The hand-crafted, Sicilian-style fare of Nardonne’s La Famiglia Pizzeria has been a familiar fixture on the Central Coast for four decades. Ownership has been in a few different hands over the years, but now both the Baywood Park and Atascadero locations are owned and operated by the founding Dougherty family.
In 1976, John and Janice Dougherty established the first Nardonne’s on Second Avenue in Baywood Park. The family sold the business in 1990, but returned to run it from 2001 until closing it in 2003. During much of the time under family ownership, the restaurant was managed by their son, John Dougherty, Jr.
Another son, Ben Dougherty, opened a Santa Barbara location in 2011. He subsequently shuttered that eatery in 2015, moving back to reboot the Baywood Park Nardonne’s with his family. The new location is on Santa Maria Avenue, just a street away from the original spot.
In 1980, franchisee Barbara Lehmann brought a Nardonne’s La Famiglia Pizzeria to Atascadero. Instead of shuttering the business upon her pending retirement in 2016, she contacted the Doughertys to see if they were interested in it.
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They were, and the El Camino Real restaurant reopened in March after a six-month remodel. (An expansive outdoor patio will be completed by the end of June.)
“We were really happy the way that all worked out,” John Dougherty, Jr. said. He spearheads the Atascadero location, while his brother Ben manages Baywood Park.
Their parents are still very involved. You’ll often see Janice Dougherty working in the kitchens, and her husband helped with the remodels at both restaurants.
“Everyone has a hand in the business, including our kids,” John Dougherty, Jr., said.
The menu is now the same at both Nardonne’s locations, and many of the dishes are crafted exactly as they were in 1976. Key ingredients include hand-rolled pizza dough, freshly grated cheese and housemade sauces and dressings.
“We’re known for our Sicilian-style pizzas,” Ben Dougherty said. “The crust is thicker and fluffier so it can hold a lot of ingredients — more of a knife-and-fork pizza. It’s a style you see more on the East Coast; there aren’t many people doing it on the West Coast.”
Nardonne’s pizzas also look different than most. They’re cut into squares instead of slices, a touch inspired by an aunt’s trip to Sicily where she noticed that’s how most pizza was served.
The Doughertys’ from-scratch approach translates throughout their restaurants’ menu of calzones, baked sandwiches and salads. Especially popular are the hand-rolled meatball sliders, the Caprese sandwich with freshly sliced cheese and the Caesar salad with housemade dressing.
Among the new offerings at Nardonne’s are the beer and wine options. Rotating selections from craft breweries are available on Atascadero’s dozen taps and Baywood’s 13 taps. And, thanks to the growth in the local wine scene, both locations feature Central Coast wineries using “estate-grown fruit, usually those with smaller case production,” Ben Dougherty explained.
The community has been very supportive of the two recent incarnations of Nardonne’s, and the Dougherty family wants to return the favor. Youth sports teams receive special pricing, and the Atascadero location recently held a fundraising event for a local non-profit, the Flying Samaritans.
A family movie night featuring an outdoor screening of “The Goonies” will be held June 24 in Baywood Park.
“We definitely see ourselves as part of the community,” Ben Dougherty said, “and we’d like to be a part of it for another 40 years.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.
Nardonne’s La Famiglia Pizzeria
715 Santa Maria Ave, Baywood Park
Hours: 2 to 10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday; 2 to 11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Tuesday.
8501 El Camino Real, Atascadero (street parking only)
Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 3 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.
The scene: Neighborhood pizza joints serving Sicilian-style pies, calzones, sandwiches and salads, plus craft beer and local wine. Both locations offer delivery; special events noted on Facebook pages.
Expect to spend: Pizzas start at $13.50; sandwiches, salads, calzones $8 to $10.