On the Menu: Not just any pie in the sky at Pizza Guys in Pacific Beach
Where else can you find an artisan pizza pie with more amalgamations than the Powerball, more regional flavors than an international airport food court and more eye-popping colors and textures than at the Met Gala?
Try Pizza Guys on Garnet Avenue, a phenomenon that began in San Francisco in 1986 when a mom-and-pop pizza joint sold their operation to an entrepreneurial corporate owner who grew the solo shop into a 70-plus franchise operation that now spans the tri-states of Nevada, Oregon and California.
Pizza Guys 204 (the Pacific Beach franchise designation) just a dozen blocks from the boardwalk is more than just a number. Justin Ochoa, store manager, social media ambassador and aspiring chef, is committed to providing high quality, artisan pizza at chain prices.
The fledgling pizza shop that opened in mid-November of last year “make us the new guys on the block,” jokes Ochoa, who wears many hats, including a chef’s toque as he practices his culinary skills with palate pleasing recipes of somewhat off-the-wall ingredient combinations.
Want to visit?
Address: 1975 Garnet Ave., Suite B, Pacific Beach
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, seven days a week.
Ochoa’s vision of “trying to grow our store and be a test kitchen for the franchise,” is honing a “secret menu” that still needs corporate approval for his inventive recipes.
“Home of the specialty pizzas,” the menu boasts such lollapaloozas as the vibrant Serrano Chili Pizza that is fully-loaded with Serrano chili sauce, Canadian bacon, red onion, pineapple chunks and fresh, hand-cut cilantro. (See recipe below.)
“(It’s) a colorful creation that’s a favorite with food influencers and frequently featured on Instagram,” Ochoa said.
The Pizza Guys Combo stacked with green peppers, yellow onions, pepperoni, salami, mushrooms, natural ground beef, black olives and fresh Italian sausage is a popular choice, along with the Big Luau, a classic Hawaiian with extra cheese on top to keep the Canadian bacon tender and succulent.
Ochoa also recommends the Beef Taco and Chipotle Chicken Pizzas slathered with the signature taco sauce and topped with a choice of ground beef or grilled, diced chicken and fresh shredded mozzarella. After the bubbling pizza leaves the oven, it is then dressed with “after bake” toppings, (to keep ingredients crisp and fresh), including shredded lettuce, diced tomato, green onions, pitted California black olives, cheddar cheese and jalapenos.
“A lot going on,” muses Ochoa, “but the flavors go well together. It tastes just like a taco, but I suggest getting this with thin crust for a nice crunch.”
There’s also a customized option for building-your-own pizza pie — Ochoa recommends not overloading with toppings that require extra cooking time. Heart-shaped pizzas are available throughout the year upon special request.
Any pizza can be modified for vegetarian palates (there’s also the plant-based, Impossible Beef topping option), and the menu offers six crust choices: mozzarella stuffed crust (available for large pies only), Tuscany thin crust, Signature Pizza Guy crust (a proprietary recipe blend), thick-crust that resembles a deep-dish Chicago-style and gluten-free with a blend of rice and potato flours.
Other dough delights feature the popular Cheezee Rolls (creamy garlic or jalapeno), calzones with a load of assorted Italian cheeses, garlic and pepperoni; and the ultra-thin, crunchy flatbreads (Street Taco, Fiery Pepperoni Bacon, Creamy Pesto Artichoke plus Grilled Chicken and Spinach).
Or if you just want to wing it, try the Mango Habanero, Frank’s Red-Hot Buffalo, Parmesan Buffalo or the Teriyaki Dry Lemon Pepper Rub oven-roasted wings. These pair well with a wide selection of salads like the Mediterranean, Antipasto or Buffalo Chicken.
Where possible, all ingredients are farm fresh and GMO free, while the California Gold (whole milk mozzarella) is vegetarian without the use of animal rennet (enzymes from a cow’s gut) in the cheese-making process.
Pizza Guys offers some smokin’ deals like the Family Feast, which includes two large, two-topping pizzas; cheesy garlic bread; a giant, warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie and 2-liter soda bottle for $39.99. A 25 percent discount is offered for online orders for pick-up only. There are also weekly discounts and specials posted on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
Pizza Guys currently offers take-out and delivery (walk-ins, call-ins and mobile orders), and displays a slow video slide show of the pizza selections and toppings on multiple screens in the brick-and-mortar store located in a Pacific Beach strip mall. Ochoa said he is hoping to set up an outdoor seating area this summer so their loyal and new customers (mostly families, seasonal tourists and locals) can pick up their order and enjoy a piece of pizza along with a piece of paradise’s refreshing ocean breezes and pleasant ambient temps.
The visionary manager also has his finger in another pie — community outreach programs, including Pizza Day for homeless shelters and other organizations.
“If I can help out or support our local community, or give something as simple as a free hot meal, I want to do that,” Ochoa said. “Food brings people together, especially pizza that’s made to share, it’s a social sustenance.”
Pizza Guys is also launching school lunch programs for high school and college students, and a hotel rewards program granting points that can be redeemed for free pizzas for the staff who recommend the eatery to guests. In October the pizzeria will be using pink boxes to pay homage to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and donate a portion of the pizza proceeds to the American Cancer Society.
An equal opportunity pizza guy himself, Ochoa said, “I don’t want to prepare food any differently for an influencer who has 40,000 followers or member of the media; I just want to serve consistently great food for every single customer on a daily basis. That’s the difference between good customer service and fake customer service.”
Now that’s amore!
Recipe from Pizza Guys
Serrano Chili Pizza
Makes 1 large pizza
• 20 oz. dough
• 7 oz. mozzarella cheese
• 22 half slices Canadian bacon
• 2 oz. red onion, sliced
• 4 1/2 ounces pineapple, diced
• 2 oz. bacon, chopped
• Serrano chili sauce
• Freshly-chopped cilantro
Bake as directed on pizza dough packaging. Add cheese, Canadian bacon, red onion, pineapple and bacon, then top with Serrano chili sauce drizzle and a sprinkle of freshly chopped cilantro.
Courtesy of Pizza Guys Pacific Beach