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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sacramento Area Pizzerias

Shakey's Pizza
Shakey's Pizza

Sacramento's best known pizzeria has got to be Shakey's. Sherwood "Shakey" Johnson started the chain, which at one time had more than 700 restaurants, at 57th and J Street in East Sacramento in 1954. The location stayed open until a fire on January 8, 1996. That was more than 8 months before I moved to the area, but the guide book I bought was written earlier. When I finally got a car in 1999, I set off to eat at the original Shakey's Pizza, only to find it boarded up.

Sherwood Johnson sold his interest in Shakey's in the late 1960s, and there is no local connection with the franchise now, so the original Shakey's never reopened. The owner of the restaurant that took over the location wanted to keep the old Shakey's Pizza sign up, but there is an ordinance against having two signs. The Sacramento Bee reported that the sign would be preserved in an unspecified museum. The nearest Shakey's to Sacramento now is in Oroville.

Luigi's Pizzeria and Fun Garden
20060220 Luigi's Pizza Garden

Luigi's first opened on Stockton Boulevard, the old Highway 99 route, in 1953. Two Italian brothers bought it in the 1960s, and have continued to run the place. When I first visited, I arrived before the place was supposed to open, but one of those brothers waved me in, and told me in an Italian accent that they were open just as soon as the ovens were hot. According to The Sacramento Bee, he doesn't mind being called Luigi, even though his name is Celso. My meatball sandwich was wonderful.

20060319 Meatball Sandwich

When I went there on a Friday evening, the place was packed with locals, who seemed to all know each other, and who had probably been eating pizza there their whole lives. Recently Luigi's Slice opened in Midtown. The atmosphere there is much trendier than at the original location, but the pizza is made the same way.

20070302 Luigi's Pizza

Zelda's Original Gourmet Pizza
20080121 Zelda's

Since 1978, this Midtown restaurant has been the premiere place to get Chicago style pizza in Sacramento. Because it's Chicago style, it takes 1/2 hour to cook, so they advise calling in your order ahead of time. The restaurant is dimly lit with dark wooden booths in a narrow dining area on one side, and a bar on the other side. It's quite the cozy environment.

20080121 Booth @ Zelda's

Wenelli's
20050818 Wenelli's Pizza

From the outside, it looks like a new suburban strip mall, but the old wood paneling inside first indicated to me that the place had some history. Articles posted inside explain--the pizzeria opened as the first Round Table Pizza in the Sacramento area in the late 1960s. Two women who had worked there for $2.65 an hour, before becoming managers of other Round Table locations, pooled their life savings and reopened it as Wenelli's in 1993. Business was slow at first, and one article mentions that they were in tears at the end of the first week, but they've been in business 15 years now.

20070419 Pete's Special

Romas Pizzeria
20090530 Salami Pizza

I knew this was a substantial omission from my original posting of this blog entry, as I had seen Romas named the best pizzeria in Sacramento in some local poll once, but I had never gotten around to eating there. It's a long ways from anywhere I have lived, and it doesn't look promising from the outside, in a small, nondescript shopping center on Franklin Blvd.

The vintage sign (plastic) is obscured from the road by trees, or I might have been more curious. What finally led me to visit the place was that I saw it was the top pizzeria choice in Sacramento on Yelp. I headed there the same afternoon.

Like Wenelli's, the outside of the shopping center has been updated, but not in a way that is at all interesting. Inside, however, it is mostly vintage: old light fixtures, wood-panel wainscoting, booths with mismatching vinyl from being partially recovered (unfortunately the lumpy padding was not redone), an old electric sign for the restaurant with a scene of a creek in which the water appears to move. But dominating the dining room for a restaurant named after the city of Rome is a large 1960s wallpaper image, framed, of . . . Venice. Well, they're not too far away from each other.

I was there at 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday, but the place was doing good business. There were three guys with two pitchers of beer and a combo 'za discussing the day's softball games. Two families came in and had their usual orders confirmed by the waiter without the involvement of a menu at any point.

I had the salami pizza, and it was terrific. The crust was crisp on the bottom, the sauce was fantastic, and the amount of salami on the pizza was quite generous. I burnt my tongue because I couldn't wait to scarf it down.

Giovanni's
20050926 za

I was living in Davis when I read in The Sacramento Bee about the authentic New York style pizza at Giovanni's in South Sacramento. Since that is my favorite style of pizza, I headed out to find the restaurant that very night. I had to stand in a long line just to put in my order, but the pizza was everything I hoped it would be. You don't need any toppings if you have a well-done New York style pizza like they serve at Giovanni's--with great crust, sauce, and cheese. But their home-made sausage is excellent as well. They've opened up a second location on Folsom Boulevard, which is just as cavernous as the first, and I see in the Yellow Pages that there is a Giovanni's listed on Fair Oaks Boulevard too, but I have never been there.

Slices
20061028 Mushroom and Olive Slice

Another Midtown pizzeria, advertised by a neon slice of pizza in the window. As the name suggests, they sell pizza by the slice here. Other than the huge, doughy outer crust, it's good pizza, and if you ask for it, they are quite generous with the fresh garlic.

Woodstock's
2001 Davis Woodstock's Pizza

For my 6 years of life in Davis, this was my pizza joint. It has a great college-hangout atmosphere--something that is generally lacking in Davis, despite the fact that it is a university town. You can get pizza by the slice for lunch or after 9 p.m. I also visited frequently on Wednesday nights for their beer specials.

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About Me

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I love to learn about, visit, photograph, research, and write about everything that is interesting, unique, and historical about Northern California, and wherever else I should be fortunate enough to find myself.  I've spent many years scouring the roadside in my little car for interesting subjects and walking down hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada and along the coast to get to know the wonder that is Northern California.  I share most of this via photos on Flickr, and as much as time permits me to on my blog, the NorCal Explorer.  Fine art prints of my photos are for sale on Imagekind.