I love pizza, like most Americans, but I’m way too picky to say just any warm and cheesy pie will do. First of all, I want a toothsome crust and prefer those that are at least partially whole wheat, like Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos or Zero Zero in San Francisco—both of them a must-stop-in for me whenever I’m in the neighborhood. And no matter which toppings I happen to crave on my pizza, they must be fresh and of good quality. That’s why I was so happy to discover Pi-Whole Pizzeria in old town Nipomo.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- TICKLING THE TASTE BUDS: Phil Silver, owner of Pi Whole, plays with some wild ingredients, including brown sugar, macadamia nut, pineapple, coconut, pickle, and yellow mustard.
I stopped in alone one mid-week afternoon recently, and found the place pretty quiet during a late lunch. I would later learn that lunch isn’t nearly as busy as the nightly dinner hours. But I must say I really don’t know why it wasn’t packed with patrons, considering the quality versus value prices I found at this unpretentious pizzeria. The list of “volcanic pizzas” was fairly large, so I asked the guy at the bar which one I should try, considering I was the pepperoni-and-mushroom kind of pizza lover. Ben Silver, the owner’s son, suggested the Mt. Nero with a zesty red sauce: a combination of pepperoni, spicy Italian sausage, bacon crumbles, fresh sliced mushrooms, olives, and red onions. I said “OK, but skip the bacon crumbles,” and ordered the 12-inch medium pizza ($15.99).
While I waited, a regular patron a few seats away was served his lava bomb sandwich, the white hot pastrami bomb, by Silver. Much like a calzone, it’s a pizza encased in a crusty dough package. When he bit into that fully loaded bomb, I could hear its crunchy goodness, and my mouth watered as I wished I had ordered it. “That sounds absolutely yummy,” I said to Silver, who replied: “Don’t worry, you ordered a good pizza.” When it came, I knew he was right. I was impressed at the first bite.
The crust was crispy and sturdy enough to hold up its heavy load of toppings, and the zesty red sauce was perfect. Granted, it’s not whole wheat, but they use unbleached flour, and it was very good. Another thing I loved about that meat-laden pie: There wasn’t a hint of the greasiness you see in many pizzerias from the inferior sausage toppings that make puddles of fat floating on top.
Several residents of that small community had recommended the shop to me, but it took a while before I finally stopped in. It’s been doing business in Nipomo seven years. I was so glad when I finally did find it, after passing by the small strip mall twice. It’s not easy to spot the Pi-Whole sign on the multi-signed pole for the Adobe Plaza along the sidewalk. Nor did I notice the restaurant tucked in between a beauty parlor and a Rexall Drugstore. Now, I’m only sorry it’s not in my neighborhood. It’s a great pizzeria for picking up a pie when you’re passing by; it’s very close to Hwy. 101 and the Tefft Street exit.
- PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
While I was eating lunch, owner Phillip “Phil” Silver came in, and I spent some time talking to him, never telling him I was reviewing the restaurant. A very personable guy, you can tell he loves the business by the way he talks about food, the many good brews on tap, and his wine selection. I was so pleased with the experience, I returned the following day for dinner with my husband Dan, eager to try more. After hearing from a fellow Kennedy Fitness Center member who asked if they had white sauce, I experimented by trying the Davidson Seamount pizza with creamy garlic herb sauce. Silver described it as “a seafood casserole on a pizza,” and that’s just what it was: Parmesan shrimp, calamari, and Albacore tuna with fresh tomato and basil leaves topped the crisp-crusted pizza. I knew my friend would love it, but I wished I had stuck with a choice that had the zesty red sauce.
Another taste test was the Mt. Rushmore pizza with white-hot mix (pepperoncini, sauerkraut, garlic, and sour cream). It’s $9.99 for a 10-inch pie. Topped with buffalo sausage slices, fresh tomato, jalapenos, red onion, and pickle chunks, it’s finished with a drizzle of classic yellow mustard. Silver described it perfectly: “It’s like a Chicago-style hot dog on a pizza.” Their average 16-inch pie weighs 3.14 lbs. (That’s the first three digits in the number pi.)
I liked that more than I expected. Dan and I shared a Med fest salad ($8.99), a huge salad with quarters of sliced pepperoncini, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and black olives, sprinkled with feta cheese and red onion slices. The quality is very good here, and it’s a typical pizzeria, meaning you order at the counter and they bring the food to you. But you help yourself to silverware, plates, and napkins, and pick up your drinks at the bar.
They have a nice selection of value-priced wines, like Cavit. Silver says you can bring in your own wines and wineglasses without a corkage fee, as long as you’re willing to share a taste with him—totally appropriate. That is, after all, what we wine aficionados love doing: sharing great wines. But Silver’s strong suit is the selection of drafts on tap. Dan and I usually prefer wine with dinner, but a draft is a great choice with pizza. Not dessert eaters, we didn’t try the popular Pele’s paw, the baked pizza dough topped with brown sugar, cinnamon, coconut, and macadamia nuts ($5.99).
The family-owned and operated Pi-Whole is at 330 W. Tefft St. in old town Nipomo. Call 929-3789. It’s open for lunch and dinner daily, except holidays. There’s a little something for everyone here at the Pi-Whole, especially for those looking for family-friendly meals that provide good quality foods. And what you don’t get in full service, you make up for in price.
Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at email@example.com.