In the 1970s, there were only a handful of pizza parlors around. They were small, family-owned businesses such as , founded by Ralph and Shirley Borrelli, and Best-A-Wan in Cardiff which was started by Richard and Virginia Corder. Virginia’s brother, Jim Mettee, was the founder of
Today, Encinitas’ motto could be “Pizza and Surf Capital” with more pizza parlors in town than there are surf shops. These eateries have become a reflection of Encinitas’ rich, multi-cultural influence.
The newest is Encinitas Pizza Company which took over Giovanni’s Sandwich Shop, previously owned by Vito Candela, across from the Lumberyard. Partners Phillip Drew and Joe Reese retained Candela’s signature recipe for crisp, thin-crust pizza crust and added their own specialty pies. Reflecting Reese’s Philadelphia-Italian roots, the top-seller is the Caprese (basil, pesto, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella).
Boar’s Head meats and cheese are used exclusively in all menu selections. “My uncle had a sub shop back east and told me never to cut corners,” Reese explained. “To spend a couple of dollars on quality is a good investment.”
Inspired by his love of surfing, Drew developed his signature Hawaiian Meatball Sliders which he and Reese say are a hint of things to come.
“We’re going to transition from an Italian restaurant to a surf café that serves good, home-cooked food,” Reese said. “We’ll keep pizza and Italian food but will add fantastic, old-school sandwiches from back east.”
Drew and Reese have been renovating the interior of the building which was constructed in 1905. As they worked on the structure, Drew became fascinated with the memories contained within the four walls. On a hunch, he invited a relative who is a medium to the restaurant and learned there were some very, very old hangers-on.
“She said there were happy spirits and enjoyed sitting in the back corner, having fun,” he recalled. “She was going to cleanse the area so they’d leave, but I told her not to. This was their haunt and they had a lot of really good times here. If they want to be part of our family, we welcome them.”
A few blocks away, has received kudos for its pizza and pasta from Zagat’s, Westway magazine, San Diego Magazine and UT San Diego.
Manager Marco Marchetti attributes the restaurant’s success to adherence to Old World tradition of hand-tossed dough baked in a wood-fire oven.
“In Italy, pizza is a big thing and everyone has their own secret, for some it is olive oil and others it is beer,” he explained. “Our signature pizza is Via Italia which is made of tomato, arugula, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto de parma and shaved parmesan.”
Wade Hageman, owner of Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizza in the Lumberyard takes a “farm-to-table” approach to pizza.
“Everything is made in-house,” he said. “The mozzarella is freshly made, the sausage (from a small farm in Iowa) is house-ground, there is a three-day fermentation process to make the dough and I bake the pizza in a wood-fired oven.”
He added, “Our most popular pizza is called ‘My Father’s’ and is made with fennel sausage, pepperoni, red onion, mozzarella and tomato sauce.”
Sara Feratovic said she was a customer at Zardo’s Organic Pasta before an employee.
“I moved out here from New York and was looking for East Coast pizza,” she said. “I read about Zardo’s on Yelp and saw a very good review.”
When she came in, she was pleasantly surprised. “I was expecting healthiness, not tastiness.”
Feratovic became a fan, then asked owner Bianca Zardo for a job. Zardo, who is originally from Brazil, developed all the recipes for pizza and pasta which is made onsite every morning. Her banana crème pie has customers calling to reserve slices.
The Margharita is the top selling pizza.
“I like Bianca’s recipes because the ingredients are very fresh and simple,” said Chef Jarrod Mainard, a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu. “It’s delicious and doesn’t taste like typical restaurant food."
Evel Hana opened on El Camino Real four years ago, in the space previously occupied by Mama Lulu’s.
“Our most popular pizzas are Vegetarian and Margherita,” he said. “Our signature pizzas are chicken alfredo and bacon, and chicken and ranch.”
The secret to his New York crust is bottled water with minerals indigenous to the East Coast.
In addition, he offers a broad menu of authentic Greek cuisine including gyros, falafel and ground beef kabob combination plates, gyros on a pita, and Greek and gyros salads.
Ralph Borrelli, Jr. was a child when his dad opened in 1975 at 1401 Encinitas Blvd. where the Ortho Mattress store stands today.
“Our most popular pizza is the Special (pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, black olive, bell pepper and onion) and Vegetarian (mushroom, black olive, zucchini, bell peppers, onion and green pepper).”
Although Borrelli’s has been impacted by the proliferation of pizza shops in Encinitas today, Ralph, Jr. says they have retained customer loyalty.
“A lot of people who were here the first week we opened in 1975 are still with us,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to have a business all these years and I want to thank all the people who support us. They are truly the reason we are still here.”
Which pizza pie has won your heart over? Tell us in the comments.