Attention, ladies and gentlemen: The Darren & Mari Show is now appearing at Big Daddy’s Pizza in Los Osos.
The Darren & Mari Show is actually the corporate name of Big Daddy’s owners, Darren and Mari Nichols, but it stems from a nickname the upbeat couple got while raising their two sons in Los Osos.
Wanting to be supportive parents while also volunteering in the community and spending as much time together as possible, they became side-by-side fixtures at everything from Scouting activities to sporting events.
“Other parents used to make comments about how we were always together; when you see one you know the other one is nearby,” explained Darren. “It evolved from ‘Hey, there’s Darren and Mari’ to ‘Hey, it’s the Darren and Mari show.’ ”
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Until the fall of 2009, the “productions” of The Darren & Mari Show consisted only of two Subway franchises in Los Osos and Laguna Village.
Though the Nicholses had eaten at Big Daddy’s many times, “we were definitely not looking for another restaurant,” Darren said. However, the owner needed to sell, and eventually the couple opted to buy the business.
Unlike the prescribed operations of a franchise, the independent status of Big Daddy’s Pizza affords the Nicholses a creative outlet on every level.
They took immediate advantage of that, painting the interior with festive colors and making menu changes to pretty much everything but the pizza sauces. (The red sauce in particular stayed the same because it’s a low-acid recipe that those who can’t tolerate other tomato sauces can usually enjoy.)
The most significant change was to the very foundation of the restaurant’s menu — the pizza dough itself.
While attending a pizza trade convention, the Nicholses sought out a recognized industry dough scientist who told them to start over from scratch.
After about six months of tweaking, the new dough was a dramatically different product in both taste and consistency.
“We make it all from scratch right here, three days in advance so it can proof properly,” said Darren. “It’s also hand-tossed for each order,” whether you order the classic thin-crust Queen Margherita or one of the big combo pizzas that need a little more support.
You can build your own pie in four sizes ranging from a 10-inch individual to an 18-inch party, or opt for one of the 17 gourmet pizzas. Among the most popular are The Local, with linguica, pepperoni and sausage; The Rock, with a special sauce blend, meatballs and bacon; and the aptly named Hazard Canyon, as in hazardous spice levels. As Mari explained, “everything about it is hot! The spicy red sauce, the chipotle chicken, the jalapeños ”.
Other menu items include pastas such as spaghetti with whopping meatballs, portabella mushroom ravioli, and even Thai chicken noodles with pineapple and peanut sauce.
The salads range from Mediterranean Chicken with olives and feta cheese to Spring Apple with freshly chopped spring mix lettuces, caramelized walnuts, dried cranberries and a tasty house Balsamic dressing.
Big Daddy’s Pizza also offers a smattering of rather uncharacteristic fare such as chicken wings, gyros and even a Dub Dog — an all-beef Nathan’s hot dog wrapped in pizza dough.
The offbeat items are mainly nods to customer requests, and the Nicholses admit that “we’d like to try to have something for everyone. It’s all evolving. (Big Daddy’s) has its own personality, so we’re letting that happen and having a lot of fun with it — as long as we can provide high-quality food, at a good price, with good service.”