Restaurant News & Reviews

Gino’s Pizza serves up familiar flavors at a spacious new SLO location

Margherita pizza with fresh basil, thinly sliced tomatoes and garlic is a popular menu item at Gino’s Pizza, which has locations in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo.
Margherita pizza with fresh basil, thinly sliced tomatoes and garlic is a popular menu item at Gino’s Pizza, which has locations in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Fans of Gino’s Pizza now have two San Luis Obispo County locations where they can get their favorite pizzas, pastas, calzones, deli sandwiches and salads.

In addition to a Pismo Beach spot that’s been open a dozen years, a new San Luis Obispo restaurant was added about a year ago, in December 2015.

“People kept asking when we were going to open in San Luis Obispo,” Consuelo Diaz said.

She and husband Alberto Garcia own both local Gino’s Pizza locations, while Garcia’s son owns and manages the original Gino’s Pizza in Buellton. Diaz oversees the new restaurant; Garcia heads up operations in Pismo Beach.

The newest Gino’s Pizza is situated uptown at the corner of Monterey Street and Grand Avenue. “My husband always loved this location because it has such easy parking and such easy freeway access,” Diaz said.

While the menus are the same at all the pizzerias, the Monterey Street location affords a much more spacious layout than the one in Pismo Beach. Formerly home to Mexican restaurant Vallarta’s and briefly, Cajun seafood joint Crawdaddy’s, the layout offers a variety of seating options. Parties of one to four can settle into one of the many booths. Larger groups can easily be accommodated inside, or on the newly constructed patio area in front. A separate, glassed-in game room lets kids of all ages indulge in playing air hockey and arcade games.

“That’s really good for families,” Diaz explained, since parents can sit in one of the three booths adjacent to the game room and “see their kids through the windows.” Big-league sports can be viewed on three flat-screen televisions, and there are often game-time food and drink specials.

Most of the recipes for the Gino’s Pizza menu date back many years to when Garcia worked at a family-run Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Among the most time-honored are those for the pizza dough and the tomato-based sauces used throughout the menu — most notably in customer favorites such as margherita pizza and lasagna.

The key to those recipes is patience.

The pizza dough is mixed in small batches, portioned out into buttered pans and allowed to rise overnight. After baking just a few minutes in the 475 Fahrenheit-degree pizza ovens, the resulting crust is “crispy outside and soft inside,” Diaz said. (Crust options made in-house include thin, regular pan and thick; also available is a commercially made gluten-free crust.)

The red sauces “are simmered for hours and hours so they’re not so acidic,” Diaz said. “We make sure we always have plenty because it’s not something we can just whip up. There’s no rushing it.”

Other from-scratch sauces include pesto and Alfredo; all the salad dressings except the Caesar dressing are also made in-house. In addition, the Gino’s staff hand-rolls meatballs, slices pastrami and other deli meats in-house, and grates the mountains of mozzarella cheese used every day.

Breads for deli sandwiches and garlic bread come from Farb’s Bakery in San Luis Obispo. “We’re a local company, so we try to get local whenever we can,” Diaz said. “We emphasize being part of the community.”

Another way Diaz and Garcia connect to the community is through their Gino’s Community Dough Program – an idea they implemented with the new, larger location.

The program lets local nonprofit organizations invite their supporters to patronize the Monterey Street Gino’s Pizza on a specified day. Excluding alcohol sales and tips, 15 percent of the profits from that business day is donated to the organizing group.

“We’ve done these fundraisers for Big Brothers Big Sisters (of San Luis Obispo County) and for the (American) Red Cross to help with last year’s fire victims,” Diaz recalled. “It makes our customers feel good, it makes us feel good. It’s a win-win.”

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

Gino’s Pizza

1761 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo (at Grand Avenue)

805-752-1333, ginospizzaslo.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday (The restaurant is open daily until 10 p.m. during the summer.)

The scene: A spacious pizzeria welcoming families, college students, nearby hotel guests and groups of almost any size.

The cuisine: Pizzas available in thin, regular pan or thick crust, plus a gluten-free option; also pastas, calzones, deli sandwiches, local wines and draft beers. Free delivery within a five-mile radius.

Expect to spend: Pizzas and calzones range from a $6.50 individual eight-inch cheese to a $27 extra-large 16-inch Gino’s Special loaded with eight toppings; sandwiches $7.50 to 8.75; a la carte pastas about $10; salads range from $4.50 for a small house salad to $11.25 for a large antipasto; kids’ menu items $7.

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