Restaurant News & Reviews

SLO restaurant Pizza Solo celebrates 20 years

By Katy Budge

Special to The Tribune

The Guido pizza at Pizza Solo in San Luis Obispo features marinated tomatoes, feta cheese, avocado, Parmesan cheese and marinara and pesto sauce.
The Guido pizza at Pizza Solo in San Luis Obispo features marinated tomatoes, feta cheese, avocado, Parmesan cheese and marinara and pesto sauce. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

To celebrate its upcoming birthday, Pizza Solo will just barely be able to fit enough candles on one of its signature individual pizzas. The restaurant turns 20 years old this summer — having opened its doors on Aug. 18, 1996.

One of the original tenants of the Downtown Centre shopping mall, Pizza Solo is located in the heart of San Luis Obispo between Higuera, Marsh, Morro and Chorro streets. The interior of the restaurant has a handful of tables, but the best seats are outside; from there, you can watch the hustle and bustle of shoppers booking it to Barnes & Noble and steering towards Starbucks.

Due to its location, you might get the impression that Pizza Solo is a chain establishment. However, this place is one of a kind.

Launched and co-owned by Bay Area residents Julien and Martha Pearl, Pizza Solo is a slight revamp of Roamin’ Pizza, an eatery they briefly opened up north. When Julien Pearl’s commercial real estate connections opened up an opportunity at Downtown Centre, the couple relocated the concept south.

“The original idea was for people to order individual pizzas and roam around with them,” co-owner Griffin Davis explained. He first worked at Pizza Solo as cashier and assistant manager while going to Cal Poly.

Pizza Solo’s menu still revolves around 9-inch individual pizzas, though large 12-inch pies are also available. Any of the pizzas can be served as a calzone as well.

Another hallmark of Pizza Solo is an order of stix — baked pizza dough breadsticks with a side of sauce. They’re available in three flavors: herbs and cheese, garlic herb or brown sugar and cinnamon.

A pizza place is only as good as its dough, and with so much riding on it — or rather, topping it — Pizza Solo takes dough very seriously.

“It’s essentially the same recipe” that a former chef at celebrated Berkeley restaurant Chez created for Roamin’ Pizza 25 years ago, Davis said. “We make up a 45-pound batch of it at least once a day, and we have a fridge dedicated to doughs so they can rise for about 24 hours.”

The Pizza Solo kitchen staff also makes its marinara, pesto, ranch and chipotle pizza sauces from scratch. Most of the salad dressings are housemade as well, and the greens are washed and hand chopped, not just tumbled out of a bag.

Among the offerings are a Santa Fe chicken salad with black beans and crispy tortilla strips, a Mandarin Almond salad with mandarin oranges, red onion and carrots and a Pear and Glazed Walnut salad with dried cranberries and feta cheese. Lunch and dinner specials feature a half-order of a Caesar salad with any solo-size pizza or calzone.

Other menu options include flatbread sandwiches such as a pepper chicken sandwich with smoked Gouda cheese and sprouts. Or go for some pasta; try spaghetti and meatballs or penne with Alfredo or creamy pesto.

However, as Pizza Solo’s name suggests, this is a place where pizzas have the starring role.

The menu features 16 different combos plus a pizza-of-the-month. Currently, that’s the Sunburn, with Alfredo-Sriracha sauce, mushrooms, red onions, marinated tomatoes, garlic and mozzarella.

Classic pizza combos such as pepperoni, Margherita and Hawaiian are listed under the “Traditional” category on the menu. “Wild Side” creations kick things up with a Solo pesto with sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes, a chipotle chicken with pico de gallo and a Bowser’s with Sriracha ranch sauce, chicken, bacon and pepperoni.

If none of the combos float your boat, not to worry.

“People can do a ‘Create-Your-Own’, which means they can make whatever their heart desires,” Davis said. “We also have the capabilities of making half-and-half pizzas — one of the benefits of making every pizza to order. And we like to load up our toppings so that every bite has a little bit of everything.”

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

Pizza Solo

891 Higuera St., San Luis Obispo (in the Downtown Centre shopping mall)

805-544-8786 or pizzasolo.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday

The scene: This downtown pizza place doesn’t have a lot of seating inside, so grab a table outside and watch the activity, or get your order to-go; free delivery available within two-miles. Pizza Solo also offers slices at the Downtown SLO Farmers Market on Thursday nights and Concerts in the Plaza on Friday nights in the summer in San Luis Obispo.

The cuisine: From-scratch pizza dough is at the heart of the menu, or go for salads, pastas and flatbread sandwiches. (Gluten-free crust is an option, though it’s not made in-house and is prepared near gluten.) Local beer and wine available.

Expect to spend: Solo pizzas $8 to $9.50, large pizzas $12.50 to $14.50, stix $6, salads $6 to $8.50, flatbreads and pastas under $10.

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