lot of people out there and we weren’t selling enough pizza.”
The internet has played a role in changing the food market, according to Pisarra. More restaurants are delivering food, which means that fewer people go out to Telegraph Avenue to eat. He added that these food delivery apps also take a portion of the profits.
For Gabe Meline, Santa Rosa resident and frequent Fat Slice customer since 1990, the restaurant was always a “guaranteed stop” and a “reliable presence” on Telegraph Avenue. Despite living 50 miles away, Meline said he visited Fat Slice at least once a month. He added that because Fat Slice has closed, instead of celebrating the restaurant’s legacy, he has seen friends comment negatively about the quality of the restaurant’s food.
“I don’t understand why food has to be good for people to think that it’s good,” Meline said. “Food exists for a lot of different reasons, and one of them is just plainly utilitarian, like sometimes you just need to fill your stomach for $4 and Fat Slice was always there for you.”
The closing of Fat Slice, along with other changes on the street, seems like another chapter in Telegraph Avenue’s evolution into a more upscale and less “funky” street, according to Meline.
Fat Slice is one of multiple older shops in Berkeley to close over the past few years. Other shops that have closed recently include Saturn Cafe, Gio’s Pizza and Bocce, as well as Barclay’s Restaurant and Pub.
Campus junior Nancy Mejorado recalled going to Fat Slice with friends throughout middle and high school. She added that she considers the restaurant a “monument” in Berkeley.
“Numerous “trendy” and “modern” boba shops have popped up throughout my undergraduate experience in the Telegraph area (I can count four), meanwhile smaller business such as Fat Slice have closed,” Mejorado said in an email. “I wonder: How many boba shops are needed in the same 3-block radius?”
Pisarra reminisced about the opening of Fat Slice by owner Gail Giffen in 1985. When Giffen established the restaurant, she had no prior knowledge of the pizza industry, according to Pisarra. After renting the spot on Telegraph Avenue, she used the yellow pages to find suppliers and developers to call.
“We’re thankful for 34 years in Berkeley and we’re sorry to see it go,” Pisarra said. “The students in the university have supported us and we’ve tried to be there and now we’re not — and we’re sorry about it.”