Berkeley restaurants

Berkeley’s Lanesplitter Pizza Closes; Babette, leaving BAMPFA, will take her place


Lanesplitter pizza, a Berkeley institution for over 23 years, will serve its last pie on December 10. Credit: Lanesplitter /Facebook

Lane separator, a Berkeley pizzeria since 1998, will be serving its last pie on Friday. But that’s not a bad thing, co-owner Daniel Rogers told Nosh. “It’s time to let someone else be in space,” he said. “And it’s time to move on with our lives. In January, says Rogers, he will hand over the keys to Joan Ellis and Patrick Hooker, who will move their popular restaurant, Babette, from its location inside the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) to the storefront at 2033 San Pablo Ave.

Lanesplitter opened on May 8, 1998, Rogers told Nosh, and has drawn a loyal following for its Neapolitan-style pies, figurine display, and fun topping combinations (the basil, feta, sundried tomato and heart combo combo). artichoke is a perennial favorite). Eventually, the restaurant expanded to four locations in East Bay, but closed its outposts in Albany and Oakland in 2018. “I moved from Berkeley to Sonoma in 2016,” Rogers said. During the pandemic, his business partner and Lanesplitter co-founder Vic Gumper moved to Truckee.

As a result, neither of them have “been involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant for quite some time now,” Rogers said. “Restaurants require full-time attention and love,” but that’s no longer something Rogers and Gumper could offer at Berkeley Lanesplitter. The pair do own the Lanesplitter building, however, and as Ellis and Hooker searched for a new location, it all came together. (Babette’s decision to move was initially reported by What Now SF.)

Babette opened inside BAMPFA in 2012 and quickly gained popularity for its thoughtful approach to coffee dishes like soups, salads and sandwiches. Its original location was steeped in history: in the 1970s, it was the home of the Collective of Swallows, an influential collective restaurant which counted the famous food critic Ruth Reichl among its members. When BAMPFA moved in 2016, Babette moved in with it, remaining loyal to the institution to serve hungry visitors to the museum from a location tucked away above Center Street.

Joan Ellis and Patrick Hooker, owners of Babette, at the unveiling of the new BAMPFA in 2016. Credit: Tracey Taylor

This place became a problem during the pandemic. After the COVID-19 crisis that closed the UC Berkeley campus, Babette was also forced to close. Unlike other restaurants in the area, the restaurant could not offer take out or delivery. It wasn’t until Ellis contacted UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ directly that they were allowed to return to their restaurant. “We don’t have the key to our own facility,” Ellis told Nosh at the time. “We have to press a button and ask to come in, and we’re alerted by a member of security.”

But also, Ellis told Nosh Friday, “we always wanted our own space.” Restrictions such as museum opening hours meant Babette couldn’t be a restaurant in the traditional sense, “we could only be a cafe, really”. Ellis and Hooker began to search harder for a space after their struggles during the pandemic, eventually stumbling over the possibility that they could take back Lanesplitter’s location. “When we saw the huge backyard it was obvious,” Ellis said. The decision has been made, and Babette’s last day of operation at the museum will be Sunday, December 19.

“Museum management will take some time to carefully consider our options for reactivating the newly vacated cafe space,” BAMPFA spokesperson AJ Fox told Nosh in an emailed statement. “You can expect to hear more from us in early 2022 on what that will look like… It’s a bittersweet moment for BAMPFA to say goodbye to our beloved cafe, but we are parting ways with a big mutual admiration, and everyone at the museum wishes Babette the best for their new venture.

Rogers said – and Ellis agrees – that the folks at Babette will need to do some renovations before they’re ready to open. surrounds the substantial tree in the courtyard.

Using existing pizza ovens as well as some induction burners, Babette’s kitchen will operate at a slightly different rate than their current café. In addition to the stews and baked goods that Babette is known for, expect a dinner menu with pizza, wine, and beer. (“We’re going to increase our amount of beer,” Ellis said.) They’ll also open with morning coffee and pastry service. The weekend brunch is also on the program. The hope, Ellis said, is to start serving customers in early 2022. “We’re so excited to be a neighborhood restaurant,” Ellis said.

Fans of Lanesplitter’s pies can take comfort in the fact that its location in Emeryville (3645 San Pablo Ave.) will remain open. But it’s still the end of an era for Rogers, who said “it hasn’t quite hit me yet. I’ll probably be in tears later tonight.

But still, Rogers points out, it’s a good change for everyone, including the region. “It’s a great neighborhood,” he said of where he’s been doing business for the past 23 years. “We hope the neighborhood hugs Babette the same way they kissed us.”