Note: Players Pizzeria closed in 2011. Read about it »
For good food that won’t break the bank, check out the hearty fare and buffet spreads at Players Pizzeria in Atascadero.
Celebrating its 25th year on El Camino Real in the heart of town, this casual eatery caters to a broad range of patrons.
Large groups can be accommodated as easily as the solo diner thanks to the choice of indoor dining, patio seating and a banquet room. There’s even a children’s game room that not only makes the kids happy, but offers parents some peace of mind with a video monitoring feed visible in the main dining area.
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Though known for its buffets, Players can certainly deliver on made-to-order options. Choose from a beef dip sandwich or buffalo wings, a raspberry apple salad or spinach calzone, a meatball grinder or fettuccini Alfredo with chicken and broccoli.
You can also build your own pizza or go for one of the specialty options such as chicken pesto, the Hawaiian-inspired “Hang Ten” with Italian sausage added, or the unique “Quarterback Sneak” with peanut butter and pepperoni.
A variety of combo pizzas continually shows up on the Players’ buffet, a dining option so popular that owner Glen Covert estimated it comprises “about 85 percent of our business.”
The buffet spread also includes roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables, two daily soups, soft serve ice cream, and several cold pasta salads — be sure to try the zesty Thai Chicken.
In addition, there’s the signature Players’ salad bar that the staff keeps well stocked and refreshed. Its dozen or so offerings include all the usual ingredients you might expect, plus items such as peas, kidney beans and even mandarin oranges.
Before Covert became involved with the restaurant about seven years ago, it had been trending a bit toward finer dining — but the diverse menu proved “a lot harder to keep on top of,” said Covert.
With many people choosing the buffet, it proved a challenge for the kitchen to hit the mark on the occasional orders.
For the sake of consistency, Covert has worked on streamlining “to cut the menu back to basics, back to more of a pizzeria, and do a better job with more focus. It made sense, because that’s what people were asking for. We appreciate every single customer that comes in here and we’ve made a lot of changes based on their feedback.”
Covert added that everything possible is made from scratch: the pizza dough and breadsticks, soups and pasta sauces, and the house roasted chicken.
He also noted that Player offers an extensive catering menu “that’s totally separate from the regular menu, with a lot of food available that people wouldn’t expect from a pizzeria, like prime rib, tri-tip and Chicken Cordon Bleu.”
While off-site catering is an option, most patrons tend to take advantage of Players’ banquet room, which can seat up to 80 people inside or expand out to the patio with capacity for 55. Many community and service groups regularly use the room on a weekly or monthly basis and just order off the regular menu or hit the buffet, while special occasions tend toward the catering menu.
In addition, the Players staff “can transform the banquet and patio areas into whatever you want, from casual to full linens and china,” said Covert. “I’d also put our service up against anyone. We have a great staff that’s very customer-oriented. The perception of a buffet place is that you don’t get good service, but we really try to go above and beyond.”